Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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An article in the spring issue of the ABA’s Dispute Resolution magazine (Maurits Barendrect and Christopher Honeyman) sets out some daunting statistics on the overall size of the market for ADR services in this country. The number they throw out is $500 million in billings annually. That sounds like quite a lot, but it includes arbitration as well as mediation. And in comparison to the market for legal services, the ADR market is still minuscule, approximately equal to the annual billings of the 50th largest U.S. law firm. Moreover, the top two commercial providers, the AAA and JAMS, account for more than two thirds of this market. For someone hoping to make a living, or even a partial living, as a […]

At the employment law program mentioned in my previous post, we were honored to hear a talk from Phyllis Cheng, the director of the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (“DFEH”). Ms. Cheng walked through the process of resolving employment claims in the department (outlined in the flow chart below). For cases not processed by issuing an immediate right to sue notice, note that the department offers numerous opportunities to steer those cases to a negotiated resolution (generally denoted by the smooth round-bordered boxes), as opposed to a judicially or administratively determined outcome (the sharp-edged boxes), and maintains a staff of 11 mediators for the purpose. In all, the number of cases resolved consensually far exceeds the number that […]

Is it possible for a mediator to show too much empathy? At a program SCMA put on last night which included a mock employment mediation, reaction in the room was divided in response to the demonstrator’s expressions of understanding of the employee’s grievances. Although a few in the audience felt that the mediator could have gone even further in commiserating with the employee’s feelings that the employer had not adequately accommodated her need for religious observances in the workplace, a fair number of others thought it was wrong for the mediator to display any sort of solidarity with the employee’s complaints. Those who objected to the mediator’s expressions of empathy thought this approach could threaten the mediator’s neutrality. They also […]

The California State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct has issued a proposed opinion attempting to draw the line between unethical misrepresentations during negotiations, and permissible “puffing.” Using this distinction, false statements about, as examples, the existence of favorable witnesses, or about the amount of a party’s earnings, or about policy limits, would all fall on the unethical side of the line, and would subject an attorney making them to potential discipline. On the other hand, false statements about a party’s “bottom line” of settlement authority, or about a party’s willingness to litigate or its plans to file bankruptcy, would be considered mere “puffing,” basically the kinds of lies that parties expect the other side to tell during […]