Getting to Know Mediator & Arbitrator Nigel Wright
What made you want to become a lawyer?
Growing up, we had a close family friend who was a QC (essentially a trial lawyer in the UK). He passed away a couple of years ago, but he inspired me to become a lawyer from an early age even though when I decided to become a lawyer, I had no idea what was involved or really what they did. He was very charismatic, a great raconteur, and enjoyed life to the fullest. I’m not sure that I share all those characteristics with him to the same extent. He was also a problem solver, which I am also- preferably those that others think cannot be solved. Result-driven problem solving has been a constant as to why I became and enjoy being a lawyer.
What is your area of specialization?
Complex claims: currently, I handle International Arbitration matters, but historically I have handled claims arising out of all specialty lines of business, as well as significant commercial litigation matters. I am very fortunate to have handled a wide variety of claims in over 50 countries and to have been the Corporate representative in many high-profile mediations (and court appearances) for all classes of business, on behalf of an International Insurance Carrier in the US. Most claims were either funded by insurance or arose out of the aviation industry, for at least one of the parties involved.
What are you most proud of with respect to your career?
My ability to adapt. In terms of professional achievements- I started my legal career in England, as a solicitor, qualified as both a NY attorney, GA attorney, and have been fortunate to have made senior partner at 2 AM 100 law firms (on both sides of the Atlantic). I am still qualified in all three jurisdictions. I was also appointed to senior management roles within a large corporation. However, from a personal perspective, I am most proud of the way that I believe I have conducted my professional career and the diverse range of matters that I have handled.
I have mediated claims since I first qualified as a lawyer and have found it the best and most enjoyable way to resolve disputes as, when successful, it provides certainty and finality to conflict. When I started as a lawyer, ADR was very new in England, and almost all disputes were resolved through direct negotiation between the parties or in court. I first started using ADR extensively while working overseas and found that I was achieving better results over traditional negotiation methods. The parties gained certainty in the outcome, seemed happier, and often the acrimony that can creep into disputes was mitigated or extinguished through the process. In addition, my clients were delighted as I was able to resolve cases more quickly and with better results than had historically been the case for the type of work I was doing.
What does ADR look like in 10 years?
At the end of 10 years, I very much hope that it will be standard for businesses to incorporate mandatory pre-litigation mediation in their contracts. I think that clients will be even more proactive in driving early mediation and ADR will become standard for almost all disputes. I believe that data analytics will drive much of this change as large corporations’ access and study data on their results and the effect of taking matters to trial or near to trial. This will, hopefully, lead to a better understanding of the optimal time to mediate, which, in 10 years, will be much earlier in the dispute resolution cycle than it is currently.
What is your conflict resolution style/ approach?
I try to be creative – not for the sake of being different but as a way to address the impasse, which has occurred and prevented the parties from achieving resolution directly. I also try to work on my “emotional intelligence.” Fifteen years ago, I had never heard of emotional intelligence, but in the hundreds of mediations I undertook, both nationally and internationally, I was able to see the strategic advantages achieved by both parties where emotional intelligence was deployed. Mediators, who had good emotional intelligence, have led me to understand the critical importance of this skill in achieving a desirable outcome in litigation and disputes. I suspect that I will always be working on trying to improve my emotional intelligence.
What do you hope to accomplish through your ADR practice?
A reputation for neutrality and as someone who can bring together disparate views to enable the parties to reach a satisfactory conclusion to their dispute. I also would like to be known as someone who works hard and actively drives settlement. One of the biggest complaints I had with mediations in private practice was when mediators simply passed offers back and forth. I would also like to be known as the best-prepared mediator the parties have encountered.
How would your clients describe you?
Imaginative, practical, and passionate. Those are three words with an impact. My approach has been to advise clients on the likely outcome of their matter at the very earliest opportunity. I also enjoy the strategy of litigation and in seeking to achieve the desired outcome as cleanly and quickly as possible. This may involve taking unusual steps, such as creating value for the client outside of the litigation parameters. Finally, I believe that if you don’t care, then you aren’t trying. Passion is not blind; however, and it is important to continually assess risk versus reward and be able (both in terms of litigation strategy and emotional investment in your argument or position) to modify your stance based upon developing circumstances.
Where did you grow up?
I was born in London but grew up in a county called Sussex, which is south of London. It was a pretty idyllic childhood in an area of the world which is can still be described in parts as the bucolic English countryside. For those who know England well, home was a small village in the Weald. I went to boarding school at an early age and played all the traditional English sports, such as Rugby and Cricket. After school, I went to Nottingham University to read Law and following school, traveling around the world, I took my law finals and worked and lived in central London before moving to the US in 2004.
What do you do in your spare time? How do you unwind?
I have three teenage children, so I don’t have much spare time. On a rare occasion, I do have spare time; I enjoy reading, which helps me unwind (at least until I have to drive someone somewhere). I like to play golf but only get to play a couple of times a year. I do try to go to my children’s sports games even though ironically, when I was their age, I hated my parents attending my own sports events.
What characteristics do you admire most in others?
Integrity followed closely by selflessness. Integrity, for me, includes being kind to others rather than the somewhat puritanical interpretation adopted in some areas.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” – Albert Einstein.
What is your favorite book? Why?
1984 (George Orwell) I studied history, when in the equivalent of high school, and was and still am fascinated with the concept that history repeats itself both at the macro and micro level. 1984 is a sad reminder that if we don’t learn from past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them- constantly.