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Tom Sharkey. A Star in the San Diego Legal Community.

Tom Sharkey has long been one of the most successful players in the San Diego legal community as both an award-winning trial attorney and sought after neutral with Judicate West

Practice Makes Perfect
“All litigated cases have risk which has to be realistically assessed. My goal is to be absolutely honest and fair with the litigants and their attorneys, whether plaintiffs or defendants, in assessing that risk in order to assist them in reaching a fair and reasonable resolution to their cases,” Sharkey says. “The attorneys and their clients want the opportunity to present their positions to a person who they trust and have confidence in, with whom they have developed a rapport, and I strive to develop that type of relationship from the very beginning.”
To that end, Sharkey says, “I read the mediation and arbitration briefs submitted by counsel very carefully so I have a complete understanding of the facts and the law applicable to the cases that are submitted to me. I also listen very carefully to the lawyers as well as their clients when I meet with them either in a joint session or separate caucus in mediations, or in opening and closing arguments, as well as the sworn testimony presented by witnesses and experts in arbitrations.”

Continuing, Sharkey says, “I inform all parties that my function is not to make binding rulings as a judge on evidentiary matters, credibility of witnesses or to serve as an advocate for one side or the other but that my role is to facilitate settlement negotiations between the parties and give risk assessments to both sides. This may occur from time to time during the mediation by giving ‘reality checks’ on the various issues in the case to help the parties arrive at a realistic and practical resolution of the case.”
Regarding those practical resolutions? “I make my own confidential, personal evaluation of what I believe a reasonable verdict range may be if the case is tried, as well as a reasonable range for settlement. I inform the parties that I will not express my opinion unless both sides request that I do so, and only after the parties have had an adequate opportunity to engage in negotiations themselves. When the parties have reached an impasse, I will make a mediators proposal attempt to achieve settlement. Attorneys want to settle, and their clients want to settle, if there is a reasonable offer, but it is not my job to inject myself into the case, unless it is requested.”

By way of example, Sharkey describes a recent wrongful death case arising out of an aviation accident which involved complicated and unique insurance issues and issues relating to Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs). “The parties on both sides were understandably very emotional about the case and there was a great deal of hostility. The case eventually settled in the evening hours after a long day of mediation. Counsel informed me that their clients had developed a sense of trust and confidence in me and after meeting with me privately, they had a better and much more realistic understanding of the insurance issues and the FAR piloting issues, which enabled them to set aside much of their emotion and hostility and reach a fair and realistic settlement,” he recalls.

When it comes to his role as Special Master or Discovery Referee, Sharkey says that creating the relationship of trust is equally important. He has also formulated an expedited briefing and hearing schedule, which reduces the length of briefs and accelerates the time within which the hearings are set. The goal in doing so, according to Sharkey, is to eliminate a great deal of attorney work, all the while providing substantial savings to the clients. Incidentally, Sharkey has served as Special Master on extremely high-profile cases including the closure of the De Anza Mobile Home Park.

If it sounds like Sharkey has his finger firmly on the pulse of attorney needs in today’s world of budget cuts and calendaring delays, that’s because he is intentional about understanding the challenges the younger generation of his attorney clients are facing. Admittedly, Sharkey is an established face to tenured attorneys, but attorneys newer to practice aren’t necessarily familiar with his lengthy and admirable career. To ensure he stays firmly in the game, Sharkey says that in addition to his busy schedule of mediations, arbitrations and work as Special Master/Discovery Referee, he continues to love his involvement in professional organizations.

“It is important to me to keep in touch with attorneys, who are now my clients, and I love being able to work with younger attorneys, so I remain active and involved in the American College of Trial Lawyers, ABOTA, and the Enright Inn of Court. It’s always a pleasure meeting new generations of attorneys,” he says.
All in all, Sharkey says that his career couldn’t possibly be any more fulfilling. “It really doesn’t get a whole lot better than this. I’m still flying, I’m still working out at my gym at home and riding my bike, and my wife and I have wonderful children and grandkids. I’ve been very fortunate, and serving as a mediator, arbitrator, Special Master and Discovery Referee has been an absolutely wonderful way to continue my career.”

Tom Sharkey
Judicate West
(619) 814-1966 402
W Broadway, Suite 2400
San Diego, CA 92101

Jennifer Hadley

Jennifer Hadley is a Staff Writer for Attorney Journal

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Filed Under: Business ManagementFeatured StoriesPractice Management

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

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