(c) 2007 The Daily Journal Corporation.
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July 27, 2007
MEDIATOR USES STRAIGHT TALK AND A BIT OF SUGAR
By D. Heimpel, Daily Journal Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES - It's hard to imagine Alan G. Saler has a penchant
Despite casting a lean profile, Saler always keeps a selection
of Andes chocolate mints, Red Vines, sweet tarts and gummy bears
on the mediation table at his office in Sherman Oaks.
Although he periodically munches, the sweets serve a greater
"Sugar fuels any good mediation," Saler said.
With his sense of humor and laid-back style, Saler, 48, works to
make conflicts disappear. Through his four-year-old mediation
practice, he has quickly earned a reputation as someone who can
keep even the most contrarian plaintiffs and defendants out of
"Even as a litigator, I always felt that I had failed if a case
went to trial," he said. Indeed, the pillars of Saler's practice
are tenacity and preparedness. "I go into every mediation
thinking I'm going to settle," he said.
While a number of mediators refer to psychological manuals and
techniques to assist in dispute resolution, Saler believes the
only way to compel both parties to engage in an honest and
serious dialogue is to be straightforward.
"The more informed someone is the better their decision-making
process and ultimately their decisions are," he said.
Another hallmark of his practice is preparation. By
understanding the legal as well as the business aspects of a
matter, Saler is able to talk plainly to both sides of an issue.
He often comes into a case with legal pads crowded with outlines
while reading over the matter at hand. As a result of meticulous
preparation, Saler wastes little time getting to the heart of a
dispute and explaining the facts of the case clearly to both
"You get more than your money's worth with Alan," said Toni Kern
of Los Angeles-based Callahan McCune & Willis.
Saler will also go to great physical lengths to get a mediation
in. He recently traveled to Bakersfield to mediate a
tenant-landlord dispute for Jean M. Pledger, a partner at Klein
Denatale Goldner Cooper Rosenlieb & Kimball.
"He didn't even charge us for travel," she added. The result,
Saler said, is that often the two parties leave the table
feeling as though they have gotten the best deal possible.
Saler also possesses a rare tenacity, according to those who've
worked with him. He has seen a $400,000 settlement last three
hours, and $20,000 mediations take twice as long. But Saler
insists that no matter the size of the case, staying the course
and talking through often complicated and vexing disputes works.
"Sometimes before a party can decide what to do about their
case, or to follow their lawyer's advice, they need to tell
their story or to vent their frustration about the predicament
in which they find themselves," he said.
The lawyers who have used his services recognize and appreciate
"He's not someone who I'd say is particularly charismatic," said
Andrew L. Shapiro, a name partner at Encino-based Lewitt,
Hackman, Shapiro, Marshall & Harlan, who has worked with Saler
on four cases. "But what he lacks in charisma he makes up for in
energy and bulldoggedness."
Patrick M. Kelley, managing partner for the western region at
Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, felt so strongly about
Saler that he called the Daily Journal from the back of a car in
upstate New York just to talk about him.
"He is extremely well-prepared," said Kelley, who represents
clients in as many as 50 mediations a year. "He can talk on an
academic level, and that gives the parties a gentle dose of
A native of the Big Apple, Saler moved west in 1984. Until then,
he likened himself to Woody Allen's character in the movie
"I thought New York was the center of the universe," he said.
Saler earned his undergraduate degree from Union College in
Schenectady, N.Y., in 1981, then headed into the city to pursue
a law degree from Columbia University School of Law.
Saler grew up in the shade of Shea Stadium in Queens, and had
become accustomed to the cold winds that blew off the Atlantic.
But he quickly adapted to Los Angeles.
"Everyone complains about the bar being so hard," he said. "But
I was studying on the beach getting a suntan."
The lifestyle suited him. Upon his arrival, Saler joined Ervin,
Cohen & Jessup, handling complex civil litigation in a range of
practices, including personal injury and real estate.
But the East Coast beckoned him in the form of a former law
school colleague. While back in New York for a brief family
visit, Saler contacted Daniel Hirsch and asked his old friend to
lunch. Instead, the two met at Hirsch's bustling firm, Jones
Hirsch Connors & Bull.
Three weeks later, Hirsch made him an offer - he wanted Saler to
become a partner and open a branch in Los Angeles.
"That's like a marriage," Saler said. "I had to be sure I wanted
to be married to them."
So Saler, pragmatic and methodical, spent a few weeks studying
the firm's New York City office. The courtship turned into
blessed matrimony, and Saler opened the firm's Los Angeles
branch in February 1992.
Most of his business involved representing the insured in both
catastrophic and routine injury cases, much of it pertaining to
industrial accidents. While his cases frequently went to trial,
Saler always preferred to settle.
So opening his own mediation practice in 2003 was, for him, akin
to a dream come true.
"I simply love what I do," Saler said. "In fact, I believe my
enthusiasm for the work is one of the reasons I am good at it."
Back to the candy-strewn mediation table and Saler's secret
"My grandmother taught me you get more with sugar than vinegar,
so I like to keep plenty of Red Vines and other candy on hand,"
But sometimes, it is the mediator enjoying the goodies more than
the parties at the table, according Lee Marshall of Haight,
Brown & Bonesteel.
"He likes it more than anybody else," Marshall said. "He always
takes a generous portion himself."
But as long as Saler keeps settling disputes, what's a bit of
Here are some of the lawyers who have used Saler's services:
Stephen F. Danz, Danz & Gerber, Sherman Oaks; John P. Blumberg,
Blumberg Law Corporation, Long Beach; Marc Smith, Krane & Smith,
Encino; Andrew L. Shapiro, Lewitt, Hackman, Shapiro, Marshall &
Harlan, Encino; Pejman A. Ben-Cohen, Novak & Ben-Cohen, Beverly
Hills; Diana P. Scott, Greenberg Traurig, Santa Monica; Patrick
M. Kelly, Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker, Los
Angeles; Leigh Ann White, Carlton, DiSante & Freudenberger,
Irvine; Lee Marshall, Haight, Brown & Bonesteel, Los Angeles;
Toni Kern, Callahan McCune & Willis, Los Angeles; Jean M.
Pledger, Klein Denatale Goldner Cooper Rosenlieb & Kimball,
Bakersfield; Marie B. Kenny, Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps,
San Diego; Mark Susson, Smith & Susson, Newport Beach; William A
Bossen, Musick, Peeler & Garrett, Los Angeles; Barry Zoller,
Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, Los Angeles