Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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With computers already able to replicate a number of routine tasks performed by lawyers (e.g., basic will drafting, document review in discovery), can negotiation be far behind?  A recent article in the Economist talks about how game theory can help design computer programs that, for example, can help couples negotiate divorce settlements. All the parties need do is secretly assign their own personal values to the assets that need to be distributed in a divorce, and the machine will spit out the solution for them, saving them the trouble of figuring out how to conduct the tricky back-and-forth negotiations that would otherwise be necessary. There are also on-line programs available to assist parties in conducting various kinds of business negotiations […]

In contrast with previous dealings with Congress, President Obama’s recent introduction of the American Jobs Act presented a bill already drafted by the administration, and demanded that Congress simply pass the president’s whole bill, right away. Some have viewed this new approach as a recognition of the limitations of the administration’s previous negotiating strategies, in which the President often let Congress take the lead, left the details of legislation up to Congress, and signaled his willingness to compromise in advance. I’m curious whether other mediators think that the administration has been deficient in negotiation skills previously, and whether this new approach is likely to be more effective. I think the new “get tough” attitude might in part represent an attempt […]

If you’ve been paying attention to the news from the Middle East lately, you’ve probably read about large peace demonstrations in Israel, as well as the violent attack earlier this week in Egypt against the Israeli embassy. You might not have heard about a more hopeful event in Israel this week organized by some of these peace movement leaders. I saw something about this on David Harris-Gershon’s blog on conflict resolution in Israel and the Middle East. The event was called 1000 tables.  The organizers set up roundtables in town squares in about 30 different cities, each table holding 10 chairs, and each group led by a moderator who might be a coach, group leader or mediator. Participants had the […]

I’ve been working on a case lately with a corporate lawyer, and we’ve been trading war stories about various negotiations in which we have participated. Most of the deals that this corporate attorney negotiates are deals for buying or selling properties or companies, but he has also been involved in some negotiations to settle lawsuits. He can’t believe the difference. He is astounded that a plaintiff might start off a settlement negotiation in a litigated case by demanding, say, $2 million, while the defendant offers $25,000 for the same case. He can’t believe that litigators make such off the wall opening bids, and are thereby forced, if they want to settle, to make tremendous concessions from their opening numbers. To […]