Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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For Dodgers fans, this is shaping up to be a trying year, with the team a bit shy of the elements that are needed for post-season success, and with the issue of ownership of the team headed for an epic battle in divorce court.  Meanwhile, the story in the LA Times Saturday was about Frank McCourt adding a star trial lawyer to the team of legal talent he has arrayed against his wife. “It’s like having your best athletes take the field,” said Loyola Law School professor and legal commentator Laurie Levenson. “You’ll see the best fight possible.” I wonder whether they could fill Dodger Stadium with all of the people who would be excited to watch the best fight […]

Lots of mediators have talked about the power of an apology to assist in resolving disputes, and in allowing people to get along with one another. (examples here, here, here, and here)  An apology can serve the highest purposes of mediation, in permitting reconciliation and allowing people to get beyond the dispute.  From a more cynical point of view, an apology can also save a wrongdoer money, as long as the apology is not used as an admission of liability.  Therefore, no one involved in a dispute should be too quick to dismiss the possible effectiveness of an apology.  To be effective, however, an apology should be sincere, it should be coupled with some concrete action, and it must be […]

At a recent seminar, we were discussing the enforceability of agreements reached at mediation.  I asked the instructor whether he would agree that when parties find themselves back in a dispute over the meaning of their agreement, or whether they have even made an enforceable agreement, that dispute in itself indicates that the mediation failed at some level.  He proceeded to tell a story about a very contentious case he had once mediated, where the parties worked over the weekend, almost walked away from the table numerous times, and finally settled on the morning of the scheduled trial, after the judge held off the commencement of trial to give the parties a couple more hours to complete their agreement.  A […]

People can’t seem to stop talking about  umpire Jim Joyce’s bad call ruining what should have been the final out of what should have been pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game this week. The sportswriters are waxing eloquent on this topic, generally taking the position that we need to appreciate that human error is just part of baseball.  (There was also a good piece by Bruce Weber in today’s New York Times.)   I’m going to add a little more to this torrent of words, inspired by a post on Peter Phillips’s blog which makes the point that sometimes we need to accept outcomes that are beyond our control, even when they are caused by unfair mistakes. First let me join in […]

Reading the comments to a post on negotiation on Ken Adams’s drafting blog (one of which made the point that lawyers are trained to argue, not to negotiate), got me thinking about the differences between argument and negotiation.  It is quite true that lawyers often confuse the two.  I have to admit that I sometimes have trouble letting go of an argument myself, and sometimes forget that arguments that are not carefully attuned to their audience have a tendency to annoy rather than persuade.  I was pegged as an attorney from my childhood because I love to argue, and I still enjoy getting into a heated political debate, or hammering home a point in a brief or in front of […]