Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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Even in the course of the most hard-fought lawsuits, opportunities may arise for the parties to decide to stop fighting for a moment, and try to work out some problem or another together. Parties are encouraged to resolve discovery disputes cooperatively, for example, instead of fighting over every document request and deposition notice. Parties are also encouraged to resolve entire disputes through mediation rather than battling it out in court. To do that, we need to change the atmosphere from one of mutually assured destruction to one of cooperation. How do we do that? Think about changing the atmosphere in politics, a field of endless, irresolvable conflict and argument. In 2008, candidate Obama talked a lot about transforming political conflict, in a way that sounded familiar […]

Lawsuits present two competing versions of events, or at least two different interpretations of the same events. In most cases, that just means that the two sides remember those events differently, or interpret their significance differently. Some lawsuits, however, give the fact-finder no alternative but to find that one side is lying and the other side is telling the truth. I mediated a couple of cases in the latter category recently. One involved a claim of forgery. Another involved a claim that a car accident had been staged to defraud the insurance carrier. These cases made me think about the different methods we use to determine which side is telling the truth in litigation, and in mediation. Trials contain a […]

At a CLE program I attended last week put on by the LA Superior Court and hosted by Pepperdine Law School, two of the panelists, Max Factor and Peter Robinson, got into something of a debate about how to handle an ethical situation. The topic concerned the mediator’s responsibilities when the mediator learns that one party to a mediation has slipped a potential land mine into a proposed agreement. Suppose the party inserting such a provision admits their deceitful intent and specifically instructs the mediator not to tell the other side of the land mine’s existence. Is the mediator bound to keep that information confidential? Perhaps, but to avoid being a party to a potential fraud, the mediator can at […]

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 […]

Even though we may aspire to hold only peaceful intentions, we still have trouble controlling our violent natures. That was proven in last night’s Lakers game against Oklahoma City, a game marred by the shocking act by the recently-minted  Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest), of sharply elbowing opposing player James Harden in the head. Harden may have suffered serious injury, and World Peace will no doubt be suspended for a period of time. World Peace has a history of aggressive tendencies, but showed a genuine desire to change his nature by changing his name. That may prove a more difficult task than he might have anticipated. First, we’re dealing with human nature, which is not so easy […]