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Published: Tuesday, 11/11/2008

Toledo attorney pens hot book to help execs avoid lawsuits

Toledo attorney Peter Silverman has written a best seller.

No, it's not the type of book that will top the New York Times list of hottest publications. But Mr. Silverman's new book, The Client's Guide to Mediation and Arbitration: The Strategy for Winning, is counted as a best-seller on the Web site of the American Bar Association, which published it.

The book's main point is that companies spend too much money on lawsuits when they could settle a lot of issues quicker, cheaper, and more amicably through mediation and arbitration.

"Lawsuits can eat a business alive, and most business aren't very smart about how to approach them," said Mr. Silverman, a partner in Toledo's largest law firm, Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP.

"They need to figure out how best to approach business disputes. How much time will it take? What is the cost? How to resolve it the quickest and cheapest?"

At the extreme, a dispute that could be solved in 30 days at a cost of $5,000 could stretch out to three years and a $500,000 tab, Mr. Silverman pointed out.

He advocates that businesses try to resolve disputes immediately after they arise. One strategy he recommends is that companies require a negotiation period before filing lawsuits, consider mediation "by a trusted intermediary" as a second step, and finally go to arbitration, if necessary, rather than trial.

"Sometimes what works best is a lawsuit," he acknowledged. "But too often litigation is senseless, and expensive. You have to look at the big picture."

Mr. Silverman, a former Toledo councilman and a former Toledo Public Schools board member, has been an arbitrator for 25 years and a mediator for 20 years. Since 1990, he has mediated a number of cases in federal court as part of a push by the Northern District of Ohio to steer more cases to alternative dispute resolution rather than trials.

When Mr. Silverman pitched his idea to the American Bar Association, he found a receptive audience.

Neal Cox, director of marketing for group's publications, said he felt one of the book's advantages is that it tells business executives how to explain their needs to lawyers. "Time is money when you're talking to lawyers," said Mr. Cox.

The book is a "best-seller" in its niche," he said, and it's getting good response from law firms that deal with corporations. They're buying it in bulk and giving it to clients so they can be aware of how mediation and arbitration operate.

Mr. Cox added that he expects the book's sales to hit several thousand copies.

James Noll, a vice president of the American Arbitration Association who reviewed Mr. Silverman's book for his group's quarterly journal, said, "Many companies spend far too much time on litigation." But, he said, companies can often control the outcome of their disputes better by staying out of the courts.



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