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“AN IMPORTANT KEY TO BEING A SUCCESSFUL MEDIATOR begins with having the ability to adapt to the particular situation presented on any given day,” says Robert Coviello, former trial attorney, and founder of Coviello Mediation Services in San Juan Capistrano. “If it’s a business vs. business dispute, the bottom line is generally about money—what it will cost, and what are the risks versus the potential rewards.”
Continuing Coviello says, “On the other hand, an individual plaintiff who has been the victim of unlawful discrimination or perhaps severe sexual harassment in the workplace, is very emotionally  involved in the process. The parties may often want something our court system can’t provide, such as an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, restoration of one’s reputation, an apology, reinstatement of a job, or relief from emotional trauma. The beauty of mediation is that it permits the exploration of settlement terms that cannot be otherwise awarded by a judge or jury.”
As such, for Coviello, “A mediator needs to adapt to the needs of the participants and not vice-versa.” To that end, Coviello relies on his more than 30 years of experience litigating complex civil disputes in California and Federal courts to help him adjust to each unique case.

Of course being able to adapt is most effective when coupled with a thorough understanding of the law surrounding the dispute, together with a talent for negotiation and a commitment to ensuring that  all possible avenues of resolution are explored. Having tried more than 50 court and jury trials to verdict, Coviello has served as counsel for both plaintiffs and defendants in business disputes, with a specialization in employment related claims including matters involving wrongful termination, discrimination, harassment, FEHA, FLSA and numerous wage and hour class action matters in both the state and federal courts.

“My evolution from active trial lawyer to full time mediator and arbitrator was a 10 year work in progress,” Coviello says.
“I’m blessed to have always enjoyed the practice of law and in particular, trial work. I graduated from Western State University College of Law in 1980 and started my own solo practice within a year,” he recalls. As a new attorney, Coviello says he did what most new attorneys starting their own firms do: “You take any case that walks in the door,” says Coviello with a chuckle.
“During the early years of my career I undertook representation in a variety of cases including many criminal defense matters,” he says. However, he would ultimately transition out of that work and begin carving a niche in an entirely different field. His firm would grow commensurate with his new specialization in employment related litigation, reaching a total of 14 employees.

“I was probably 10 years into my practice before I handled an employment law case. Employment law was just becoming a hot bed for litigation due in part to a robust economy, the dot-com start up explosion and an upsurge in new workplace protection laws on both the state and federal level,” he says.
Coviello took to the first employment case he received with gusto. “I must have deposed 20 people,” he says. It was worth it. The case resolved with a favorable settlement for Coviello’s client and for the next 20 years, he enjoyed a niche practice which focused almost exclusively on employment related matters.

By the early 2000’s Coviello began what he calls “dabbling” in neutral work. Beginning as an arbitrator with the AAA, he also began making himself available as a mediator for employment related matters, but not because he was intending on making it his career at that point. “My purpose for starting to mediate was merely to increase my negotiation skill-set by seeing the process unfold from the inside. I believed this additional knowledge would be an asset in resolving cases for my own clients,” he says.
However, he soon found that he loved the work as a mediator, and that his expertise in the field made him a natural fit for the work. “I not only enjoyed assisting others to resolve their disputes, but my prior experience as a litigator was a valuable asset in providing insight to the parties,” he explains.

Indeed, according to Coviello, “As a neutral I have found that this specialized experience in a given field gives me not only common ground to converse with participating attorneys but also provides some level of credibility for me in the eyes of the individual parties. The majority of parties—especially on the plaintiff’s side—have never been through the litigation process. They will generally come into a mediation session quite skeptical and tend to have difficulty accepting the notion that I am in fact, neutral. Once I get them to understand that I truly have no stake in the outcome of the matter and that my comments are tethered to experience, the ball toward resolution can begin rolling,” he says.

In addition to using his specific expertise as a foundation for his mediation services, Coviello also implements many of the strategies he used as a trial attorney to ensure the successful resolution of the case. “I do my homework. I thoroughly review all briefs and conduct independent research to ensure that I’m sufficiently educated on the matter prior to mediation,” he says.
Likewise, he often reaches out to each party’s attorneys before the mediation, in the event that there is additional information that they wish to impart prior to the start of the formal session.
“Mediation is not a single event—it is a process. My goal as a mediator is to facilitate that process by guiding the parties down a path towards resolution. I work hard, and I will stay until midnight if I have to in order to get to a resolution,” he says. “Results matter. Experience, preparation, hard work, persistence and follow-up enhance the prospects for a successful mediation,” he adds. In the unlikely event that a settlement cannot be reached, Coviello does not stop trying. “I am very diligent in following up, and I have found that cases which initially did not settle, get resolved down the road with my continued involvement.”

After growing his mediation practice gradually over several years, Coviello decided to make this work his full time profession and hasn’t looked back since. Coviello immensely enjoys his work and is looking forward to many more years of success as a mediator and arbitrator.


" Mediation is not a single event—it is a process. My goal as a
mediator is to facilitate that process by guiding the parties down a path towards resolution."


Robert Coviello
Coviello Mediation
31815 Camino Capistrano, Suite 19
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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About the Author: Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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