Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Assuming the LA Superior Court proceeds with its plan to close its ADR program this spring, the question to ask is not: how will people find mediators? Because mediators are not difficult to find. A web search will turn up hundreds of private mediators in the Southern California region. ADR provider organizations will be only too happy to refer litigants to their panels.  Organizations like SCMA have lists of mediators accessible on their websites. And a number of directories are available in which mediators promote their services. The real question is whether parties and attorneys are going to continue to seek out the services of mediators after the court stops performing the functions of assigning cases to mediators and following […]

I had a chance a while back to attemd a training session with Gary Friedman, a mediator in Northern Calilfornia, who is known as one of the foremost practitioners of joint session mediation. In fact, Friedman insists on conducting mediations start to finish with all parties in the same room. He will not even read mediation briefs marked as confidential, and he refuses to hold any information discussed with him during a mediation in confidence with respect to the other parties. If the parties to a mediation run by Friedman want to hold a private caucus, Friedman allows that, but they have to do that without without the mediator present. Since I am also a believer in joint sessions, I […]

The practice of quickly moving to caucus sessions has become so widespread that many parties attending mediation seem to expect to caucus almost immediately.  Parties seem to want to cut to the chase of settlement negotiations quickly, and are concerned about the possible volatility of a joint session.  I had a couple of experiences recently where counsel expressly asked me before the mediation even began to please not even allow the parties into the same room at all, because they viewed it as a waste of time, or worse, to face the other side.  My response was to suggest that we at least stay together for introductions and some initial housekeeping matters, and then continue in joint session only for […]

There is a post on Victoria Pynchon’s blog decrying the trend toward immediate separate caucus sessions, and the death of the joint session. This was a hot topic at the annual CLE session for mediators on the Central District settlement officer panel a couple of weeks ago. Victoria makes the point that joint sessions can help resolve a dispute not because they give everyone a chance to practice their arguments on one another and not because they allow people publicly to vent their feeling about the issues, but rather because they give the parties an opportunity, perhaps through the exchange of small talk, to see each other as human beings, and sometimes even to put aside talk of the money […]

There seems to be a raging debate in the mediation community about the usefulness of joint mediation sessions vs. separate caucus sessions. Many mediators keep the parties and their attorneys in separate rooms almost from the outset. They do this to minimize animosity, and to avoid driving the parties further apart with hours of venting, accusations and counter-accusations. They do it because the parties and attorneys are often impatient to cut to the chase of negotiations, and feel no need to exchange information they already know too well. Other mediators believe there is a value in attempting to mend a broken relationship, or that the parties may need the cathartic experience of confronting each other and listening to each other […]