Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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A long time ago, when I was fairly new at law practice, I represented a plaintiff in a contentious sexual harassment case against a large company. After a series of pre-trial battles, the defendant’s counsel opened the door to the possibility of settlement, throwing out an insultingly low-ball number. I wasn’t sure how to respond. At that point in my career, I thought I knew how to litigate, but nobody had ever taught me how to negotiate. I had never received any training in negotiation strategy in law school, and very little at my law firm. The subject simply wasn’t taught at the time. So I honestly didn’t know the best number to come back with in order to lead […]

Speaking of peace in the Middle East, I’ve been reading the new book about the Camp David negotiations by Lawrence Wright. Surprisingly, reading this account made me feel a little more hopeful about the prospects for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, the great unfinished business of the Camp David accords, even though the conventional wisdom in light of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent re-election is that resolution of the issues in the territories is now a long ways off. The reasons for hope lie in recollecting that if anything, Menachem Begin was an even more belligerent character than Netanyahu is today. Begin was reluctant to concede on any issues, whether the status of Jerusalem, or Jewish settlements in Sinai, or withdrawal from […]

An entertaining new book on philosophy (who would have thought there could be such a thing) called Plato at the Googleplex, transports Plato to various settings in our modern world, and attempts to show that we are still grappling, or should be grappling, with many of the same problems that Plato addressed in dialogues written more than 2000 years ago. The book’s Plato character makes you wonder whether, for example, Google does a better job of organizing knowledge than the ancient philosophers did, or whether we’ve made any progress in dealing with child rearing or love or figuring out how to live a better life. This “Plato” leads the people who pass for our modern dispensers of wisdom (such as […]

Last night I had a chance to hear Shane Bauer, Josh Fattal and Sarah Shourd discussing their new book A Sliver of Light, which recounts their two year ordeal of imprisonment in Iran. You might be more familiar with them the way they were usually characterized in the press as the “three American hikers.” They prefer to be thought of as hostages rather than hikers. In actuality, they were tourists visiting the Kurdish region of Iraq. Hiking was just the activity they happened to be engaged in on the day they accidentally crossed (or were lured across) the border into Iran. Their story is compelling as a prison and survival narrative, and as a result of their experiences, they have […]

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. […]