Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I had the chance yesterday to lead two groups of first year law students at USC in some mock mediation sessions.  This is truly my idea of fun!  I was impressed by how eager these students were to learn how mediation is done in the real world.  It was also interesting to see how quickly untrained law students adopted many of the attitudes and tactics of experienced attorneys and parties in settlement negotiations.  When it comes to negotiating, we all have a lot of experience from a lifetime of doing it, so in a way we are all experts.  On the other hand, we are also mostly  amateurs in terms of the theory and science of negotiation, and could all […]

Only a fearless writer would title her book “A is for Asshole.”  I know Vickie Pynchon mainly as a fellow mediation blogger.  Because I follow her blog, I can attest that she does not shy away from controversial topics, or refrain from telling you what she thinks.  She also offers a lot of sound advice about the practice of mediation.  Her book is an entertaining, and highly personal tour of the characters and problems you meet in conflict resolution. The book’s first surprise is that the asshole is not who you think it is.  The asshole of the book’s title only appears to be the brash, inconsiderate lout you dread meeting in a negotiation.  Instead he might be a complete […]

A big battle is shaping up in Congress in the next few weeks over extending the Bush tax cuts.  If Congress does not act before the end of the year, all of these tax cuts will expire automatically, an outcome that is favored by hardly anyone.  Instead, Republicans would prefer that all of the tax cuts be made permanent, while Democrats favor making the tax cuts for those making under $250,00 a year permanent, while allowing rates to rise for those making above that amount.  There are also a number of intermediate possibilities: the most prominent one being floated would allow the middle class tax cuts to become permanent but extend tax cuts for the wealthy for a couple of […]

In a talk I heard yesterday at the Southern California Mediation Association annual conference, Lee Jay Berman used the metaphor of a funnel to describe how how the legal system squeezes the issues involved in conflicts to the shape of a dried-out hamburger patty, so that most of the concerns of the participants in the dispute get left out of the process.  So one could think of the legal system as a kind of meat grinder.  And the mediator has the job of putting some flavor back into the squeezed-out meat, and adding some new ingredients to the mix. This concept resonated with me since as a practicing trial attorney I have often found myself listening to clients providing endless […]

Regardless of our individual political leanings, advocates of mediation should be concerned by the bruising midterm campaign season that has just ended, and by the prospect of gridlock and increased partisanship in the next session of Congress.  In mediator’s terms, we are facing the likelihood of impasse.  Conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans have been drummed out of both parties, leaving the more doctrinaire members dominant.  Newly energized Republicans have already announced that they have no appetite for compromise.  And Democrats have already started attributing the diminished enthusiasm of their base to the administration’s willingness to make concessions to the opposition.  It will take all of the president’s mediator-like skills to make progress in this situation.  Alternatively, he may abandon those […]