Conflict Resolution

Advanced Problem-Solving Strategies

Read The Latest Post

My rabbi’s Rosh Hashanah sermon this year concerned the important topic of healing the widening rifts in the Jewish community, which have broken out especially over the nuclear weapons deal with Iran. The problem he was talking about is not so much that there is disagreement about the advisability of this deal. Considering how troublesome and untrustworthy an adversary Iran has been, one would expect strong disagreements among supporters of Israel about how we should deal with that adversary. Such disagreements wouldn’t be a particularly new thing among members of the Jewish community. As the rabbi pointed out, ferocious conflicts among factions of the Jewish community have existed from the time Joseph fought with his brothers, and on and on […]

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 […]

Consider the situation where parties in a formerly close relationship (e.g., friends, business partners, relatives) have seen that relationship threatened by an unpaid debt or some other form of injury. To what extent should a mediated resolution of such a dispute try to repair the relationship as opposed to simply helping the parties obtain the best deal they can negotiate to compensate for the claimed harm?   The legal system cannot solve this kind of problem very well. Courts only decide whether one party is required to pay the money, or not. If a mediation only tries to short circuit the court process by assessing which side is likely to prevail in court, that may not entirely satisfy the parties’ needs […]

I received a mediation brief a few weeks ago from the plaintiffs’ side in a contractual dispute. The brief contained a detailed description of the parties’ agreement, a recitation of the elements of each one of the various causes of action in the complaint, a calculation of the damages due under the contract, including precise interest calculations, and an explanation of why attorneys’ fees were recoverable. It also attached the relevant contractual documents as exhibits. Sounds like as much as any mediator could wish for, right? What else would I possibly want to know about the plaintiff’s position? It turned out, however, when I saw the defendant’s brief, that nothing in the plaintiff’s brief was seriously contested. The real problem […]

Monday night (10/19/09). It’s the bottom of the ninth inning. The Dodgers are hanging on to a 4-3 lead in the crucial fourth game, in which the Dodgers have the chance to tie up the National League Championship series. Two outs, one strike, and seemingly moments away from victory, just waiting for Jonathan Broxton to put the final batter away. Instead, Jimmy Rollins hits a double, scoring both runners already on base, and the Phillies stunningly take the game, and almost inevitably, the Dodgers’ World Series hopes. But was it really Jimmy Rollins who won the game for Philadelphia? In Bill Plaschke’s column yesterday in the Los Angeles Times, Plaschke argues that the decisive moment was Broxton’s walk given to […]