Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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However shaky the European Union is today, whatever its deficiencies, it still deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, for its contributions to peace over decades. As Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister stated in announcing the award:  “The stabilizing part played by the E.U. has helped to transform most of Europe from a continent of war to a continent of peace.” In my house, where my kids are studying the arguments over ratification of the U.S. Constitution in their government class, I remind them how lucky we are to have decided more than 200 years ago to adopt a strong federal government. The Europeans, by contrast, are still having that debate today. And to a lesser extent, we are still having it too, though […]

I grew up in the 1960’s when the prevalent architectural vision reflected the dawning space age. Designers imagining the cities of the futures pictured tall building surrounded by flying vehicles, ramps and elevated highways. My childhood ideas of the future came from such sources as the Jetsons, the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and 2001: A Space Odyssey. That style of architecture is out of fashion nowadays. We have returned to a more old-fashioned, pedestrian-friendly idea of city life. It’s called the New Urbanism, and I’m all for it. But cities like Los Angeles still retain examples of distinguished architecture from this period. (e.g., the Theme building at Los Angeles Airport; the Cinerama Dome, which I had a hand in […]

The fourth volume of Robert Caro‘s biography of Lyndon Johnson is finally out. Covering the period from about 1958-1964, the years of Johnson’s vice-presidency and transition to the presidency, this book features the legendary feud between Johnson and Bobby Kennedy.  These two men hated each other from the moment they met, when Bobby Kennedy was a staffer for Senator Joe McCarthy, for whom Johnson had no respect. Matters only went downhill from there. This was a bitter rivalry of Shakespearean dimensions, that had immense consequences for our country’s history. I’m not yet halfway through this thick book, but can already report how fascinating it is to read Caro’s reconstruction of the day in the middle of the 1960 Democratic convention […]

George Santayana said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. In the business of resolving legal disputes, we encounter parties who remember the past all too well. Each side might remember the past in a somewhat different way, but both sides can give a detailed recitation of every event in the past that created the dispute. Yet they repeat it anyway. What I have observed during a long time spent guiding clients through the progress of lawsuits, are the opportunities that lawsuits provide for parties to repeat exactly the same behaviors that created the original conflict. Before they filed suit, parties might have a dispute about performance of a contract, or some claimed wrongful action […]

As anyone who has made it through my four part series of posts on Aeschylus already knows, I’ve spent a little time thinking about the evolution of our legal system from earliest times. One can trace the history of our system of justice from a cycle of revenge killings, to a divinely-inspired system of earthly justice, to the beginnings of a third stage, interest-based approach represented by the growth of alternative dispute resolution. An article in this month’s Atlantic magazine by Cullen Murphy, adapted from his new book on the Inquisition, makes some interesting points about the place of torture in this history, and our continuing connections to the methods developed during the Inquisition. Although we think of torture as […]