Kenneth R. Feinberg, an American attorney specializing in mediation and alternative dispute resolution and one of the best-known figures in the field of alternative dispute resolution, addressed the Pepperdine Law Class of 2018 at this year’s commencement ceremony on May 18. Feinberg was also this year’s Honorary Doctorate Recipient.
Tom Stipanowich, Professor of Law and Associate Dean heading the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution, describes Feinberg as the ultimate problem solver: “I would argue that Ken has the empathy of Lincoln, the dauntless pugnacity and determination of Churchill, the charisma and narrative skill of Fiorello La Guardia, and the systems design genius of Henry Ford.”
Feinberg was appointed special master of the US government’s September 11th Victim Compensation Fund and served as the special master for the Troubled Asset Relief Program’s Executive Compensation. He most recently served as the government-appointed administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund. Feinberg worked for five years as an administrative assistant and chief of staff for US senator Ted Kennedy and as a prosecutor for the US attorney general. Before founding his own firm, The Feinberg Group (now Feinberg Rozen, LLP) in 1993, he was a founding partner at the Washington, DC, office of Kaye Scholer, LLP.
He has served as court-appointed special settlement master in cases such as Agent Orange product liability litigation, asbestos personal injury litigation, and diethylstilbestrol cases. Feinberg was one of three arbitrators who determined the fair market value of the Zapruder film of the Kennedy assassination and was one of two arbitrators who determined the allocation of legal fees in the Holocaust slave labor litigation. He currently serves as chair of the board of directors for the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Feinberg has taught at Columbia Law School, University of Pennsylvania Law School, Georgetown University Law Center, New York University School of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1967 and a Juris Doctor degree from New York University School of Law in 1970.
In 2011, Feinberg sat down with Dean Stipanowich for the inaugural Straus Institute Conversation Series. When discussing his approach to conflict resolution tactics, Feinberg remarked, “There’s no template for suffering. You have to approach the diversity of people; diversity is as unique as human nature.”
He then acknowledged, “I think there is a direct relationship between our profession and the public interest.” It is this keen awareness threaded throughout his dynamic career that marks Feinberg as a leader and one of the most respected figures today in the field of alternative dispute resolution.