Two Philadelphia litigators are starting a new firm to mediate disputes that arise in class actions and complex litigation, aiming to make mediations more efficient for all sides.
Peter Muhic and Peter “Tad” LeVan have founded MLA Dispute Resolution, the pair announced Tuesday. LeVan will continue to operate his own firm, the LeVan Law Group, which he launched five years ago. Muhic, who was a partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check, has joined LeVan Law Group, where he will also continue a litigation practice alongside the mediation work.
The two lawyers previously worked together at Kessler Topaz. While they are both based in Philadelphia, they said the new firm will aim to handle matters all over the United States.
“One of the things we had been grousing about privately when we were doing the large class action work at Kessler Topaz was the time-consuming and inefficient mediations we would be doing,” LeVan said.
Typically, LeVan said, mediators have little interaction with the parties before the first day of mediation. And at the start of a mediation, the parties and their counsel end up spending a lot of time waiting around as the mediator gets to know the issues from each side individually.
“At the end of the [first] day, best-case scenario, you would be where you should have been when the day started,” LeVan said.
So at their new firm, parties and counsel will work with the mediator on an individual basis before everyone is gathered together in one place.
“To go through with the commitment of time and financial commitment to bring all of the client representatives together without there having been significant work in advance leads to often what we saw as an inefficient use of time and money,” Muhic said.
LeVan noted that he and Muhic have done plaintiffs- and defense-side work over the years, which gives them a useful perspective in mediating issues proactively. He said their format is aimed at resolving matters in fewer mediation sessions, which will save the parties time and money.
“There’s no one better to explain the strengths and weaknesses of the claim to both sides of a suit than practitioners,” Muhic said.
While they will continue their respective litigation practices, LeVan said there will be a greater emphasis on their dispute resolution work. They have hired some staff, he said, but no other attorneys yet.
“We’ve had a very positive and strong early reaction from people,” Muhic said. “Attorneys from around the country have called to ask if we’re willing to bring on additional mediators across the country.”
Muhic said the pair will leverage their existing relationships with law firms they have worked with to bring on mediation work. He and LeVan noted several niche areas in which they may be able to provide particular focus, given their experience: resolving class member objections and apportioning attorney fees at the end of large class actions.
“As mediators that are well acquainted with the issues,” Muhic said, “we can provide a very efficient, prompt and discreet way to resolve those attorney fee disputes.”
Kessler Topaz did not respond to a request for comment on Muhic’s departure.