Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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There was talk around the ABA Dispute Resolution Conference this week that the demand for mediation services may be declining. If that’s true, does that mean that mediation is falling out of favor, just as arbitration has somewhat fallen out of favor? Or is it a reflection of the economy and the decline in demand for dispute resolution services in general? Law firms have dramatically shrunk in recent years as clients are less willing to shell out gigantic sums for litigation. If litigation activity is declining, one would expect that fewer parties would use mediation as a stage in the litigation process. I think there is a larger trend going on, one that actually points in the opposite direction. I […]

Yesterday at the ABA Dispute Resolution spring conference I heard former Senator George Mitchell talk about his five year effort to mediate a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. When the agreement was finally signed in 1998, Mitchell knew the work of making peace was not over, that implementation of the agreement was going to be even more difficult than the long effort to obtain the agreement, and that it would take some time before violence died down. He told people in Ireland at the time that although he knew they still had a lot of difficult days ahead, he hoped someday to return to Northern Ireland with his son, born only about six months before the Good Friday agreement, and […]

One of the panels I attended at the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution spring conference turned into something of a psychology experiment. The presenters asked the participants to sit around a series of circular tables, and assigned each table a role to play as groups interested in a proposed canal project for a hypothetical harbor. My table was assigned to play several environmental groups opposed to the project for differing reasons, another table represented shipping company owners concerned about the cost, another represented union interests favorable to the project, and another represented government representatives sponsoring the project. We were asked to discuss among ourselves our concerns about the process that was supposed to take into account all of these different […]

We tell stories to make sense of experience. We need to organize the chaos of events in the form of stories, containing a beginning, a middle and and end. By doing that, events acquire meaning. We tell stories to define who we are. Tomorrow night my family will gather to re-tell the Passover story, a defining story of the Jewish people, as it charts a journey from slavery to the promised land. Every culture defines itself by telling their own stories. We also tell stories as a means of resolving conflict. One thing that trial has in common with mediation is that both forms of dispute resolution provide an opportunity for the parties to the conflict to tell their stories. […]