Getting to Know Mediator & Arbitrator Nancy Black Norelli
Nancy is an indefatigable mediator heavily involved in her community and passionate about her legal committee work. For almost a decade, Nancy served as a District Court Judge touching the lives of citizens in cases involving criminal and civil matters, contract disputes, personal injury, equitable distribution, and child custody. Known as a problem-solver, Nancy specializes in resolving highly contentious matters.
When she is not mediating business disputes, condemnation actions, inter-family trusts, and estate disputes, partnership disputes, wrongful death, and personal injury cases, you can find her entertaining, baking, reading, and biking.
What made you want to become a lawyer?
As a youngster, I participated in the JFK Presidential campaign.
My takeaway was that lawyers impacted the process in a superior way. Why not have all the tools?
What is your area(s) of specialization?
Fiduciary Litigation (represented both sides), Elective Share, Caveat; Elder Law, Contracts,
Business Law, Commercial Real Estate; Equitable Distribution, and Condemnation and
What are you most proud of with respect to your career?
Touching hundreds of lives on the District Court Bench for almost a decade in cases
involving criminal and civil matters, contract disputes, personal injury, equitable distribution,
and child custody.
Assuring the success of the NCBA’s Judicial Performance Evaluation Program as vice-chair
and then chair. After spearheading the design methodology and crafting a simple survey, we
organized local ambassadors to gain participation across the state. Almost 4300 lawyers
responded with 27,700 individual evaluations of trial judges.
Why did you become a Neutral?
Clients call on me to solve problems, and a substantial number of my files involve highly
contentious matters. On the bench, I watched juries consider all the evidence – there are
always two sides to the story. Helping a party understand that compromise is an important
part of moving forward and putting difficulties in the rear-view mirror are rewarding.
What does ADR look like in 10 years?
ADR will become more the “norm” because the law community will have a better
understanding of the benefits of ADR – save money and time, tell your story, and stay in
control. More lawyers will continue to enter the field, but with limited success.
Large platforms with neutral facilities, expeditious scheduling and video introduction of
neutrals to both the attorneys and their clients will create a barrier to entry for newcomers.
Seasoned solo neutrals will continue to be successful with existing pipelines, but the
individual “pipeline” model may become less important.
What is your conflict resolution style/ approach?
My approach is respectful and approachable. I introduce myself as a person with a varied
background and ability to listen and understand. I can talk to just about anyone because
they are “just folks”. I maintain a high energy level and gradually apply more pressure after gaining trust.
I carefully nudge parties toward possible solution. I do not let parties quit or attorneys to go
What do you hope to accomplish through your ADR practice?
A successful and rewarding final chapter of a legal career that I have enjoyed immensely.
How would your clients describe you?
This woman has grit. She’s indefatigable. She is always understanding and resourceful
and strives to solve my problem.
Where did you grow up?
Mecklenburg County farm.
What do you do in your spare time? How do you unwind?
I enjoy my community involvement and legal committee work that usually involves legal
services to the most needy in the community. Entertaining, baking, reading and biking.
Sharing our values with grandchildren.
What characteristic do you admire most in others?
What was your first law job?
Special Assistant Attorney General, working for Francis X. Bellottti, AG for Commonwealth of
Massachusetts. I prosecuted public charities for abuse of public trust.
How did you decide to branch out into ADR?
Before I went on the bench, I knew I had the right personality and patience and desire to
solve problems. After the bench, it was even more natural.
If you had to identify a passion for a particular area of the law, what would it be?
Litigation. I love the framing of causes of action and developing a strategy to make the case.
How does your experience help you add value to conflict resolution clients and their disputes?
My judicial experience gives me a perspective on how judges hear the evidence and how
juries hear and decide cases. From that perch, I had lots of time to see and evaluate how
arguments and presentations work. I knew I would resume mediation when I retired from
What is the importance of alternative dispute resolution?
ADR reduces strain on the judicial system; saves money for litigants and the court system;
provides faster, final result that is not appealable, and brings closure to the litigants.
How has your life experience made you the neutral you are today?
My service on the bench as noted above adds substance and credibility.
Surviving two life-threatening illnesses – one of which left my face partially paralyzed by a
surgical injury as I was in the midst of a judicial campaign – helps me to understand that
difficulties can be overcome and that no one is immune.
My life is full of contrasts: (i) growing up on a farm – but now living in the city; (ii) attending
public school in Charlotte – but graduating from a private woman’s college in the Northeast;
(iii) being the daughter of a yellow dog Democrat, but marrying the son of Reagan
Republicans; and (iv) being known for juggling lots of balls and wearing Gucci high heels.
In your estimation, why do clients like working with you?
I tell them the truth, go to the mat for them, and promise I will do their worrying. I treat them
and their problems with respect. I can always find a way to help them relax and smile in the
midst of trauma.
How does ADR help make lawyers more successful?
They get the great outcome! They are comfortable with their skills and ability to make the
case in court or at the settlement conference. They do not have to win in court to be highly
regarded. They appropriately evaluate the case and proceed to trial if the other side is not
If you had to teach a subject, what would it be?
What makes NC such a dynamic state?
NC is dynamic because of its identity as the “new South” – a place of diversity and caring.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Mother’s Day. I love being queen for the day!
What is something your clients would never guess about you?
I helped co-found Good Friends, an organization of women which has given almost
$3,000,000 back to help the disadvantaged in Charlotte and was co-chair of Inspired
Cooking, which raised $80,000 to feed the hungry in Charlotte.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
I once made a career move out of the legal field and then was hit with a difficult cancer
diagnosis. As I managed the heavy-duty treatment and recovery, I knew I wanted to resume
the practice of law – to help clients again.
Sometimes we do not know what we have until we toss it away. Luckily, I was able to re-enter.
As I have mentored stressed attorneys who are contemplating a career shift, I encourage them to ask:
“How would I feel if I could never practice law again?”
If you weren’t a lawyer, what would you be?
A would-be novelist.
If you could have dinner with anyone person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Julia Child, if she cooked. Or Atticus Finch.
What is your favorite book? Why?
A Gentleman in Moscow. An amazing, resourceful lead character, who is surrounded by
kind, incredible people making the most out of life.