A retired judge, Hon. Emil Giordano, is taking the helm of an alternative dispute resolution practice at Norris McLaughlin PA in Allentown.
After serving 15 years in the Pennsylvania judicial system, Judge Giordano said he wants to bring his experience in settling court cases to bear on the challenge of keep clients from having to go to court at all.
He said most people do not realize that alternative dispute resolution, known as ADR, is an option for settling domestic, personal and commercial disputes without litigation, but it has many advantages.
“You retain control over the process. You have to agree to the resolution,” he explained.
In ADR two sides of a dispute each hire their own attorneys, but instead of going to court they agree to abide by the decision of a mediator, who looks at the complaints, demands and requests of each side and tries to come up with a solution that benefits both parties.
He said the court system is backed up with criminal, domestic and civil cases, so sometimes judges simply don’t have the time to dedicate to more complex cases that can be spread out over years.
By going through ADR, clients can have their cases handled more quickly, generally no more than a few months if all parties can agree.
“When you’re a mediator your sole task that day is your case and you can give it the kind of attention it deserves,” he said.
Judge Giordano recalled one case where the minority owner of a business, who was the grandson of one of the majority owners, had taken over his mother’s portion of a business. He, the grandfather and an uncle had distinctly different ideas about how they wanted to run the business.
Instead of filing a lawsuit, they took their disagreement to mediation.
“I took a highly charged situation and solved in in one day, rather than it being in court for years and years,” he said.
Judge Giordano is the sole ADR mediator in Norris McLaughlin’s Allentown office for now, but there are mediators at the firm’s New Jersey office, which include several retired judges who serve as mediators and arbitrators.
They resolve disputes for matters involving attorney ethics and fees, banking, corporate dissolutions, deadlocks and acquisitions, energy, environmental, estates, health care, information technology, insurance, intellectual property, labor and employment, matrimonial, products liability and utility issues.
Norris McLaughlin plans to expand the service by adding two or three more mediators in the Allentown office in the near future.
As an arbitrator and mediator, Judge Giordano is certified through Harvard Law School Negotiation Institute in Advanced Mediation, is a fellow of the American College of Civil Trial Mediators and is affiliated with the American Arbitration Association.
From 2004 through 2018, Judge Giordano served as a presiding judge on the Court of Common Pleas of Northampton County, Third Judicial District.
He was Northampton County’s first administrative Judge of the Orphans’ County Division, overseeing estates and trusts of the county, and was named to the Statewide Orphans’ Court Task Force, an organization charged with implementing changes to Orphans’ Court.