Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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In the first episode of the second season of Orange is the New Black, the series presents a variation on the prisoner’s dilemma problem that is often discussed in mediation programs and texts. Piper and her former girlfriend Alex both have to testify against the drug kingpin they used to work for. Alex persuades Piper to lie and say she had no contact with the guy, otherwise he might take reprisals against them both. After giving her testimony, Piper finds out that Alex in fact told the truth at the trial, leaving Piper exposed to a possible perjury prosecution and an increase in her sentence. In the prisoner’s dilemma scenario, an opportunity to communicate as well as familiarity with the […]

I heard about a mediator who started a session by asking all the participants to spend some time talking about their personal histories and interests, presumably in an effort to get the parties to see each other as human beings and establish connections that might help them resolve the dispute. Lo and behold, these parties did resolve the dispute to each side’s great satisfaction, but at least one side later reported that they disliked this touchy-feely aspect of that mediation. So even though this technique was proven to work well, it still made one of the parties uncomfortable enough that they would probably prefer a more conventional and perhaps less effective approach. Mindful of stories like that, I try to […]

Attending the 13th International Online Dispute Resolution Forum, being held at Stanford Law School, the first time the conference has taken place in the United States, offers a glimpse into the future of conflict resolution. Ethan Katsch, dubbed the “father” of online dispute resolution, started the day by telling us that while it began as an outgrowth of ADR, ODR is developing into a distinct field with its own expectations, assumptions and values. I think this might be true, but I’m skeptical based on the evidence so far. Online tools are still mostly applied to allow us to conduct traditional litigation, arbitration, mediation, or negotiation, in more efficient ways. As a number of speakers told the group, traditional practitioners are […]

Lots of ideas have been floating around for awhile describing new ways to practice law in light of the rise of alternative dispute resolution and the vanishing trial. These ideas revolve around finding a more cooperative, negotiated approach to exchanging information, evaluating the parties’ interests and positions, and preparing a case for early resolution. This approach shares some of the goals and styles of collaborative law, but according to the collaborative lawyers, you can’t properly call it collaborative law unless the lawyers and parties are willing to sign a participation agreement that requires the attorneys to withdraw if either party decides to proceed with litigation. Acceptance of that process has taken hold in the family law area, but has not […]

Organizations offering basic mediation training courses are probably turning out more graduates than can reasonably expect to earn a living as mediators. But those courses are beneficial in other ways than simply conveying the skills necessary to serve as a mediator, whether paid or volunteer. They are also helping advocates understand how the mediation process works, which should help those advocates better represent clients in mediation. I have heard a number of litigators say they were glad they took a mediation training course because it helped them learn how to negotiate better, and to better appreciate how mediation works. Since a lot more cases end up getting resolved by mediation than trial, no litigator can deny the importance of learning […]