Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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It’s ironic that the president who led us through by most measures our most destructive war had some of the most profound things to say about peace-making. Beginning as a trial lawyer, he recognized that trial work should be approached with the goal of making peace, rather than creating new conflicts. Lincoln figured out how to achieve that goal within the justice system. Then, most significantly, he carried these insights onto a global stage, showing how peace-making skills can be developed and expanded to resolve our most difficult problems. The first quote is one often cited be lawyers and mediators in an effort to persuade clients to think beyond their immediate perceived interests:. Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise […]

“Joint sessions are a waste of time,” said the judge conducting a mediation in which I was representing one of the parties. In that mediation I was asking for a joint session, but the judge still blocked us from doing one because the other side would not agree. I’ll tell you what turned out to be a waste of time: that entire day of mediation in which I was assured that the mediator/judge would get the other side to agree to our side’s last proposal, but could not, leaving us with egg on our faces now that the other side knew our “bottom line” position and would use that as a starting point for the next round of negotiations. What […]

Last week it was revealed that movie producer Harvey Weinstein has a long history of accusations of sexual harassment. His namesake company fired him. In response, Weinstein composed an apology letter, in which he promised to “conquer my demons” and make amends to people he has harmed. At the same time, however, Weinstein threatened to sue the New York Times over the accuracy of the original story reporting his transgressions. Does that action call into question the sincerity of his apology? Does it help or hinder Weinstein’s claimed commitment to resolve this issue? Secretary of State Tillerson revealed recently that the US has various back channels of communication with North Korea, and that we are pursuing negotiations with that country to […]

If I were to write a book on my experiences practicing law, I might use the above title. It has multiple meanings. “From litigation to conflict resolution” describes what happens with most contested legal disputes; they tend to follow a trajectory from an adversarial to a more cooperative process. An aggrieved party starts with a desire to punish, or seek justice against, the opposition that they believe has wronged them. The accused party reacts defensively. Both sides tend to contest every assertion made against them. They create new grievances. They demand that the court sanction the other side. Whether or not the court gives them satisfaction, however, eventually they will in most cases reach a negotiated resolution of the dispute, […]

A new book by Sephen Goldberg, Jeanne Brett, Beatrice Blohorn-Brenneur and Nancy Rogers presents a concise primer on what participants can expect from the mediation process. Being academics, the authors ground their discussion in theory, starting with an explanation of the differences between conflicts and disputes, as well as an explanation of how disputes can be resolved with reference to power, rights and interests. But the book is much more practical than theoretical, and is fairly free of academic jargon. The heart of it clearly explains the roles of the participants, the mediator, and counsel; through the processes of choosing a mediator, preparing for the mediation, opening the mediation, holding joint sessions and caucuses, reframing the parties’ conceptions, leading the […]