It’s with great sadness that I’m reporting the death late yesterday at the age of 59 of one of New York’s top mediators, Michael McAllister. Anyone that has tried civil cases in New York over the last two decades knows who he is, and has most likely appeared before him at some point.
McAllister was the Neutral Evaluation Attorney in charge of the New York County Supreme Court Mediation/Neutral Program at its inception in 1994. This state didn’t have any official mediators before that, and this program was turned into a model to be used in other counties.
He was personally responsible for having settled thousands of cases, both through his role as official court mediator, and subsequently from March 2005 onward with the private mediation company JAMS. That included numerous million and multi-million dollar disputes including labor law, medical malpractice, toxic torts, municipal liability, and thousands upon thousands of slip/fall and auto cases.
He was a trusted and respected neutral, widely liked by both plaintiffs and defendants, on both a personal as well as professional level, and amazingly effective at what he did. He appeared just days ago as part of the faculty of a continuing legal education class, The Art of Negotiating and Mediation.
The letter below regarding McAllister appeared on October 1, 1998, in the New York Law Journal. How often does praise appear in print for someone who works out of the spotlight? It is republished here in full, with the permission of its author, Matt Kreinces:
Letter To The Editor: PRAISE FOR MEDIATOR
In the course of my short career I have had the opportunity to work for some of the best negligence/medical malpractice trial lawyers in this state, including Richard Godosky, Anthony Gentile, Raymond Furey, Joseph Awad, Joseph Miklos, Ivan Schneider and Harvey Weitz. While having worked for these individuals I have had the opportunity to appear before and meet some of the most distinguished jurists including Chief Judge Judith Kaye.
All of these are recognized by the profession and the public on a daily basis. However, one individual who I have come to know who seems to go completely unrecognized is Michael McAllister. Mr. McAllister, a court mediator in State Supreme Court, New York County, is currently settling cases that no one else can settle, clearing dockets that no one else can clear and maintaining a level of professionalism I can only hope to obtain during my career as a lawyer.
Within the past five years I have had the opportunity to appear before Mr. McAllister on a number of occasions and have come to know him personally. One instance that stands out concerned the death of a woman after childbirth. The woman gave birth to her third child, developed complications, was allegedly saved immediately after the birth, but died a few days later due to a redevelopment of complications. I was working on this matter as a plaintiff’s attorney. Prior to a note of issue being filed, Mr. McAllister came upon the case and called it in for a conference.
There were four defense attorneys as well as my boss and myself. The initial conference was an amazing tribute to Mr. McAllister’s ability to recognize the strengths and weaknesses on both sides of this complicated medical malpractice action. After a number of conferences, and long before this matter ever would have reached a trial, Mr. McAllister was able to effectuate a substantial seven-figure settlement. Given the defendants and carriers involved, this was not an easy task.
Mr. McAllister does his job on a daily basis with the utmost of courtesy and respect for the lawyers who enter his courtroom, even when that respect and courtesy is not reciprocated. I am writing to thank Mr. McAllister for giving those of us who are still early in our careers an opportunity to see what being a lawyer is all about, as well as something to strive for down the road.
He is survived by his wife and four children. A funeral announcement has not yet been made, but is expected later today when JAMS will put out a statement.
Update: The wake for Mike will be held at Beaugard Funeral Home in River Edge:, 869 Kinderkamack Road, River Edge, NJ 07661; 201-262-5050.
The wake is tomorrow (Saturday, 1/29) from 7pm-9pm and Sunday from 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm. The mass is on Monday (1/31) at 11:30am at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 305 Elm St., Oradell, NJ 07649
There will be a celebration from 1pm-5pm at on Monday at Maggianos in the Riverside Mall in Hackensack, NJ. The arrangements are open to friends, family and clients. (of note, Mike will be cremated)
The family has set up The McAllister Education Fund for Vanessa and Brian, in lieu of flowers. Donations should be mailed to the funeral home (The Fund’s EIN is 27-4684686).
I am a lawyer/claim handler, handling large claims for an insurance company. I met Mike when he first started with JAMS. I have handled 100’s of mediations on very large claims – all across this country. Mike McCallister was THE BEST mediator I’ve met. I considered him a personal friend. I received personal calls from him, supportive, when I was going through some difficult times.
My deepest sympathies to his family. This was a true American success story. Mike worked hard and achieved great success and great respect from the NYC legal community. Although he has passed, his spirit will never be forgotten. Rest in Peace Mike.
Wow! I can’t believe this. I just had a mediation with him two weeks ago and this is just awful. He was a good mediator and did a great job getting the parties to sit down and negotiate effectively.
He will be missed.
Mike was a wonderful man and has an amazing family. I am deeply saddened by this news. I understand the family had no time to prepare and it is very hard to just be. I understand from peronal experience from my dad. This is not easy. I know that you only know me from the office, but if there is anything I can do for you, whatever it is, Please let me know. Again, I am sorry for your loss. Your dad, and husband was a great person and I speak for everyone at Harris Dental Care. Our hearts go out to all of you. XoXo
I never had the pleasure of having a mediation with McAllister, but co-workers who did were universal in their praise of him, both as a person and as a mediator
What’s hard to imagine is that he had thousands of mediations with lawyers — who have a critical eye toward everything and are working under stress — and that the praise i have heard was universal. And that was before he passed away, so the praise is untainted by the emotion of his passing.
Mike McAllister was unique. He had a real feel for the New York City court system since he spent much of his career there. He also had instincts that were hard to match.This is a tremendous personal loss but it is also a big loss for the legal community. We will miss him.
I mediated numerous cases with Mike over the years. He was a skilled negotiator, a consumate professional and such a nice man. As I have 4 kids as well, we were talking a couple of weeks ago about his kids and sending them to college. He had a huge smile on his face when speaking of his children. To me, that says more about the man than anything else. I just mediated a case with him a couple of weeks ago (with Mr. Oginski who also wrote above) and he assisted us in the resolution of a difficult matter.
I will miss Mike and my heartfelt condolences go out to his family.
I work for an Atlanta based insurance company, and had the privilege of mediating with Mike about a half dozen times. By the second time, he greeted me asking “…How have you been? How are things in Atlanta?…”.
He was respected by both sides because he wasn’t afraid to hammer on either side if they’d misevaluated a case.
I handle cases all across the country, and can say that he was one of the best, not just in NYC, but anywhere.
Having known Mike for almost 17 years and having worked with him on so many matters, I have to say he was both a wonderful mediator, but also a gentleman and a friend. He will be missed by all.
I’ve known Mike since he was a clerk in Supreme New York. He worked harder than just about anyone else in the profession. Everybody respected him, and his results showed why. My prayers go out to Michael’s family.
We had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Mike “Mac” about a year ago through our son Michael and our daughter-in-law Virginia. They often spoke of Mac and referred to him as a passionate man with a heart of gold. In the short time we knew him, we personally witnessed him as such. Our deepest sympathy to his family and friends.
I have had the pleasure of mediating many cases with Mike. He handled every matter with the utmost professionalism and his opinions were always heeded by both sides. This was evidenced by his track record for successful settlements. In the few short years I knew Mike, he became not only a very respected colleague, but also a good friend. This is a tremendous loss for the legal community in NY and the surrounding areas. Mike, know that you will be missed. My deepest sympathy to Mike’s family during this very difficult time.
I am tremendously saddened by this loss. I mediated many,many cases with Mike and consider him a true friend and respected colleague. He was always professional and an absolute pleasure to work with. I participated with Mike on a panel for CLE at NYSTLA this past Tuesday and I am forever grateful to him for giving me the opportunity. This is a significant loss for the insurance and legal community. JAMS will not be the same without him. My deepest condolences to his family.
During decades of negotiating the corridors and courtrooms of the New York Supreme Court, there was only one “Big Mike” who fit that moniker, not only because of his height, but by his stature.
It was Michael McAllister, as court clerk, attorney and mediator, who served each position by being himself, that is, by being bigger than life. I felt his physical presence and observed him as I would a barometer of the case on trial back in the day when we shared the well of the courtroom at 80 Centre Street, with Big Mike at his desk near the window, and I at counsel’s table nearby and I always respected his opinion. More than the jury, I would study Big Mike to see what effect the evidence would have on a verdict or get his opinion about how the case was going in.
Big Mike’s ability to evaluate a case didn’t ebb when he left the court mediation program but continued on with his sterling work at JAMS because he was a true judge of human nature and character.
Little more that a week has passed since last I saw him at JAMS late one afternoon but I am so glad that I had that opportunity to say hello to an old friend. He will be missed.
I am deeply saddened by his untimely passing and offer my sincere condolences to his family and colleagues.
Mike always had a big smile which projected his honesty, integrity and warmth. With all the controversey, bluster and bravado that permeates our profession, Mike had the ability to cut thorugh it all, and get the job done. He was a man of his word, trusted,and respected. He spoke often of important things, family, kids, college. Mike . . if you can hear these heartfelt messages. . know one thing .. you showed us through your actions and deeds, that you knew what was important in life. You got it right my friend . . . God speed to you, and heart felt condolences to your family.
How many people can you say made you smile every time you saw them, especially in the legal community? Mike was that guy. Professional, (always), gruff, (pretending), smart, courteous, and great at his job. He was a big guy with a big heart, a love for his family, and everyone else’s. His passing is a huge loss, to his lovely family, and all of the lawyers who sought his expert guidance. My heart is with you.
Jennine A. Gerrard
Mrs. McAllister and family,
I work for an insurance company and have mediated many case with Mike. I always requested him and most times, all sides would agree which says a lot since plaintiffs and defendants hardley ever agree. I travel all over the country and can say that, without question, Mike was the best !! I got to know him personally and even sat next to two of your daughters two years ago at the Big East basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden. They were delightful and respectful and that is what Mike really cared about(family). They are a credit to both of you !! I hope you and the family will be able to move on from this tragedy but I know that in the meantime you will truly miss this wonderful man. We all will.
From today on the night sky will be brighter, for a star returns to shine its light on the whole universe, the same way he shined for those of us who were blessed with his friendship, his counsel and example of what an excellent human being is. Mike is such a star!!
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Mike McAllister. I have mediated many, many cases before him and have always found him to be professional and trustworthy. Because he was a “people person” he had a deep appreciation for the human side of cases and was able to effectively use that skill during negotiations. On a personal level , he had a warm and fun loving personality, always smiling, with never an unkind word to say about anyone. A true family man, when he talked about his wife and children, he beamed with pride. You know its funny, when you’ve had a good working relationship with a person for a long time, you never realize how you truly feel about that person. When I learned of Mike’s death, I sobbed as if I had lost a member of my family….. I now know that he meant more to me than someone I worked with, he was a friend. To his family,I extend my deepest sympathy and I pray that the love of God will comfort you through this difficult time.
Robert S. Santander, Esq. – NY NY
I found out in court today in queens supreme about Mike’s untimely and sudden passing.
I am deeply deeply saddened by the passing of this fine person – smart, honest fair, competent attorney/mediator, and more importantly, all around nice guy.
Im last saw Mike last April when I was down at JAMS for a mediation with Ronnie Gallina. I had not seen him in a long while and when he saw me, he greeted me like a long lost friend.
I hade several cases with him over ther years and I always felt like I was getting a fair shake – a defense counsel getting a fair shake, what a concept !
When I last sawe him I told him that I was going to go under the knife for lap band surgery as I am a type 2 diabetic. He encouraged me and wished me well as he had at least 2/3 rerlatives who had had it and did very well with it.
I wish I had had the opportunity to see him and show him what the NEW ME looks like.
I will miss him, his colleagues will miss him, our profession here in NY will miss him, and his loved ones will of course miss him.
Michael[as I called him, nevere ‘MIKE’, out of respect] belongs to the ages.
May the Good Lord keep him well in Heaven, nad may his family heal from this terrible loss.
Michael, Goodbye Big Guy.
See You up there when the time comes.
Sincerely and with a Heavy Heart,
Robert S. Santander
OMG! Mike and I grew up together in the Morningside Heights section of Manhattan. He was one of the best people in the neighborhood and loved by all. Back in the ’70’s I was a Legal Affairs Coordinator for the Dept. Of Corrections and Mike was a Court Officer back then. Even as a very young man he had the knack for “reading” people. He was a natural. I’m out in California now and haven’t seen Mike in decades, but I’ll never forget the big guy and neither will anyone else who had the pleasure of knowing him.