In 1994, the United States District Court for the District of Vermont adopted an Early Neutral Evaluation program. It required that nearly every civil case on its docket be “evaluated” before being set for trial. I was fortunate to be one of the lawyers named to the initial panel of evaluators. 

Although evaluation is featured prominently in the name of the program, the initial training provided through the Court emphasized mediation, not evaluation.

Some members of the ENE panel were more comfortable with evaluation than mediation. In their view, providing the parties with an independent view of the merits of a case is all that’s needed. Most of us took the mediation approach seriously and see our role as helping the parties to a dispute (and their lawyers) explore the issues that divide them and seek to voluntarily resolve them. Although I like to try cases, I know that most people will be better off with a negotiated solution.

Since my appointment to the ENE panel, mediation has been a satisfying part of my law practice., Like the other members of the panel, I plunged into the work with only my experience as a litigator and the training the Court provided.

Through the years, I’ve kept reading and attending occasional training programs on mediation. But in truth, it’s been mostly on-the-job learning.

This fall I attended “Mediating Disputes” a course offered by The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School Executive Education. Three leading experts in conflict resolution, Bob Mnookin, from Harvard Law School, Gary Friedman, from The Center for Understanding in Conflict, and Dana Curtis, formerly from Stanford Law School and Santa Clara Law School, led the program.

Course participants came from eighteen states and twelve countries and had a broad range of backgrounds and experience in dispute resolution. The course was an immersion in “The Understanding Based Model of Mediation,” which is centered on developing understanding, letting the parties own the conflict,  proceeding by agreement, going beneath the problem, allowing tension, supporting autonomy, and honoring connection. 

Unlike most mediations in civil cases in Vermont, “The Understanding Based Model” is a “no caucus” system in which the parties work together towards agreement in a joint session, facilitated by the mediator.

The course was a mix of lecture and mediation simulation, with a heavy balance favoring simulation. That provided an opportunity that more than 25 years in the field had not offered: Receiving regular critique and criticism from the faculty and other students.    

Early neutral evaluation and understanding-based mediation couldn’t be more different. In the former, the evaluator tells the parties how their case should be resolved, often by predicting the likely result of an imposed resolution. The understanding-based model seeks to help the parties find their own path to resolving a dispute. Most mediations in Vermont rest somewhere between those poles.

I appreciate the integrity that comes from working in the same room to find a joint solution to a dispute.  It’s not for every case, but particularly in instances where the parties’ joint constructive efforts can lead to creative solutions, understanding-based mediation has a lot to offer.

I love my work as a mediator and look forward to incorporating Understanding-Based Mediation into my practice.

— Rich

Photo of Rich Cassidy Rich Cassidy

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years…

Rich Cassidy is a Vermont personal injury and employment lawyer. He also works regularly as a mediator and arbitrator.

A founder of Rich Cassidy Law, he has more than 40 years of experience with the practice of law in Vermont. Over the years, his practice has changed substantially. As a result, Rich has represented all sides in many kinds of disputes: plaintiffs and defendants, employers and employees, injured parties and insurance companies. He believes that the breadth of his experience benefits all of his clients.

He is proud to represent the Burlington Police Officers Association and United Nurses & Allied Professionals.

For many years, Rich’s personal injury practice has been limited to representing injured persons and his labor and employment practice has been focused on representing employees. He enjoys the challenge of representing individuals in a world that seems increasingly dominated by large corporations and powerful institutions.

He has significant experience with litigation and alternative dispute resolution involving higher education, public education, public safety, health care, municipalities and manufacturing. His clients have included college students, faculty, and administrators as well as individuals, businesses, governmental agencies, and not-for-profit entities. He represents both labor unions and individuals in collective bargaining relationships. Many of his individual clients in employment law cases begin work with him under Limited Scope Representation Agreements.

He has also advocated for individuals, businesses and governments in a broad range of civil litigation, including in construction cases, cases under the Uniform Commercial Code, and contract and business tort claims.

In addition to his work as a litigator and counselor, he has served as a mediator and arbitrator and is a member of the Panel of Early Neutral Evaluators for the United States District Court for the District of Vermont and the early neutral evaluation panels for the Vermont Environmental Court and Vermont Superior Courts.

Rich believes that legal process can serve the ends of justice and has been active in work to improve the law throughout his career. For details see our public service page.

When he’s not practicing law or in a committee meeting, Rich enjoys reading, walking his dog, Sophie, skiing, swimming, and rowing his Adirondack Guide Boat on Lake Champlain.



·         Albany Law School Union University, Albany, New York

    • J.D. – 1978

·         University of Vermont, Burlington, Vermont

    • B.A. – 1975

·         Mount Saint Joseph Academy, Rutland, Vermont

    • College Preparatory Diploma – 1967 -1971

Bar Admissions:

·         Vermont, 1979

·         New York, 1979

·         U.S. District Court District of Vermont, 1979

·         U.S. District Court Northern District of New York

·         U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1986

·         U.S. Supreme Court, 1990

Honors and Awards:

·         Jonathon B. Chase Award, ACLU of Vermont, Inc., 1990

·         Grassroots Award, American Bar Association, 2009

·         Equal Justice for All Award, American Bar Association, 2008

·         President’s Award, Vermont Bar Association, 2015

Professional Associations and Memberships:

·         Uniform Law Commission

    • President, 2015 – 2017
    • Executive Committee, Member
    • Scope & Program Committee, Chair, Member
    • Secretary
    • Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, Drafting Committee Chair
    • Apportionment of Tort Responsibility Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • The Model Punitive Damages Act, Member, Drafting Committee
    • Covenants Not to Compete Drafting Committee, Chair, 2020 to present
    • Developments in Privacy Law Committee, 2020 to present
    • Vermont Member, 1994 – Present

·         American Bar Association, 1978 – Present

    • Board of Governors, 2005 – 2008
    • American Bar Association, House of Delegates, 1999 – 2015

·         American Counsel Association, President, 2009 – 2010

    • Director

·         American Law Institute, Elected Member, 2015 – Present

·         Vermont Association for Justice, Member

·         Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, Member

·         Vermont Employment Lawyers Association, Founding Member, Past President, Treasurer

·         Vermont Bar Association, Member, 1978- Present


Past Employment:

·         Hon. Robert W. Larrow of the Vermont Supreme Court, Law Clerk, 1978 – 1979

·         Chief Justice Albert W. Barney, Jr., Vermont Supreme Court, Chief Law Clerk, 1979 – 1980

·         Law Office of David C. Drew, Associate Attorney, 1980 – 1982

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., 1982 – 1986

·         Hoff, Wilson, Powell and Lang, P.C., Shareholder, 1986 – 1989

·         Hoff Curtis, President and Shareholder, 1989 – 2016


Rich is a frequent writer and speaker on legal topics. He has lectured on trial practice, employment, arbitration, mediation, and construction law subjects before the American Bar Association, the National Employment Lawyers’ Association, the Vermont Bar Association, the Vermont Trial Lawyers Association, and the Vermont Employment Lawyers’ Association.

He has been selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers® and New England Super Lawyers® by his peers. (Listing in The Best Lawyers in America® or Super Lawyers® does not guarantee a desired result in a legal case or that listed lawyers are necessarily more skilled than lawyers who are not listed in such publications.) He was the 2013 “Best Lawyer of the Year” for Employment Law – Individuals and the 2015 “Best Mediator of the Year.”

His blog, On is widely read by legal professionals and is syndicated on Lex Blog.