Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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I have nothing substantive to add about the ups and downs of seven years of litigation in the Barbie vs. Bratz doll wars case. I’m not going to do an analysis of the legal issues in the case, even though they are somewhat interesting. All I want to do is remind people that this is the sort of thing that happens in litigation. Mattel won a $100 million judgment against its rival MGA a couple of years ago. That judgment was reversed last year, and in a new trial, MGA this week won an $89 million jury verdict against Mattel. In the same case. Was it worth it? MGA may have won the case (of course it’s not over yet), […]

I spent the day Sunday watching and judging high school debate, a great opportunity to observe what works and what does not work in argument. In one of the debates, on the proposition that convicted drunk drivers should be required to display special license plates, the opposing team argued that breathalyzer-interlock devices are more effective than drunk driver license plates. In response the proposition team made the mistake of trying to shoot down the interlock idea: interlock devices are too expensive, they do not alert the police and other drivers to possibly dangerous drivers, etc. They fell into the trap of thinking that because they had to prove that their idea is good, it follows that they had to prove […]

Even if there hadn’t been a movie making this whole story famous, those of us concerned with the law and mediation might still follow the saga of the lawsuit between Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevosses with interest.  Yesterday the twins were dealt a setback in their efforts to overturn a settlement they claim was fraudulently induced. Here is the Ninth Circuit opinion’s description of that settlement agreement: Affter a day of negotiations, ConnectU, Facebook and the Winklevosses signed a handwritten, one-and-a-third page “Term Sheet & Settlement Agreement” (the Settlement Agreement). The Winklevosses agreed to give up ConnectU in exchange for cash and a piece of Facebook. The parties stipulated that the Settlement Agreement was “confidential,” “binding” and “may be submitted […]

I will admit that I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of the mediator as a neutral. I prefer to think of the mediator as an advocate for each side in turn. Sometimes I feel that my role is to coach each side into negotiating the best deal they can get. Sometimes I try to persuade each side of the strengths of the other side’s position. And sometimes I act as the advocate for agreement as opposed to the drawbacks of continued conflict. In none of these roles do I feel strictly neutral. I also think parties need not choose a mediator who is strictly neutral in the sense of having no connections to either party, or in terms […]

Watching the ongoing negotiations over a budget deal needed to avert a government shut-down, which are approaching the eleventh hour tonight, once again we see a pattern that is common in labor negotiations and many other kinds of negotiations in which parties are forced to stay up all night, and the outcome remains in doubt up until the deadline or even beyond the deadline. It’s not just procrastination that creates this dynamic.  In the budget negotiations, there are some serious substantive issues at stake, and the ultimate shape of the deal does make a real difference in people’s lives. But in terms of large issues such as the size of this year’s deficit, the difference between the two sides is […]