Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The United States Senate is a good example of a place of endless negotiations, sometimes resulting in agreement and sometimes not.  Updating my post below on the ongoing Senate negotiations over the financial regulation bill, we are still in the process of  finding out what happens when a deadline passes but no agreement is reached.  Majority Leader Harry Reid announced last week a firm date and time (Monday at 5:00 p.m.) for a vote regardless of whether or not the parties had a deal on the text of the proposed bill.  True to his word, he called for a vote, and true to their word, all of the Republican Senators (and one Democrat) voted to deny allowing the bill to […]

While most of us will be free to pursue family and other activities this weekend, it looks like Senators Chris Dodd and Richard Shelby will be spending the weekend trying to hammer out an agreement between Republicans and Democrats on new financial regulation legislation.  That is because Majority Leader Harry Reid set a vote for 5:00 p.m. on Monday on the Dodd bill.  Republicans have threatened to prevent debate on the bill by unanimously voting against cloture.  So by setting the time for a vote, Reid is forcing one of three possible outcomes.  Either a deal is struck and a number of Republican Senators will then allow the bill to come up for a vote.  Or no deal is made […]

One of the more interesting courses I took in law school was International Law, which is not a course that everyone takes, because it does not appear to offer much practical value for most lawyers’ careers.  I didn’t see much practical value in it either when I signed up, but found that it got me thinking about the law in a much different way from other law school courses.   What you learn when you study international law is that the system of international law is for the most part not structured as a body of statutes enacted by legislatures, or precedents handed down by judges.  International law is mostly not enforced by police, or by fines, or by prison.  Because […]

Parties to a mediation that results in settlement should have a clear understanding of whether their settlement agreement is enforceable.  Oral agreements generally will not suffice, and scrawled out term sheets also may not qualify as settlement agreements if they do not include language indicating that they are binding.  (For more information on the legal requirements for enforceability in California, check out this post on Vickie Pynchon’s blog.  The requirements for enforceability vary greatly from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Obviously it behooves people to be aware of them.) Is it worth the trouble to make sure that nobody goes home until the parties have set down in detailed, comprehensive, unambiguous, enforceable form, exactly what they have agreed to, so as to […]

Even though I have lived in California for 20 years, I still find the habits of California drivers a bit strange.  This morning I once again marveled at how much trouble drivers here have merging into a single lane when one lane is blocked due to construction or some other activity.  Instead of just automatically doing an alternate merge into the single lane, a whole series of elaborate games seems to be required.  The cars in the unblocked lane try to close the gap to prevent the blocked cars from changing lanes, and the cars in the blocked lane often feel the need to engage in a lot of hand signals and gestures in order to continue on their way, […]

The practice of quickly moving to caucus sessions has become so widespread that many parties attending mediation seem to expect to caucus almost immediately.  Parties seem to want to cut to the chase of settlement negotiations quickly, and are concerned about the possible volatility of a joint session.  I had a couple of experiences recently where counsel expressly asked me before the mediation even began to please not even allow the parties into the same room at all, because they viewed it as a waste of time, or worse, to face the other side.  My response was to suggest that we at least stay together for introductions and some initial housekeeping matters, and then continue in joint session only for […]