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Matthew Argue’s Knack For Reconciling Seemingly Impossible Circumstances Transcends Personal obstacles and brings peace To Clients

In 2000, Matthew Argue had what many would consider an enviable law practice.  As partner and head of the construction litigation group at Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch LLP, he’d begun to reap the efforts of 70 hour work weeks for more than a dozen years.  Although he very much enjoyed life as a trial lawyer, at times it would conflict with his innate peacemaking orientation. “Even as a trial lawyer,” says Argue, “I often had an associate who was the more aggressive personality.  I’ve always felt called to do work in reconciliation.”  For Argue, that peacemaking call came quickly and unexpectedly.

When One Door Closes, Another Door Opens

It was January of 2000, when Argue was first diagnosed with testicular cancer.  At the time he and his wife had not yet had children, and the surprise diagnosis left him questioning whether that dream would ever come to fruition.  True to his nature, he remained upbeat. “My wife and I never thought it was a ‘bad’ thing,” he says simply.  “I always believed that cancer was an obstacle that I could overcome.” Following surgery to remove the tumor, Argue was back to the law practice as usual. This time however, he started to realize that the stressful workload he was carrying might be impacting his health.

A year later, when Argue returned to his oncologist for an annual follow-up, his suspicion was confirmed as a new hurdle presented itself.  He was diagnosed with cancer for a second time.   This time, surgery was not an option as a tumor had developed on the lymph nodes between his kidneys.  His firm, Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, was both understanding and compassionate knowing that maintaining the breakneck pace of being a trial attorney would not be possible.  Reluctantly, Argue accepted the firm’s offer of a three month leave of absence.

“After getting cancer the second time, it was a huge wake-up call.  I had a lot of questions.  I knew that working 70 hours a week was not the path for me if I wanted to stay alive.” Argue withdrew from his partnership within the first month of his leave and began to think about his professional future. “I needed to figure out what I wanted to do,” he says.

It was during this time of transition when the peacemaker inside began to surface.  First, he attended Bible College for two years and in the process he learned that “I am not in control of my life. I can’t control everything,” he says.  “There is a purpose in my life.  I am far less concerned about failure than living for something that I am passionate about,” he adds.

This clarity of thought led to new career possibilities, with mediation and other forms of dispute resolution among them. But it would take his being invited to an annual dinner held by his previous firm to give him the final nudge he needed to open the door to a new life resolving disputes.

Every Cloud Has a Silver Lining

When his previous firm encouraged him to consider becoming a mediator, Argue admits that “At the time it was daunting. Most people agreed it would take close to five years before it would become a full-time practice.” However, he also realized that he had alighted upon an opportunity to use his “natural ability to find consensus and to be a peacemaker,” he explains.

Argue dove into the training with gusto. He enrolled in a mediator credentialing program, took numerous training courses, amassing more than 100 hours of live training.  However, the greatest learning experience he received came in the form of a mediation externship with a well-recognized and highly regarded retired Federal District Court Judge.  From this hands-on experience, he was able to formulate some philosophies that have stuck with him throughout his now eight years as a mediator.

“I believe that being a good mediator involves more than technical skills, but requires putting other’s needs before your own, and being willing to forgive others to move forward,” he says.  Moreover, he adds, “I believe mediation needs to be respectful, courteous, confidential and positive.” Argue found the perfect partnership to provide this service when he joined Arbitration Mediation & Conciliation Center. Specifically, he credits his collaboration with Ross Hart, Esq., one of the top construction related mediators in the country, as a primary reason for his burgeoning success resolving construction, real estate and insurance disputes.

Despite the support from AMCC, Hart and the others, it was Argue’s finely tuned listening and client service skills that helped him develop a reputation as one of the region’s top mediators.  To illustrate, he explains “Luxury single family home construction defect cases can be difficult to resolve due to feelings of betrayal by homeowners and by the willingness to go to trial to have personal feelings vindicated.  Cases are often expensive and both sides have financial resources to continue the fight.  I have been successful in helping homeowners and builders to resolve personal issues as a part of the settlement of the case.”

More Than Just Half Full; His Cup Runneth Over

Matthew Argue has learned to expertly blend his knowledge of people, his knowledge of the law, and the life lessons he was forced to learn into becoming a highly skilled and effective mediator.  He’s learned a tremendous amount about what’s important in life, including not taking anything for granted. Indeed, there was yet another battle with cancer in Argue’s life.  In 2009, he was diagnosed with cancer for the third time, and this time it was leukemia, which would require a bone marrow transplant.  Fortunately, his only sibling, a sister was a perfect bone marrow match, and Argue responded well to the transplant.  He has been in remission for over 2 years.

Despite or because of it all, Argue remains unfailingly upbeat and unfazed. The fears about not having children never materialized as he and his wife Michelle were blessed with two healthy sons, Luke and Liam, respectively ages 11 and 9. “We are a close knit family… We celebrate life every day knowing that the future is not guaranteed and we try to live each day as a gift,” he says simply.  He also considers the changes in his life as completely positive “Becoming a mediator is a dream job, a job I believe I am called to, and a job I never would have found but for my bouts with cancer.  I am truly blessed."ν

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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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