Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

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The Los Angeles County Superior Court has developed a large mediation program that relies heavily on the provision of pro bono mediation services.  Litigants have the choice of the pro bono panel, which allows them three hours of free mediation services, after which the mediator may charge for his or her time; or the party pay panel, which offers three hours at a reduced rate.  The difference is that pro bono mediators are randomly assigned, while parties may choose their mediator from the pay panel.  Pay panel mediators also tend to be more experienced, but parties are sometimes lucky enough to get assigned to an experienced mediator from the pro bono panel.  From the point of view of mediators, the […]

I did some posts this week on my political blog, trying to understand why voters seem so angry this campaign season.  After trotting out some of the usual suspects like our dysfunctional government, and the economy, I turned to the touchier subjects of intolerance, racism and xenophobia.  We certainly have a lot of problems to deal with in our country right now, but my mind keeps returning to the question of why we need to react to those problems with anger and recrimination.  Didn’t we, less than two years ago, embrace the promise represented by the Obama campaign, of trying to approach our problems with a spirit of cooperativeness and inclusiveness?   A majority of the country actually elected a […]

An article in the Harvard Negotiation Program newsletter (summarized here) reflects a common view that mediation and arbitration need to be “sold” more as an alternative to litigation.  In this view, it is seen as a problem that parties to business contracts often do not anticipate the likelihood of conflicts arising in the course of their relationship, and therefore fail to include as often as perhaps they should, clauses providing for alternative dispute resolution in the event of problems.  Because parties fail to anticipate the potential need for ADR, litigation becomes the default alternative when a conflict occurs. This way of looking at a problem–here the problem of choosing a method of resolving disputes–itself reflects a view of the world […]

Whenever an attorney involved in a mediation asks me if their client can be available by telephone, I am usually reluctant to agree.  If the case is important enough to require my personal attention, should it not be important enough to the parties to compel their presence?  After all, it’s their case.  It also seems intuitively obvious–though I’m sure there are studies to back this up–that mediation is more likely to be successful if people take it seriously enough to attend in person, and if they have the opportunity to communicate face-to-face at least with the mediator and preferably with the other side.  Or maybe I just feel that phone mediation, like phone sex, can never be as satisfying as […]

The practice of going to mediation to resolve a litigated dispute has become routine.  Mediation is now viewed as a planned-for stage in the proceedings where the case is likely to get resolved.  The parties file their pleadings, attend a scheduling conference with the judge, perhaps engage in some motion practice, perhaps exchange some written discovery, but often postpone at least some depositions, expecting to settle the case at a scheduled session with a mediator.  This practice seems all well and good–good for the parties, good for mediators.  But maybe it’s too much and not enough at the same time. If all you want to do is settle the case, there are lots of ways to do that without calling […]