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’ve heard a number of evangelists of the mediation world, most recently Lee Jay Berman in a talk SCMA sponsored this week in San Diego, talk about the seemingly limitless future of the mediation process. That future seems to depend on the public finally becoming more aware of the possibilities of mediation to resolve not only conflicts that have already worked their way through the court system, but also conflicts that have never even made it to court, or that might be unsuitable for court. But right now the public still seems only vaguely aware of mediation’s possibilities. People might have heard of resolving a divorce or other civil dispute out of court, but might still think that mediation is […]

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 […]

The recently-elected President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, is starting to sound like a mediator. Today Rouhani published an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, in which he said the following:  The world has changed. International politics is no longer a zero-sum game but a multi-dimensional arena where cooperation and competition often occur simultaneously. Gone is the age of blood feuds. World leaders are expected to lead in turning threats into opportunities. . . .  In a world where global politics is no longer a zero-sum game, it is — or should be — counterintuitive to pursue one’s interests without considering the interests of others. A constructive approach to diplomacy doesn’t mean relinquishing one’s rights. It means engaging with one’s counterparts, […]

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 […]