Cass Maliszewski: Zooms Into a New Role

The high quality of the support and engagement of the bench and bar of Jacksonville truly sets us apart,” Dean Nicholas W. Allard recently reflected after the first completed year of the College of Law at Jacksonville University, and in anticipation of the school year ahead.

Dean Allard, who joined the school last July as the founding dean to launch the College of Law in August 2022, radiated pride about the accomplishments and direction of the new school and its students.

“Our successes over the past year and immediate position of strength point to several competitive and unique advantages we offer,” he said. “We are literally creating a law school from the ground up, without having to retrofit or change existing mindsets. Our students are enjoying the challenge and thrill of building something fresh in the finest possible way. In addition to managing the heavy load of studies as first-year law students, they have spent the last year serving and contributing to the community, they have been ambassadors for the school, and they have had extraordinary opportunities and experiences with members of the Jacksonville bench and bar.”

They haven’t made such progress alone. “Jacksonville lawyers in the public and private sector, as well as our judges, local civic institutions and companies, and esteemed faculty members, have all been incredibly engaged in and committed to ensuring that our law students get the very best quality education, both inside and outside the classroom,” said Dean Allard. “Jacksonville’s legal community sets a fine example. They are extremely knowledgeable about today’s cutting-edge legal issues, and they demonstrate outstanding qualities of leadership, adaptability and teamwork while serving clients who face uncertainty.”

Dean Allard said the new school’s initially small size allowed professors to provide a personalized and hands-on style to their law students. “We’re able to provide the best conventional approaches to legal education, but we’re also able to adapt, adjust and adopt new methods.”

One special, yet strategic, focus of the law school is its ability to juggle two challenging and difficult lines of legal education, he said.

“To earn respect and attract student applicants, employers and donors to the College of Law, as well as impress accreditors, we are coloring within the lines, teaching the fundamentals of law, ethics and professionalism so our students can graduate, pass the bar and become ready to practice,” Dean Allard said. “Our students are mastering the conventional and fundamental skills and abilities they must have to pass the Florida bar and be good lawyers.”

There is even more to the approach of the new law school, Dean Allard said. “Simultaneously, we are also demonstrating ‘Jacksonville Pollock’ inventiveness and innovation by learning from Jacksonville’s bench and bar what the new needs are for lawyers, and one of these is to teach and help our next generation of lawyers understand how to adapt to change,” he explained. “We are designing the best curriculum for students to prepare for the ever-changing 21st-century world of law. What law schools taught even 10 years ago must be different now because our world, and client needs, have drastically evolved.”

“Because of this dual approach to legal education, our students are going to be ready as new lawyers — not just to provide legal services and understand the law, but also how to be lifelong learners and adapters to new demands, as inevitably, new legal issue arise that we don’t even know about yet.”

He pointed to recent examples that include artificial intelligence, drones, cybersecurity and other disruptive technologies.

“This past term, the Supreme Court of the United States heard four cases involving AI. It is the obligation of every lawyer to be competent with new technologies,” Dean Allard stressed. “Other areas include the shifting norms relating to cannabis across the country, the latest financial instruments such as cryptocurrency, blockchain and bitcoin, and biomedical breakthroughs and advances in medicine and healthcare. These are just a few emerging legal fields, and we must not ignore the continuous need to deliver access to justice and provide affordable, quality legal services to underserved members of the community.

“I believe that this century, lawyers are going to be as important as they’ve ever been in history because of the tension on the established rules that govern our everchanging ways of life. We are helping our students be prepared to solve our world’s next legal problems.”

With one eye on preparation for laws of the future and the other on teaching legal best practices and precedents from the past, Dean Allard is confident about achieving the law school’s long-term vision and ultimate goal – that every graduate of the College of Law at Jacksonville University is admired as being among the finest lawyers in the country.

litigation was still operating via various online platforms, such as Zoom.  So why not pick up a few mediated cases myself and see if I can truly experience what this new wave is all about?

“Not only did I jump right in and do the work, I began reaching out to people I’d known and worked with for 20-plus years,” he continues. “They shared their Zoom experiences with me, and I quickly discovered that (a) it was a much more efficient model, (b) the settlements were the same if not better, and (c) I recalled that someone had told me a while back that I would make a great mediator. And, after 25 years I decided that’s what I was going to do.”

A man of action, Maliszewski immediately began planning his career change, embracing online technology as a new and better way. Excited and motivated he was all set to pull all the pieces together by the end of 2021, when several major family issues manifested right at the mark of the new year.

“I needed to address these issues, so I simply retired from the insurance career that I loved that ‘fateful’ January 6, 2021 afternoon and over the next six weeks focused my energies on taking care of my family,” he says. “During that time, I also got my first Florida Supreme Court certification as a mediator and opened up shop well ahead of schedule on March 31, 2021 and incredibly it just took off!”

In 2022, with a new career that was undeniably succeeding beyond anyone’s expectations, Maliszewski fell into an opportunity to relocate back to Jacksonville. It was not only a return to his career and childhood roots but was a move that made sense for the entire family.

“My wife has a pediatric speech pathology clinic in Jacksonville and it’s where our children, Annastin and Molly, attend Holy Family Catholic school,” he says. “It just made sense all the way around.”

Practice Made Perfect

Maliszewski’s practice has continued to grow and his reputation along with it. While his 25 years of insurance and litigation experience provided a deep network of insurance clients and law firms on both sides of the aisle who dove into the Zoom revolution with him and became loyal, repeat mediation clients, a true indicator of his abilities is the growing list of referrals from newer clients he receives from the mediation work he performs.

The cherry on top, if you will, is that Maliszewski has been able to price his services at a highly competitive price and is a huge fan of using data to help make decisions.

“COVID brought us Zoom, which is here to stay for the most part, and the data concerning its success does not lie.  Settlements are the same if not better, costs are down with no travel, and overhead is miniscule in the grand scheme of things. Most importantly, you truly see decision makers at mediations and often have immediate access to other decision makers in real time. This benefits every party.”

No one could ever refer to LEO Mediations, LLC as discount or cut-rate, but when you consider the deep experience that helps get clients what they want, the efficient nature of Maliszewski’s style, an easy and convenient online Zoom mediation process that he hosts, hands on scheduling and personal service, data driven results equal to or better than many, and yes, price, one must recognize the value for everyone.

Formula For Success

Aside from the obvious advantage of 25 years of experience, continued participation with The CLM/Institutes and its National ADR and Litigation Management committees, and the full gamut of Florida Supreme Court certifications for County, Civil and Appellate mediation, Maliszewski’s cornerstone for success is built upon three key hallmarks to help bring about solid decision making: Listening, Engaging, and Optimizing.  Truly listening to the parties wants, needs and whys; engaging the parties actively and tackling the obstacles in their path; and optimizing all the information at hand for an informed decision.  This is what LEO Mediations, LLC is all about.

“I think many of your readers in and around Jacksonville and NE Florida might recognize my name, if for no other reason than from many moons ago when I was out in the field handling insurance litigation directly.  While the last decade or so of my insurance career had been primarily focused within the litigation hotbed of South Florida and the I-4 corridor as well as leadership, I hope the folks locally really embrace the technology and benefits of remote mediations via Zoom and are willing to come see me again in this newer role.  I’m sure the results they are able to achieve and costs that they save will speak for themselves. At the end of the day, it’s all about client success—mine comes from theirs.”

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