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A Meditation on Mediation


After three decades at MasterCard, where he first discovered the joys of ADR, Noah Hanft has taken the presidency of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution.

Looking back over a nearly-four decade career from the warmth of his New York office as snow once again engulfs the city, Hanft recalls his student days in Washington, DC when the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Supreme Court Justice William Brennan inspired him to be a trial lawyer.

Drawn to “the public interest nature” of the Legal Aid Society in Brooklyn, Hanft’s first steps as a practising lawyer saw him try criminal cases. He still serves the organisation’s board, alongside counsel at Bank of America, The Estée Lauder Companies and partners at international law firms such as Skadden, Norton Rose Fulbright and Latham & Watkins.

Balancing work at the Society with a developing interest in trade regulations, intellectual property and antitrust law, Hanft obtained an LLM from New York University before making the transition to private practice by joining Manhattan IP boutique Ladas & Parry in 1981. “I really enjoyed the practice, but frankly felt it a little narrow,” he explains.

“I don’t remember what prompted it, but I started to get intrigued by the notion of being in-house and dealing with business issues and engaging in preventative counseling before a conflict arose,” he adds. Responding to an advert he saw in the New York Law Journal, Hanft accepted the position of general counsel at MasterCard, turning down the offer to become partner at Ladas & Parry. The year was 1984. Based in the company’s global headquarters in Purchase, New York, Hanft spent six years specialising in IP and marketing before being approached by telecommunications giant AT&T.

He took the role of assistant general counsel for its subsidiary, AT&T Universal Card, just as the company was being inundated with legal problems.

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Reprinted with permission from the April 7, 2014 edition of Commercial Dispute Resolution (CDR). All rights reserved.  Further duplication without permission is prohibited. For more information, visit