Tell us about your current role, and what you typically handle
In my last few years at Nixon Peabody, I was doing a lot of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). I worked as a mediator and arbitrator of commercial disputes for American Arbitration Association cases, and for ad hoc appointments from lawyers against whom I had previously litigated. When I left NP in 2019, I wasn’t ready to stop using the skills I’d developed, so I started my own ADR business, Arthur L. Pressman Dispute Resolution Services, LLC, and began handling matters all over the country. Even with the pandemic, it’s been going great.
I also continue to teach at Boston University School of Law, where I have been since 2012. My BU connection has led to interesting opportunities. I taught negotiation at Chuo University Law School in Tokyo, and was teaching in Shanghai in January 2020, just as the COVID-19 outbreak started, although I didn’t realize it at the time. Fortunately, I made it home unscathed.
What is the most enjoyable aspect of your current role?
Not surprisingly, I am often appointed to arbitrate or mediate franchise-related disputes because I know the subject matter and most of the lawyers who practice it. But that is changing. This year I just finished a large arbitration involving jet planes. I am finding that if you have the qualities of a good arbitrator or mediator, specific industry experience is not required. The most enjoyable aspect of my ADR work is how participants in the process, particularly those in mediations, are grateful for the opportunity to be heard. Moreover, they are very appreciative of my help, almost regardless of the outcome.
Tell us about your approach to mentoring young lawyers, and how you’ve continued that work
At NP, I was always interested in mentoring young lawyers. It’s a privilege being an “old” lawyer and a teacher by nature. I’ve continued to mentor post-NP. A few times every year, I judge law school mediation and negotiation competitions involving teams from virtually every continent. In 2021, it’s been mostly virtual, but in past years I’ve gone to Vienna and Paris for live competitions before the Vienna International Arbitral Centre and the International Chamber of Commerce. It’s a great pleasure to see young lawyers learn the ins and outs of mediation and negotiation, and I’m happy that I can help them.
What brought you to start your own dispute resolution company? Can you touch upon your career trajectory?
One of the hallmarks of my career trajectory is that early on I realized it was “my” career, and that I had to look out for myself.
I quit a big firm as a second-year associate to start and grow a law firm with two law school friends for 25 years. Then I spent the last 20+ years of my career at big firms: five years with an AmLaw 100 firm in Philadelphia, and the final 16 at NP in Boston. I did this because the paths served mine and my family’s needs at the time. During my nearly 50 years practicing law, I’ve urged associates to do something each day to advance their own careers. It’s a lesson I’ve always followed. Now here I am at 75 years old still working on my second career. I believe the only reason I can do this now is I truly loved my first career, perhaps, in part, because I followed this same advice back then.
Are there any other developments in your professional and/or personal life you’d like to share with the NP Alumni community?
As I said, I loved being a lawyer, especially my years at NP. I arrived in 2003 with my longtime partner and friend Andrew Loewinger, who went to the Washington DC office. Andrew and I like to think that our contributions helped put NP on the map as a franchise law powerhouse. We are proud to see this course that is being maintained, and even improved, today by Keri McWilliams, Dan Deane, Kendal Tyre, and Steve Feirman. And while I don’t miss practicing for a minute, I sure do miss the people.
Outside of your legal practice, what do you like to do in your free time?
When I am not teaching or handling ADR matters, I love to travel. While 2020 was a slow year for traveling after visiting Shanghai and Paris in January and February, my wife and I are excited to get back on track. We hope to go somewhere safe in the world before 2021 is over.
What is your industry outlook? What’s your outlook on how COVID is shifting your professional approach?
In a very weird way—an almost unintended consequence—the COVID-19 pandemic has been good for law firms and lawyers. I believe we’ve been forced to learn to do more with less. This approach includes spending more time on what’s personally important to you and realizing that life doesn’t always need to revolve around the office. As I recently said to a young NP partner, carpe diem!