Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Sometimes as an attorney representing a party in negotiations you might have an unreasonable client, who refuses to give any ground to the other side on a particular point, somehow failing to understand that it is impossible to make a deal without conceding something to your opponent. Sometimes you have an unreasonable adversary, who seems uninterested in making a deal except on their own terms. And sometimes you have both. That seems to describe the position of President Obama in current budget negotiations. The president is facing outrage from his fair weather supporters on the left for suggesting that he is open to changing benefit formulas for Social Security as part of a budget deal with Congressional Republicans. The concept […]

Getting closer to the deadline for avoiding the so-called “fiscal cliff,” the budget negotiations between President Obama and House Speaker Boehner have reached a delicate stage, with the president suggesting concessions some of his supporters are having difficulty swallowing, and the speaker threatening a “Plan B” that would circumvent the deal the two principal negotiators have been discussing. These negotiations are a little different from those that typically occur in mediation, where the negotiators (usually lawyers) are usually constrained by the clients in advance from offering anything the clients have not authorized. In this negotiation, the “clients” take the form of members of the House and Senate, an unruly bunch on both sides. The extent of the authority they have […]

This question comes up a lot. And the answer seems simple. Parties need to personally appear at mediation. In private mediations, we decide who should attend when we set up the mediation. In court-annexed mediation, there are rules addressing this question. In LA County Superior Court, for example, it’s local rule 3.272 now. In the Central District of California Federal District Court, it’s local rule 16-15.5. Both say parties need to attend in person. If there is any question about who on behalf of a corporate or other type of organization should appear, it should be someone with full authority to settle the case. Everybody understands and agrees that mediation doesn’t work as well without the personal attendance and full […]

I had the chance yesterday to lead two groups of first year law students at USC in some mock mediation sessions.  This is truly my idea of fun!  I was impressed by how eager these students were to learn how mediation is done in the real world.  It was also interesting to see how quickly untrained law students adopted many of the attitudes and tactics of experienced attorneys and parties in settlement negotiations.  When it comes to negotiating, we all have a lot of experience from a lifetime of doing it, so in a way we are all experts.  On the other hand, we are also mostly  amateurs in terms of the theory and science of negotiation, and could all […]

I did some posts this week on my political blog, trying to understand why voters seem so angry this campaign season.  After trotting out some of the usual suspects like our dysfunctional government, and the economy, I turned to the touchier subjects of intolerance, racism and xenophobia.  We certainly have a lot of problems to deal with in our country right now, but my mind keeps returning to the question of why we need to react to those problems with anger and recrimination.  Didn’t we, less than two years ago, embrace the promise represented by the Obama campaign, of trying to approach our problems with a spirit of cooperativeness and inclusiveness?   A majority of the country actually elected a […]