Mr. Solovay initially resisted following in his lawyer-father’s footsteps, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Cornell University. Called to duty as a lieutenant in the Korean War by virtue of his ROTC service at Cornell, he was posted to the Psychological Warfare Center at Fort Bragg. However, when his family history caused him to be assigned as its legal officer, he surrendered and, after his services in the Army, he attended Columbia Law School. There he served as an editor of the Columbia Law Review and graduated with top honors. Joining the Rosenman Colin firm as a litigation associate right out of school, Mr. Solovay left after several years to get more hands on litigation experience.
After serving as a law secretary to then Justice Charles D. Breitel, Mr. Solovay formed, and for the largest part of his career, headed the litigation department of a then 15 lawyer firm with a unique practice for its size. As general counsel to Allen & Company and many of its corporate clients, as well as to the Onassis interests and others, Mr. Solovay’s litigation practice was an unusually diverse. The firm’s senior partner was chair of the American Arbitration Association, and it handled many important arbitrations. One precedent setting uniquely long running and expensive international arbitration resulted in an invitation to him to author the first of his three alternative dispute resolution books.
Mr. Solovay’s firm eventually grew to 45 lawyers and his litigation department held 15, but it finally imploded by virtue of being too small for its big firm practice. He continued to litigate and remained on the National Trial Lawyers list of 100 best New York litigators for some time. But, he now far more highly values his election to membership in the selective National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. It was based on his still growing reputation for resolving domestic and international disputes out of court by mediation where appropriate, but also by other increasingly popular settlement techniques discussed in his third ADR book, “The Internet and Dispute Resolution: Untangling the Web,” including collaborative law, med-arb, and online dispute resolution.
Mr. Solovay’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) reputation led to accepting an invitation to chair the ADR practice of a well-known firm. However, possible conflicts led him to form his present ADR firm. There, he is still able to handle virtually all matters as in the past, but he now heads a unique specialized mediation organization as well as an international collaborative law organization and the U.S. branch of the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.
Conversation with Norman Solovay
Worldwide Publishing: On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Norman Solovay: Following a long litigation career, I have come to regard my present expertise as being in alternative dispute resolution, where in addition to achieving recognition as a mediator, I have become known for promoting med-arb (a combination of mediation and arbitration) and collaborative law.
What characteristics help to separate you from your competitors?
My broad litigation background permits me to appreciate more than many the advantages of settling rather than having a long, drawn-out litigation. I have covered many areas as a litigation practitioner; that has given me knowledge in a somewhat larger number of areas in addition to mediation and arbitration. I have special credentials in newly popular techniques such as med-arb and online dispute resolution.
What motivates you?
The bonds I form with my clients.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
The importance of settlements.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The most recent difficult obstacle was coming to a firm to head its dispute resolution practice, but finding that its litigators, like so many others, were far more interested in first following customary discovery and other procedures (coincidentally, of course, far more profitable than mediation).
How did you end up working in your current field?
My father was a lawyer and he assumed that I would follow in his footsteps. However, when I left college, I was sure that I wasn’t going to be a lawyer. I studied psychology and after college, having enrolled in ROTC, I was called into the service. I was assigned to the Psychological Warfare Center. When I got there as a lieutenant, they made me legal officer for the center because my father was a lawyer and they were in need of one. I held that job for more than a year and found it to be such an interesting introduction to law.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
When my client is happy and I receive a good result for him or her.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
I wish I had known that being a tough litigator was not as satisfying as being a good settler.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
Justice Charles Breitel.