Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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In Los Angeles County, where the court is no longer assigning mediators, attorneys who used to rely on the ADR panels might be feeling a bit at sea. One reason is that many attorneys appreciated the court’s service in saving them the bother of having to choose a mediator. That way attorneys didn’t have to admit to their adversaries that they might be interested in settlement. They didn’t even have to try to reach agreement with opposing counsel on how and where to conduct mediation. They didn’t have to admit to their clients that they might actually want to let go of their dog of a case. If they wanted to, they could blame the court for forcing this procedure […]

I recently joined a psychological study, now in its third year, called the Good Judgment Project. The project asks groups of people of diverse backgrounds to make predictions about the the occurrence of various events, mostly in the realm of foreign affairs. This study has already had remarkable success in forecasting the likelihood of various world political and economic events, in contrast to the often dismal record of even highly renowned individual experts and pundits. Similarly, various trading exchanges that allow the public to purchase (with real or imaginary money) interests in various possible outcomes, have also had notable success in accurately predicting election results and such. These kinds of experiments demonstrate something about the wisdom of crowds. But the Good […]

One of the more interesting assignments I had this year required me to mediate a dispute between two mediators. In preparing for this mediation, I wondered whether my usual conflict resolution techniques would work. These two experts were already wise to all of the usual mediators’ tricks. What could I possibly suggest that they had not thought of already? During the course of a couple of conference calls it took to resolve the problem, these two mediators showed that they were way ahead of me with respect to understanding the stages of the mediation process and the techniques we were using to reach a resolution. At one point for example, one of the participants asked me if it was premature […]

This week, by passing a new budget agreement through the House (still waiting on the Senate), Congress finally seems to be learning how to get back to business. To do that requires managing truly unresolveable conflicts, instead of allowing those conflicts to gum up the works completely. Positions on both sides have hardened to the point where Republicans will not accept even a penny of tax increases, and Democrats will not accept cuts to entitlement programs. That means the usual split-the-difference approaches no longer work. Meanwhile discretionary spending has already been cut more than both sides feel comfortable with. Support for restoring defense cuts in particular cuts across party lines. So how do you craft a budget agreement in this […]