Spotlight: Steve Dunn
Steve Dunn has built a successful career as an employment neutral by building on his ability to connect with people. The way he works, and lives, reveals his desire not only to connect, but to help make the world a better place through dispute resolution.
Before he began mediating full-time, Steve practiced employment law in Charlotte, North Carolina, representing employers, for 21 years. He became certified as a mediator in 2009 and slowly built up a mediation practice. “Mediating was my favorite part of my law practice,” he says, “And I made a decision to do that fulltime in 2019.”
Just one day later, Miles neutral Greg Parent, one of Steve’s law school buddies, reached out. “He said, ‘hey, man, I saw your announcement, and by the way, I’m a mediator and we’ve been thinking about expanding into Charlotte,’” says Steve. Steve connected with John Miles, the founder of Miles Mediation & Arbitration, and the two worked together to set up the office on April 1, 2020 — just as the COVID pandemic was taking off. “We went from 100 percent in-person mediations to 0 percent,” remembers Steve.
Choosing Mediation Over Litigation
“To me mediating is all of the fun parts of being a lawyer without any of the annoying parts,” says Steve. “I get to meet people and talk about complicated problems, and I get to use my legal background and experience to analyze legal issues. I get to be persuasive, make arguments, and help lawyers think about their cases.”
Another benefit? As a mediator, he’s able to control his calendar and plan and take vacations as he doesn’t have ongoing responsibility for cases. “As a lawyer, the cases occupy your mind constantly if you’re conscientious and dedicated,” he says. “You think about it all the time. Mediation occupies you fully while you’re doing it but once you’re done, you’re done.”
Steve is a “connector” who finds it easy to create relationships quickly. “I think that is the most important qualification for the job,” says Steve. “I see my job as being getting to know people and creating a relationship of trust with them in an extremely short period of time. I have always been the type of person who easily related and comfortably interacted with all types of people in all types of situations and that has served me well in this job.”
A Modern-Day Renaissance Man
Steve also has varied interests; he’s gotten deep into photography, playing guitar, and beer brewing before moving on to a new hobby. One of his latest passions is podcasting. “I was and am and avid podcast listener and I thought it would be an interesting,” says the self-described “dabbler.”
“I thought podcasting would be fun to do and would be a great excuse to sit down with people I admire and have a serious, reflective conversation with them,” he says. “Sitting in front of the microphone gets you to be intentionally thoughtful in a conversation in a way you rarely do. The guests are people I like and admire, and who I want to know more about, and there are now marketing and networking benefits to it.”
Family, and Community, Ties
Steve’s wife, Kelli, is an endocrinologist who attended the University of North Carolina. “She’s a Tarheel and I went to Duke, so we are rivals,” says Steve. “So, I joke that we have a mixed marriage.” The two have two kids — a 17-year-old daughter, Clara, and a son, Cooper, who’s about to turn 15. Steve says his kids think he’s less grouchy since he stopped practicing law, and they love visiting the Miles office for the delicious drinks and snacks.
Steve and his family are growing deep roots in the Charlotte area. “I grew up in an Air Force family — my dad was an Air Force officer we moved to Charlotte when he retired,” says Steve. “When I was a kid, we spent our whole lives moving around and never putting down roots, and my brothers and I have all settled in Charlotte. It’s a wonderful and amazing thing to be in a great place for a long time.”
Work with a Mission
Steve is happy to have found a career where he can make a difference in the world. “The reason I do the work is not just about making my own lifestyle convenient,” he says. “It’s deeply meaningful to me because I get to help people get out of their legal disputes. I believe that being involved in legal disputes takes a much greater toll on human beings than they will admit to themselves.
“Being involved in contentious litigation is deeply miserable for everyone involved in the process — including the lawyers,” says Steve. “The legal community is still constantly making the mistake of undervaluing that misery … One of the most valuable things you can get out of mediation is getting the case over with. I do consider this to be work with a mission. It makes a huge difference in people’s lives.”
ABOUT MILES MEDIATION & ARBITRATION
Miles Mediation & Arbitration is shaping the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) industry with our comprehensive professional services model that combines the expertise of our highly skilled, diverse panel of neutrals with an unparalleled level of client support to guide and empower parties to fair, timely, and cost-effective resolution regardless of case size, specialization, or complexity. For more information, please call 888-305-3553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.