Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Is it possible for a mediator to show too much empathy? At a program SCMA put on last night which included a mock employment mediation, reaction in the room was divided in response to the demonstrator’s expressions of understanding of the employee’s grievances. Although a few in the audience felt that the mediator could have gone even further in commiserating with the employee’s feelings that the employer had not adequately accommodated her need for religious observances in the workplace, a fair number of others thought it was wrong for the mediator to display any sort of solidarity with the employee’s complaints. Those who objected to the mediator’s expressions of empathy thought this approach could threaten the mediator’s neutrality. They also […]

In Los Angeles County, where the court is no longer assigning mediators, attorneys who used to rely on the ADR panels might be feeling a bit at sea. One reason is that many attorneys appreciated the court’s service in saving them the bother of having to choose a mediator. That way attorneys didn’t have to admit to their adversaries that they might be interested in settlement. They didn’t even have to try to reach agreement with opposing counsel on how and where to conduct mediation. They didn’t have to admit to their clients that they might actually want to let go of their dog of a case. If they wanted to, they could blame the court for forcing this procedure […]

Yesterday I had a chance to help train mediators for a California Lawyers for the Arts program that provides  mediation and other ADR services for artists. Calfornia Lawyers for the Arts also runs a well-developed lawyer referral program. What was interesting to me about the group’s ADR program is the separation they try to maintain between legal services and ADR services. They take care to screen new cases to determine whether the client needs legal advice or resolution of a dispute, and they instruct the program’s mediators not to give legal advice during mediation sessions, instead only to suggest to participants that they consult an attorney if they feel they need legal advice. In mediation parlance, it’s a facilitative, rather […]

At a mediation I handled recently, I walked into the conference room as one party’s lawyer was explaining to her client the differences between “facilitative” and “evaluative” mediators. “I’m a facilitative mediator,” I proudly told the lawyer and client. I said that because that is how I prefer to think of my own style, and because that is a style that at least to me seems more consistent with the ideals of mediation. Evaluative mediators act more like judges, even though their opinions are not binding on the parties. Evaluative mediators can be quite effective, if that is what the parties are looking for. Most of the time, however, I feel that a third opinion of the merits of a […]