Architect David Denton spends much of his time on a lush tropical island, where he experiments with cutting-edge building designs and creates spaces for artists to showcase their work.
Never mind that the island only exists in the virtual-reality world of Second Life, a popular online venue where people interact via digital avatars. Denton, 62, said he purchased the island for about $700 — real money, not virtual cash — from its former owner, and considers it his property.
Here's the thought this article triggers. If 90% of all litigation involving people (I'll skip corporate litigation and litigation brought to vindicate rights such as that declaring Prop 8 unconstitutional) will end with a retired Judge telling the people that litigation is too expensive and a jury trial too uncertain for them to bear, why don't we just litigate virtually (with Linden dollars!) giving the parties the experience of litigation that will eventually drive them to settlement?
I'm sure some smart programmer can come up with an algorithm for most personal disputes, including both factual templates and the application of simple legal principles. A "ticker" could keep track of the dollars your virtual attorney is billing on your law suit's screen everyday. Continuances, discovery motions, pre-trial proceedings and depositions could all be simulated.
Then the parties return from the virtual life of Second Life Litigation and sit down in the old fashioned way to negotiate a resolution to their dispute or, if necessary, hire a village elder trained in conflict resolution, sometimes called a mediator, to help them do so.
I'm walking to my appointments today. Because I can and because I can't get down to the Gulf to help out there. Let's each do one small thing today. And tomorrow. Start a daily blog of "heal the Gulf" activities. Tweet or post "things to do." Call a friend or relative in the area and ask what you can do to help. Observe a moment of silence for the BP workers killed in this disaster. Say a prayer in honor of the wildlife most religions tell us to be responsible for. Remember that the planet does not need us to survive. It did quite well before us and will do quite well after us. We need it.
At its best, the negotiated resolution of conflict generates accountability among all of the stakeholders. When we're accountable - when we take our part in it - the way in which we can transform our impotent outrage into productive action becomes instantaneously apparent.
Today I stumbled over the post Women Deal with Conflict Differently than Men, reporting on a study done by the Program on Negotiation at Harvard in 2008. Results of the study showed the following similarities between men and women including:
Integrating, the ability to meet the needs of both parties; and,
Compromising as a strategy, except women showed a "high level of agreement that every issue has room for negotiation"
The differences included:
women's tendency to choose equal distributions when compromising which the researchers apparently ascribed to women's greater concern with fairness;
competitiveness - with men scoring 25% more competitive than their female counterparts
"smoothing," with women engaging in that behavior 20% more of the time than men - smoothing being defined as "giving in to the other party while ignoring one's own needs"
avoiding or withdrawing with women doing so 30% more than men
expressing feeling, with women apparently doing so "more" than men but no percentages are provided
We'll be working with gender differences through the end of the month of March and will likely discuss this data in more detail later.
I'm sure you've noticed that we're celebrating negotiating women here this month in honor of International Women's Day and National Women's History Month. Other than tomorrow night's free negotiating women teleseminar with super coach Lisa Gates, I'm celebrating by posting in one place all of my articles on negotiating women.
If you're entering the job market, you'll want to check out Forbes' Magazine's Tips for Negotiating Your First Salary. If you do not negotiate your first salary, you stand to lose half a million dollars over...
Practicing law, particularly litigation, is often frustrating, sometimes humiliating, and frequently simply dispiriting. On the other hand, the practice of law can be thrilling, intellectually stimulating, challenging, absorbing, and a darn good way to make a good living. When you...
(Right, women protesting, 1912. My own grandmother was 12 years old at the time this photo was taken. By the time she was old enough to vote in 1921, she could vote) Why women's voting rights and Hillary Clinton's DNC...
If you're a certain age, you'll remember women's magazines as mostly "Can This Marriage Be Saved" (The Ladies Home Journal to which PWNSC members Cathy Scott's and Cordelia Mendoza's mother was always submitting articles) or 101 Things to do with...
Yesterday, we talked about the different negotiation styles of men and women. Today, we're going to explore how men can benefit from learning women-speak and women can benefit from learning man-talk. All of the data relied upon and excerpted below...
Although I am indisputably a "woman lawyer," I have never thought of myself in those terms. I'm a lawyer. And I'm a woman. I'm also a writer, a step-mother, a wife, a daughter, a river rafter, and an aficionado of...
(and, yes, I am not only old enough to remember the "Second Wave" Women's Movement, I took a quite serious role in it, first as an unpaid volunteer and later through the federal government's "Program for Local Service" at...
Thanks again to Vicki Flaugher of SmartWomanGuides.com for inviting me to have this conversation with her about ways in which women can and do maximize their bargaining power. And yes we do talk about negotiating the purchase of an automobile...
In part two of Vicki Flaugher's interview with me, we discuss ways in which women can comfortably respond to aggressive zero-sum distributive bargainers and negotiate better business deals using their natural strengths. I'd like to once again thank Vicki Flaugher...
Video below is part I of an interview on negotiation challenges, strategies and tactics for women with Vicki Flaugher, founder of SmartWoman Guides. The full audio of the video is here along with Ms. Flaugher's kind comments about our conversation....
How to Negotiate Anything: Free Intro Thursday, Mar 18, '10 8pm EST Some researchers say that women's failure to negotiate working conditions, salary or other compensation--along with their hesitancy to seek what they're worth when they do negotiate--is one of...
Whereas American women of every race, class, and ethnic background have made historic contributions to the growth and strength of our Nation in countless recorded and unrecorded ways; Whereas American women have played and continue to play a critical...
When I posted Negotiating Gender: Why So Few Women Neutrals? I had not yet found a source for the statistical representation of women neutrals on the American Arbitration Association Panel. I've now located an article on the AAA website from...
Although most of the major providers of alternative dispute resolution services tout their commitment to diversity in the ranks of their neutrals, the coloration of nearly all ADR panels continues to be white; the nationalities European; and the gender male....
Thanks to Ed. at Blawg Review for passing along this (somewhat rambling but well worth watching) lecture at Stanford University by Deborah Kolb, the Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership at the Simmons College School of Management....
Thanks Roger! This didn't just make my day; it made my year!
Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Acceptance of Lunch Invitation
The Court has rarely seen a motion with more merit. The motion will be granted.
The Court has searched in vain in the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure and cases, as well as the leading treatises on federal and Arizona procedure, to find specific support for Plaintiff’s motion. Finding none, the Court concludes that motions of this type are so clearly within the inherent powers of the Court and have been so routinely granted that they are non-controversial and require no precedential support.
The writers support the concept. Conversation has been called “the socializing instrument par excellence” (Jose Ortega y Gasset, Invertebrate Spain) and “one of the greatest pleasures in life” (Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence). John Dryden referred to“Sweet discourse, the banquet of the mind” (The Flower and the Leaf).
Plaintiff’s counsel extended a lunch invitation to Defendant’s counsel “to have a discussion regarding discovery and other matters.” Plaintiff’s counsel offered to “pay for lunch.” Defendant’s counsel failed to respond until the motion was filed.
Defendant’s counsel distrusts Plaintiff’s counsel’s motives and fears that Plaintiff’s counsel’s purpose is to persuade Defendant’s counsel of the lack of merit in the defense case.
The Court has no doubt of Defendant’s counsel’s ability to withstand Plaintiff’s counsel’s blandishments and to respond sally for sally and barb for barb. Defendant’s counsel now makes what may be an illusory acceptance of Plaintiff’s counsel’s invitation by saying, “We would love to have lunch at Ruth’s Chris with/on . . .” Plaintiff’s counsel. 1
1 Everyone knows that Ruth’s Chris, while open for dinner, is not open for lunch. This is a matter of which the Court may take judicial notice.
Read on by clicking on the .pdf above.
And how could I resist adding the "will you go to lunch!" scene from David Mamet's Glengarry Glen Ross.
we want rights because we are genetically programmed and culturally conditioned to be fair (remember the Capuchin monkeys who, trained to work for "money" staged a sit-down strike when others doing the same work were compensated at five times the rate as their under compensated fellows);
rights are meant to guarantee us equal treatment in the distribution of public benefits and resources; and, equal access to public and private accommodations;
remedies are meant to restore private and public resources to those who have been deprived of them because some one; group; organization or governmental entity has broken one or more rules by which we have chosen to govern ourselves; and,
moneyis a means to an end, not an end in itself and each of us desires money for the same reasons - control of our own destiny (power; self expression); access to the benefits of the social contract (1. Freedom of speech and expression 2. Freedom of religion 3. Freedom from want 4. Freedom from fear); security against an uncertain future (access to medical services and a mimimal standard of living if we become unable to care for ourselves); meaningful occupation; the opportunity to be of unique service to our fellows; love; and, joy (monetary sub-goals such as a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes are also simply a [misguided] means to achieve these ends).
I have been taken to task for being "touchy-feely" or "new age" or of insufficient value to my "market" because I say these things repeatedly in public. My "market," I'm told, would rather be right than happy; would rather someone lose so that they can win; and, believe the only thing anyone wants is money.
I don't believe it and I am committed to holding this space as a place-marker for my "people" who are suffering. Which people are those? Litigators.
The challenge of this and every year: How do we even begin to introduce the concept that we can more easily, efficiently and effectively satisfy the true interests of our fellows-in-the-social-condition than we can satisfy one individual's demand for preeminence over another?
On our least divisive, most-inclusive and thoroughly secular holiday of Thanksgiving, we can begin to alleviate the suffering caused by zero-sum games with gratitude -- the benefits of which are being studied by a team of researchers at my legal alma mater, U.C. Davis.
Gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. We are engaged in a long-term research project designed to create and disseminate a large body of novel scientific data on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its potential consequences for human health and well-being. Scientists are latecomers to the concept of gratitude. Religions and philosophies have long embraced gratitude as an indispensable manifestation of virtue, and an integral component of health, wholeness, and well-being. Through conducting highly focused, cutting-edge studies on the nature of gratitude, its causes, and its consequences, we hope to shed important scientific light on this important concept. This document is intended to provide a brief, introductory overview of the major findings to date of the research project. For further information, please contact Robert Emmons. This project is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.
We are engaged in two main lines of inquiry at the present time: (1) developing methods to cultivate gratitude in daily life and assess gratitude’s effect on well-being, and (2) developing a measure to reliably assess individual differences in dispositional gratefulness.
Gratitude Interventions and Psychological and Physical Well-Being
* In an experimental comparison, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
* A related benefit was observed in the realm of personal goal attainment: Participants who kept gratitude lists were more likely to have made progress toward important personal goals (academic, interpersonal and health-based) over a two-month period compared to subjects in the other experimental conditions.
* A daily gratitude intervention (self-guided exercises) with young adults resulted in higher reported levels of the positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to a focus on hassles or a downward social comparison (ways in which participants thought they were better off than others). There was no difference in levels of unpleasant emotions reported in the three groups.
* Participants in the daily gratitude condition were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another, relative to the hassles or social comparison condition.
* In a sample of adults with neuromuscular disease, a 21-day gratitude intervention resulted in greater amounts of high energy positive moods, a greater sense of feeling connected to others, more optimistic ratings of one’s life, and better sleep duration and sleep quality, relative to a control group.
* Children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008).
Because Doug, Lee Jay and I spent the entire day yesterday talking about legal rights and remedies as well as legal procedure in the context of negotiating the resolution of litigation, I was once again engaged in the soul-searching that always accompanies situations challenging my loyalty to the adversarial/rights-remedies business and stimulates my enthusiasm for the interest-based, consensus building, collaborative, problem solving negotiated resolution business.
Before giving you an excerpt that should tempt you to download the article and put it on your nightstand, I want to say this: I work on the razor's edge of my lifetime career-investment in the adversarial system, on the one hand, and my new'ish passion for collaborative, interest-based negotiated resolutions to disputes, on the other. I spent 25 years as a warrior who rightfully took advantage of my adversary's weaknesses. I was not a problem solver. I was engaged in a fight to the death on a pre-determined field with rules in which I believed for causes I knew to be just. As a result, I approach all alternatives to the adversarial process with a litigator's skepticism, wariness and world-wearyness. There is no kumbya in me. It is only my intellectual curiosity that survived the beating my heart took from the world-weary, cynical, grizzled old defense attorneys who taught me how to practice law (as adversaries testing my mettle) in Sacramento thirty years ago.
Sic transit gloria mundi.
The engine that drives litigation's morality tale is that conflict resolution is a contest between parties, one of whom necessarily represents good and the other necessarily represents bad. As a result, litigation seeks to designate who has committed moral transgressions by breaching legal norms (or, from the perspective of the defendant, who wrongfully accuses others of having done so).
The Story of Mediation subverts these norms by transforming this familiar morality tale into a story of collaboration. This subversion begins through how mediation conceives of conflict itself. Implicit in the Story of Litigation is that conflict represents a breach of the norms of conduct, thereby ripping the social fabric in some way large or small. In contrast, in mediation, conflict is a norm of conduct, a necessary byproduct of humans having distinct experiences and personalities and needs. Conflict is thus not necessarily a disruption of the moral order, and, indeed, can sometimes be productive.
Mediation's normalization of conflict, however, cannot eliminate what appears to be a deep-seated human need to understand experience in terms of struggles and strivings. Humans have great difficulty perceiving events as generated by causes beyond our control - what Amsterdam and Bruner evocatively describe as an inability to see events as "One Damn Thing After Another." We must instead "shape them into strivings and adversities, contests and rewards, vanquishings and setbacks."
The meta-narrative of litigation maps these "strivings" and "vanquishings" onto the struggle of one party against another and enlists the aid of the court to vindicate justice on behalf of the wronged party. In contrast, the meta-narrative of mediation seeks to map these "strivings" and "vanquishings" onto a collaborative struggle to resolve conflict. This narrative casts all participants as players in a process - collaboration - that is focused on reaching the common goal of successfully resolving or transforming a dispute. This story has moral entailments because collaboration is accepted as a social and moral good. Unlike litigation, however, this story does not generate a binary moral universe that divides the good from the bad, but, rather, a universe that values collaborative striving to achieve common ground and resolution.
This story places mediators in a role that is very different from the role played by decision-makers in litigation. Rather than being heroes of moral vindication to whom wronged parties appeal for justice, mediators promote and model collaborative striving to overcome conflict. This plays out in many accepted techniques in mediation. Mediators, for example, often seek "commitment" from participants to the process of mediation, although mediators are careful not to extend this commitment to a commitment to agree. This commitment to process is a proxy for a commitment to collaborate to seek to resolve conflict, thus incrementally moving participants away from contested litigation and towards collaborative problem solving. Similarly, mediators often "reframe" participants' statements in order to emphasize "common ground." This is also an effort to move parties away from a morally charged contest and into collaboration. Finally, mediators encourage and model collaboration through a positive message of optimism and progress towards resolution, even when (or, perhaps, especially when) impasse appears likely.
Moreover, mediation approaches the narrative movement from Efforts to Restoration of Steady State in a very different way than litigation. Whether the Steady State is Restored or Transformed constitutes what I have earlier characterized as a "fork in the road" in the Austere Definition of Narrative. The very language through which litigants seek redress of grievances - to "be made whole," "to pay your debt society" (with its implication that payment of the debt would return the ledger to balance), even the word "remedy" - implies Restoration. In contrast, mediation tends to reject Restoration as a state to which the parties (and society as whole) should or even can return. Rather, mediation seeks Transformation on the part of all disputants so that conflict is resolved. It does so by embracing the notion that perceptions of the world (including perceptions of the actions of others) are unstable, thus enabling parties to appreciate alternative perspectives as a way to promote resolution of conflict. Mediation, therefore, does embody a plot that adheres to the narrative movement described by the Austere Definition, albeit in ways that are utterly alien to the morality tale of the story of litigation. The story of mediation can be characterized as follows:
Steady State: Whatever Each Party Views as Pre-Conflict
Trouble: Whatever Each Party Views as Constituting Conflict
Efforts: Collaborative Striving To Overcome Conflict as Modeled and Promoted by Mediator
Transformation of Steady State: A New Relationship Among Parties
My own personal 200-year present spans the life of my maternal grandparents who were nine years old in 1909, and that of my step-children’s children, who (assuming they procreate on a reasonable schedule) should be ninety-five'ish in 2109.
My imagined grandchildren,  born sometime between today and 2014, will not be strangers to any of my grandfather’s technologies. Despite the advent of compact fluorescent light bulbs, the early lives of my step-children's children will likely pass under the glow of the same incandescent lights that brightened granddad’s one-room school house. They will be transported to school in cars with internal combustion engines, learn the same alphabet from the same cardboard and paper books (as well as from the "e" variety)  and play many of the same games he did – hop scotch, jump rope and ring-around the rosy.
Change will etch itself into the lives of my grandchildren as surely as it did my own, my parents' and my grandparents'. Hybrids will give way to fully electric (and perhaps hemp-powered) vehicles (effective or defective) and though electricity will continue to be generated by hydroelectric dams, wind farms and nuclear power plants, some new and unimaginable source of power will surely push back the nights of my grand children's children. 
Law, politics, society and culture also exist in the 200-year present of conflict resolution. In my personal 200-year span, the law seems to have changed the most profoundly. Was it the law first and culture later? Or do they weave our future together?
The first U.S. woman lawyer, Myra Bradwell, was admitted to practice a mere ten years before my grandmother was born. Mrs. Bradwell’s legal career was the subject of one of the sorriest U.S. Supreme Court decisions ever handed down, in which the Court opined,
The civil law as well as nature itself, has always recognized a wide difference in the respective spheres and destinies of man and woman. Man is, or should be, woman’s protector and defender. The natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life. The constitution of the family organization, which is founded in the divine ordinance, as well as in the nature of things, indicates the domestic sphere as that which properly belongs to the domain and functions of womanhood. The harmony, not to say the identity, of interests and views which belong, or should belong, to the family institution is repugnant to the idea for a woman adopting a distinct and independent career from that of her husband … for these reasons I think that the laws of Illinois now complained of are not obnoxious to the charge of any abridging any of the privileges and immunities of cities of the United States.
My grandparents', parents' and step-children's 20th Century was dominated by genocide on a scale and a technological precision unimaginable to our earlier forebears. Mid-century brought with it the threat of nuclear annihilation but also liberated millions of people enslaved by colonialism. We cured polio in my own lifetime with both "dead" and "live" vaccines (neither of them counterfeit) - a singular moment in scientific history during which no one took ownership of the cure and no one tried to stop others from seeking another, a problem Patently O addressed this week in Reverse Payments.
Whether god or satan, heaven or hell, war or peace "won" the twentieth century, the world's greatest peace-making body was created during it -- the United Nations. And here in the U.S., the “living room war,” Viet Nam, coupled with the largest generation of adolescents ever to grace American society, ended the forcible induction of young men into the military. 
With the recent discovery of our earliest ancestor, Ardi, our biological and social lives exist in a 4.4 million year now. Our physical bodies “evolve” in the womb along the same lines as did our species and, once born, we carry with us our earliest organs.  Most critical of these to conflict escalation and avoidance is our “fight-flight” mechanism – the amygdala. And the most pertinent biological agents to promote the collaborative resolution of conflict are our “mirror neurons” which
provide a powerful biological foundation for the evolution of culture . . . absorb[ing] it directly, with each generation teaching the next by social sharing, imitation and observation.
How we’ve manage to survive despite our tendency to misread one another’s actions, intentions and emotions, is often the subject of those who advise us how to choose and move juries -- here -- Anne Reed at Deliberations (explaining why "they" don't see things like "we" do here); and, the Jury Room (explaining why pain hurts more intensely when we believe it's been intentionally inflicted here).
The Most Effective Conflict Resolution Technology is the Oldest
One of our true original gangsters, Al Capone, is reported to have said that “you can get much further with a kind word and a gun than you can with a kind word alone” and one of our greatest Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt said “speak softly and carry a big stick.”
As Robert Wright, author of The Moral Animal explained, had Tit for Tat been tossed into the game with 50 steadfast non-cooperators, there would have been a 49-way tie for first place. But none of the players' programs failed to cooperate in at least some circumstances, leaving Tit for Tat the clear victor. According to Wright, humans, like the programs in Axelrod's competition, are evolutionarily “designed” to cooperate under at least some circumstances. The engine and benefit of cooperation is present in our neurochemistry. When scientists observed the brain activity of volunteers playing the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, for instance, they found that the participants' “reward circuits” were activated and their impulsive "me first" circuits inhibited when they cooperated. Cooperation, retaliation, forgiveness and a return to cooperation. Tit for Tat.
We don't "dis" lawyers here at the Negotiation Blog. We simply remind ourselves that our primary purpose is the promotion of justice, with a stable societal order closely behind. Most people don't understand, for instance, that Shakespeare's famous the first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyerswas not an insult. In King Henry IV, Act IV, Scene II, Shakespeare's sentiment was not his own, but that of a revolutionary who wished to destroy the social order.
The historic "present" of laws and lawyers is in the thousands, not simply the hundreds, of years. Hammurabi (make of his choice for the memorialization of his laws what you will) was the sixth king of Babylon, remembered for creating -- in his own name (and likeness?) - the first written and systematic legal code.
For the wrongful killing of another, for instance, the victim’s kin were paid according to the social status of the deceased party. Thus the ‘man price’ for killing a peasant was 200 shillings and that for a nobleman 1200 shillings. Payments were not, however, tailored to the loss, but fixed according to types of affront, a distinction we continue to make when we punish intentional torts more severely than negligent ones. >
Lawyers, litigators and trial lawyers are too often demonized by the ADR community as if you could get someone to sit down to negotiate without first pointing the gun of litigation at their heads; I salute you (and myself, for that matter!) for bringing us all to the bargaining table. See Steve Mehta's recent post at Mediation Matters, Factors When Peace Makes Sense for a note that touches upon the symbiotic relationship between litigation and mediation, litigators and mediators.
I shouldn't cite single legal blogs twice, but I cannot resist this quote of Scott Greenfield's on another pundit's view of the future lawyers have in store for them, i.e.,
shucking oysters for a living if we don't accept a future of lawyers being piece workers in factories, sending our work off to Bangalore in pdf files and complementing people on their choice of forms at Legal Zoom.
Which came first? Public civil trials or private arbitrations? You’ll be surprised, I’ll wager, to hear that arbitration was one of the earliest forms of dispute resolution, practiced by the juris consults of the Roman Empire. Roman arbitration predates the adversarial system of common law by more than a thousand years. 
Ah, the glory of Rome! The juris consulti were (like too many mediators) amateurs who dabbled in dispute resolution, raising the question whether they (and we) should be certified or regulated as Diane Levin asks at The Mediation Channel this week. The Roman hobbyists gave legal opinions (responsa) to all comers (a practice known as publice respondere). They also served the needs of Roman judges and governors would routinely consult with advisory panels of jurisconsults before rendering decisions. Thus, the Romans – god bless them! - were the first to have a class of people who spent their days thinking about legal problems (an activity some readers will recall Ralph Nader calling "mental gymnastics in an iron cage").
It was Buckminster Fuller who famously opined that the "significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them." If you keep this aphorism in mind for the remainder of this post, you'll likely have some extraordinarily innovative comments to make in the comment section below.
As the Law Guru wiki reminds us, we can trace the adversarial system to the "medieval mode of trial by combat, in which some litigants were allowed a champion to represent them." We owe our present day adversarialism, however, to the common law's use of the jury - the power of argumentation replacing the power of the sword.
The Act abolishing the infamous Star Chamber in 1641 also granted every "freeman" the right to trial by "lawful judgment of his peers" or by the "law of the land" before the Crown could "take or imprison" him or "disseis[e] [him] of his freehold or liberties, or free customs." Nor could he any longer be "outlawed or exciled or otherwise destroyed." Nor could the King "pass upon him or condemn him."
English colonies like our own adopted the jury trial system and we, of course, enshrined that system in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Amendments. Whether this 17th century dispute resolution technology can be fine-tuned to keep abreast of 21st century dispute creation technology (particularly in the quickly moving area of intellectual property) remains one of the pressing questions of legal and ADR policy and practice, particularly in a week in which a Superior Court verbally punished the lawyers before it for filing The Most Oppressive Motion Ever Presented (see the Laconic Law Blog). The motion?
Defendants['] . . . motion for summary judgment/summary adjudication, seeking adjudication of 44 issues, most of which were not proper subjects of adjudication. Defendants’ separate statement was 196 pages long, setting forth hundreds of facts, many of them not material—as defendants’ own papers conceded. And the moving papers concluded with a request for judicial notice of 174 pages. All told, defendants’ moving papers were 1056 pages.
Mediator, author and activist, Ken Cloke, suggests that interest-based resolutions to conflict must replace power and rights based resolutions if we expect to create a future in which justice prevails. As Ken wrote in Conflict Revolution:
Approaching evil and injustice from an interest-based perspective means listening to the deeper truths that gave rise to them, extending compassion even to those who were responsible for evils or injustices, and seeking not merely to replace one evil or injustice with another, but to reduce their attractiveness by designing outcomes, processes, and relationships that encourage adversaries to work collaboratively to satisfy their interests.
Evil and injustice can therefore be considered byproducts of reliance on power or rights, and failures or refusals to learn and evolve.
All political systems generate chronic conflicts that reveal their internal weaknesses, external pressures, and demands for evolutionary change. Power- and rights-based systems are adversarial and unstable, and therefore avoid, deny, resist, and defend themselves against change. As a result, they suppress conflicts or treat them as purely interpersonal, leaving insiders less informed and able to adapt, and outsiders feeling they were treated unjustly and contemplating evil in response.
As pressures to change increase, these systems must either adapt, or turn reactionary and take a punitive, retaliatory attitude toward those seeking to promote change, delaying their own evolution. Only interest-based systems are fully able to seek out their weaknesses, proactively evolve, transform conflicts into sources of learning, and celebrate those who brought them to their attention.
These are the words I leave with the readers of Blawg Review #234 because they are the ones that informed my personal and professional transformation from a legal career based on rights and remedies to one based upon interests and consensus.
Whatever my own personal 200-year present was, is and will be, it is pointed in the direction of peace with justice, with an enormous and probably unwarranted optimism best expressed by the man after whom my law school was named: Martin Luther King, Jr. - the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.
Blawg Review has information about next week's host, and instructions how to get your blawg posts reviewed in upcoming issues. Next week's host, Counsel to Counsel, will devote its round-up of the week's best legal posts to the Great Recession.
 Earlier scientific theory posited that each human embryo (see Embryo Mix-Up at the Proud Parenting Blog) passes through a progression of abbreviated stages that resemble the main evolutionary stages of its ancestors, i.e., that the fertilized egg starts as a single cell (just like our first living evolutionary ancestor); as the egg repeatedly divides it develops into an embryo with a segmented arrangement (the “worm” stage); these segments develop into vertebrae, muscles and something that sort of looks like gills (the “fish” stage); limb buds develop with paddle-like hands and feet, and there appears to be a “tail” (the “amphibian” stage); and, by the eighth week of development, most organs are nearly complete, the limbs develop fingers and toes, and the “tail” disappears (the human stage). It turns out that this one-to-one correlation was too simplistic, but it remains safe to say that our biological development still passes through several stages that “recapitulate” the evolution of our species.
 The amygdala is a region of the brain that permits the formation and storage of memories associated with emotional events. It permits us to “read” the emotional responses of our fellows and is thought to facilitated our ability to form relationships and live and work in groups. It is also the source of our “fight or flight” response to danger.
Studies show that some mirror neurons fire when a person reaches for a glass or watches someone else reach for a glass; others fire when the person puts the glass down and still others fire when the person reaches for a toothbrush and so on. They respond when someone kicks a ball, sees a ball being kicked, hears a ball being kicked and says or hears the word "kick."
“When you see me perform an action - such as picking up a baseball - you automatically simulate the action in your own brain,” said Dr. Marco Iacoboni, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies mirror neurons. ”Circuits in your brain, which we do not yet entirely understand, inhibit you from moving while you simulate,” he said. ”But you understand my action because you have in your brain a template for that action based on your own movements. “
 Looking toward the future, the Neuroethics and the Law Blog predicts that in the “experiential future, we will have better technologies to measure physical pain, pain relief, and emotional distress. These technologies should not only change tort law and related compensation schemes but should also change our assessments of criminal blameworthiness and punishment severity” here.
The adversarial system of medical negligence fails to satisfy the main aims of tort law, those being equitable compensation of plaintiffs, correction of mistakes and deterrence of negligence. Instead doctors experience litigation as a punishment and, in order to avoid exposure to the system, have resorted not to corrective or educational measures but to defensive medicine, a practice which the evidence indicates both decreases patient autonomy and increases iatrogenic injury.
(Iatrogenic, by the way, is a fancy term for “we have know idea whatsoever what the source of this ailment is). Chris is looking for comments so run on over there if you’ve been thinking about medical malpractice litigation during the marathon American health care debates.
From preparation to closing, some of L.A.'s most prominent mediators reveal the secrets of getting the best deal available for your clients.
Read former CAALA Trial Lawyer of the year Sandy Gage's article on Getting the Best Results in Mediation and AIM founder, mediator and trainer Lee Jay Berman'sTwelve Ways to Make Your Mediator Work Harder for You.
My ADR Services, Inc. colleagues Jan Schau, Michael Diliberto, Joan Kessler (the brains behind the entire issue!) and Leonard Levy round out the issue with Telling Lies, Telling Secrets (Schau); Opening Offers: Who's on First (Diliberto); The Defense Reveals Mistakes that Could Cost Your Client Money; and Kessler's incisive executive summary of them all.
Oh, yes, I'm here too with one of my mediation narratives, We Tell Ourselves Stories in Order to Live.
The online Advocate can be read like a magazine, complete with turning pages. It's a pretty cool online journal format in addition to being a great contribution to the growing literature on best mediation practices.
Dive in! The water is warm and the natives are friendly.
The following is the conclusion of an excellent post on the recent Pfizer-Justice Department settlement noting that it met "the People's" justice interests better than a judgment could have. The full article, Settlement and Justice for All by Robert C. Bordone & Matthew J. Smith** can be found here at the Harvard Negotiation Law Review.
More than honoring principles a court might champion, the negotiated settlement with Pfizer allows the Justice Department to secure commitments from Pfizer that would have been unlikely in a court verdict. In addition to the enormous cash payment, the settlement agreement allows for closer monitoring of Pfizer by Justice Department officials in the years ahead, ensuring corporate accountability and providing an extra measure of protection for consumers. As part of the deal, Pfizer entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement with the Office of Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services and will be required to maintain a corporate compliance program for the next five years.While a judge might choose to retain judicial oversight in a particular case, federal courts typically lack the expertise or resources to provide the kind of enforcement needed to ensure a systemic and long-term remedy in a technical or highly specialized case such as this.
The Pfizer settlement represents the best kind of transparent, efficient, and wise government law enforcement. It holds Pfizer wholly accountable for its actions, sends a strong and clear message to the public that corporate malfeasance will not be tolerated, provides for ongoing enforcement, and it does it all at a fraction of the cost of trial. While many cases should proceed to trial for reasons of precedent and public policy, negotiated settlement – when approached with wisdom and aplomb – can be a most efficient and effective means of law enforcement.
Thanks to Don Philbin for being one of the best navigators of quality in the ADRosphere! "Friend" him on Facebook here.
**/ Robert C. Bordone is the Thaddeus R. Beal Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Director of the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program. Matthew J. Smith is a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School and a Clinical Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program
Powerlessness and silence go together; one of the first efforts made in any totalitarian takeover is to suppress the writers, the singers, the journalists, those who are the collective voice. - Margaret Atwood
Every year, a town in Japan named Taiji kills 2300 dolphins and small whales. This year, that slaughter was halted for a single day because of the activism of the man who trained Flipper for television, Rick O'Barry. Here's his account of the making of The Cove.
What did Flipper's trainer want to do? He wanted to stop the slaughter. Here's where the Harvard Negotiation article on power in negotiation comes in. I'll let the authors of the Harvard article speak for themselves.
In order to understand [why the less powerful sometimes prevail against their more powerful bargaining partners] one needs to analyze power as more of a relational and perceptional concept. The relational dimension is captured in Dahl’s definition that “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something B would not otherwise do." For example, most non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are less resourceful than the World Bank. Yet the Bank can enhance the legitimacy of its programs by including NGOs. Over time, participating NGOs could influence the Bank’s agendas to some extent. Thus viewed, parties with asymmetric resources may wellsharea mutually dependent relationship.
It is also worthwhile tonote that power sometimes lies in the eye of the beholder. A party’s decisionsmay be shaped as much by its perception of the situation as by objective reality. Zartman and Rubin, in studying power in negotiation, define it as “the perceived capacity of one side to produce an intended effect on another through a move that may involve the use of resources.[A]s Fisher and Ury have pointed out, the resources a party owns do not necessarily translate into effective negotiating power, which is much more context-specific. The authors cite the example of the US, which “is rich and has lots of nuclear bombs, but neither has been of much help in deterring terrorist actions or freeing hostages when they have been held in places like Beirut"
The common tactics under a power-based approach include coercion, intimidation, and using one’s status and resources to overpower opponents.
One tactic omitted from the list of power-based tactics is one of the most compelling -- the strategy used by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ghandi and, yes, anti-abortion activists -- bearing witness and shaming.
There are many moments of shaming and bearing witness in The Cove -- the moment when activist O'Barry holds his iPhone before the eyes of the Japanese official who has just told him that cateceans are killed quickly, with surgical precision (you can see that moment in the trailer here). There's the day O'Barry, who has been permanently barred from IWC's conferences, walks in with a flat screen television strapped to his chest and silently moves in front of each row of delegates, showing them the video of the slaughter in the Killing Cover. And then, at movie's end, the wrenching scene of O'Barry standing in the middle of a crosswalk in Tokyo, that same flat screen on his chest, silently bearing witness as thousands rush past him and a few, half a dozen perhaps, stop in their tracks to watch the footage of the fisherman in the Killing Cove that he and his team gathered at the risk of their freedom and perhaps their lives.
I vowed to be back in Taiji when the dolphin killing began. I’ve often been here alone, or accompanied by a few environmentalists. Sometimes, I was able to talk a major media organization into sending someone.
When I got off the bus at the Cove this afternoon, I was accompanied by my son Lincoln O’Barry’s film crew, a crew from Associated Press, Der Spiegel (the largest magazine in Germany), and the London Independent.
I was talking with the police, as the international journalists stood around listening, suddenly a camera crew arrived from Japan! And then another! And then still another!
You have to understand that this is SO IMPORTANT. These TV stations have REFUSED to cover the story in Taiji for years and years. NOW, for the first time, they have shown up, with cameras rolling.
The Cove movie led to the strong action by the city of Broome, Australia, in suspending the sister-city relationship with Taiji. So now, the Japanese media are sitting up and listening, for the first time.
[A]ll Japanese will soon know about the cover-up that has occurred by the government in refusing to stop mercury-contaminated dolphin meat from being sold to unsuspecting Japanese consumers and children.
But Taiji can change this image of shame, if they want to. I will be telling them that the town of Nantucket used to be the capitol of the whale killing industry in the US. Now, it uses its history of whaling combined with whale-watching to market tourism very successfully. Whales and dolphins are worth more alive than dead. Taiji can do this, too. But the killing has to stop.
Once shameful national behavior has been exposed (a contentious or power-based negotiation strategy) the weaker parties (people vs. governments) must build their negotiating strength through trust. As Power and Trust in Negotiation and Decision Making asserts:
Identification-based trust is grounded in empathy with another person’s desires and intentions and leads one to “take on the other’s value because of the emotional connection between them.” It often exists among friends. Fostering understanding and friendly ties may therefore be a step to engender identification-based trust. For example, Reagan and Gorbachev developed a cooperative relationship in the late 1980s partly because they had repeated face-to-face talks over the years. Reagan also sought to cultivate a non-hostile atmosphere in these talks by appealing to common interests, actively diffusing tensions and using his sense of humor. Because friendship and liking tend to generate trust and assent – sometimes in a subconscious fashion – Cialdini observes that salespersons often befriend their customers before promoting their products. Trusting someone in certain situations may thus come with risks of manipulation or exploitation
In asymmetrical power relationships, the building of trust among activists is necessary for the formation of a grass-roots coalition capable of overwhelming more powerful parties (perceived economic and national interests as well as that most powerful of impasse creators: the status quo) with passionate commitment to an idea and the hope that the idea can be made a reality.
O'Barry's documentary is a call to action that asks us to respond to our "better angels." If enough of us hear the call and respond, there is no power that can stop this movement to stop the killing.
As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, "the arc of history is long but it bends toward justice."
These are hard times and none of us is immune. I’ve been here before. In the early 1990s, my law firm announced we would ride out the economic crisis by henceforth buying legal pads without our firm name embossed on the binding. Layoffs of partners, associates and staff quickly followed. Some caught life rafts to other law firms; some were not so lucky. Those who stepped on others going up the compensation ladder were not treated well on their way back down. The water was cold and filled with sharks.
It seemed then, and seems now, that the entire profession has forgotten two critical principles of legal practice: clients, not profits, come first; and, partners see one another through the tough years in the same manner in which they share the profitable ones. Because people (our clients, our colleagues and our staff) are our only assets, I have five people-centered tips for surviving, perhaps even flourishing, in this challenging economic environment.
I reviewed with some dismay the July 12, 2009, post titled Mediators' Proposals: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which seemed to endorse counsel who deceive the mediator to push the negotiations to a mediator’s proposal./* I primarily litigate, but I devote a small percentage of my practice to serving as a mediator.
A mediator’s proposal can be a very effective tool for mediators and the parties to promote settlement when the negotiations have honestly and appropriately reached an impasse. The chance of the proposal generating a settlement, however, will increase greatly if the parties and attorneys respect the mediator and his or her opinion.
If the parties and attorneys respect the mediator, then they will respect the proposal, making it more likely that they will accept the proposal. Without respect, there is nothing more than a gambler’s hope that the proposal will be in an acceptable range. Further, if the lack of respect is mutual, then there is a risk that the mediator will subconsciously tilt the proposal in favor of the other side, which certainly will not promote settlement.
Every mediation has some elements of a game, but while the gamesmanship can involve concealment and even some sleight of hand, it should not devolve into deception. One example that has worked well where there is complete trust and respect between the mediator and at least one side is for that side to divulge the final offer near the outset of the session with the understanding that the mediator will have some latitude to dole out the total authority in bits and pieces with the hope of settling at or near that final number.
This is deceptive because the mediator is telling the other side that obtaining each “concession” is a hard fought battle, but it eliminates the risk of moving too quickly to the end game against an opponent who does not care what the opening number might be, but only wants to halve it (or double it) before the end of the day. This is deceptive because each private session with the side who divulged his or her final number creates an opportunity to discuss future vacations and how the kids are doing. If, however, the goal is to reach a settlement that works for all concerned and gives all parties a sense of accomplishment, then it is a fine tactic that promotes efficient negotiations, likely avoids altogether the need for a mediator’s proposal, and minimizes the fees of the attorneys and the mediator.
Candor and respect towards a mediator has an additional benefit that may not be of advantage to the immediate clients, but will promote productive future mediations on other matters. If I can tell my client that a particular mediator is good, that I respect that person, and will seriously consider everything that that person says, then the client is more likely to listen to what could be bad news about the case. This level of respect is rarely earned in the first session with a new mediator, but only after several mediations. Without candor and respect, the attorneys and parties just want to “win” without realizing that the cost of “victory” may be dearer than the settlement obtained through a positive and respectful mediation.
* Editor's comment: I did not mean to endorse duplicity on the part of counsel or the gaming of a mediator for the purpose of obtaining a favorable mediation proposal. I only meant to emphasize the fact that many attorneys can and do "game" the system, including as much manipulation of the mediator herself in the process.
-- Gregory Nerland
Akawie & LaPietra
1981 N. Broadway, #320
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
If you're worried about your law job becoming -- as they say in Britain - "redundant" or if you've already been laid off due to the recession, join Lawyer Connection which was born today as the result of a twitter conversation I had with Gwynne Monahan (who you can follow @econwriter).
Here's an exploration of what a mutual aid group is from the viewpoint of a social worker -- which speaks to me because I lived through my first husband's MSW in Social Work studies before he lived through my Law School experience (an eventual relationship-killer).
Mutual aid as group work technology can be understood as an exchange of help wherein the group member is both the provider as well as the recipient of help in service of achieving common group and individual goals (Borkman, 1999; Gitterman, 2006; Lieberman, 1983; Northen & Kurland, 2001; Schwartz, 1961; Shulman, 2006, Steinberg, 2004; Toseland & Siporin, 1986). The rationale for cultivating mutual aid in the group encounter is premised on mutual aid's resonance with humanistic values (Glassman, 2002) and the following propositions: 1) members have strengths, opinions, perspectives, information, and experiences that can be drawn upon to help others in the group; 2) helping others helps the helper, a concept known as the helper-therapy principle (Reissman, 1965) which has been empirically validated (Roberts et al, 1999); and 3) some types of help, such as confrontation, are better received when emanating from a peer rather than the worker (Shulman, 2006). Mutual aid transactions that occur amongst and between members stimulate cognitive and behavioral processes and yield therapeutic, supportive and empowering benefits for the members (Breton, 1990;Northen & Kurland, 2001; Shulman, 1986, 2006).
Obviously, we're not pursuing the therapeutic benefits of a mutual aid society as social worker Cicchetti is. Having been a member of such a group (a community-based women's credit union in the early 1970's for instance) I can say that the experience is not only economically, but also personally, enriching.
Let's not wait for the economy to improve. Let's start improving it TODAY. We are the change we want to see in the world.
wave of redundancies sweeping across the nation is forcing a number of employers, employees and their advisors such as lawyers and trade unions into conflict situation. As customers become slower and slower at paying added pressure is created for their suppliers and relationships become strained.
Because the "approach taken by those involved and their attitude in dealing with the conflict will have a significant impact on the outcome and the costs involved in finding a solution," Justin provides the following easy to implement solutions:
1 Avoid macho posturing – In an attempt to hide the weakness of their position some people are all bluff and bluster in conflict situations. . . . . (more)
2 De-personalise problems – My experience of disputes is that often things can happen due to personal issues between the individuals. It can be difficult to take the personalities out of a matter but believe me there are clear benefits. . . . (more)
3 Focus on your own emotions – In many work environments there are unwritten rules that emotions are not to be expressed. Is this really wise? . . . (more)
4 Listen – Effective communication starts with the speaker taking responsibility for understanding the language, perspective and experiences of the listener. . . . (more)
5 Analyse the Conflict – Research on problem solving indicates that the effectiveness of solutions increases significantly once the real problem is identified. . . . (more)
Justin Patten handles conflict for a living and whilst as a litigation solicitor he is familiar with the combat zone of the court room he much prefers to work with clients to achieve mediated solutions through negotiation and agreement. Contact Justin on 0844 800 3249 or email Justin here.
A White Paper with advice on How to save money, maintain business relationships and avoid negative publicity by embracing the power of mediation to resolve business and employee disputes. Download the PDF here.
You can subscribe to Justin's invaluable eZine here.
I'm re-posting below an article published in both the Los Angeles and the San Francisco Daily Journals (the local legal rags) about the dangers inherent in email communication. I do so because I had several complaints about the use of abusive email by in-house counsel last week at my negotiation training as well as in my twitter network from attorneys exasperated with combative emailers who refuse to take telephone calls (see post about conflict avoidance here)
My advice? Use the tried and true tit-for-tat strategy: retaliate for uncooperative conduct and be quick to forgive as soon as your bargaining partners bring themselves back into line. The advice I gave on twitter (@vpynchon) this morning was simple and pointed: tell opposing counsel that you will program your email system to automatically delete all of their emails until they pick up the telephone and give you the courtesy of a return call.
Below, my Daily Journal article on the Dangers of Using Email During Litigation.
This story occurs in the spring of 2001, in a hotel room in Toronto, at 3 a.m., the morning of a deposition I've been preparing to take of an aging petrochemical engineer.
My personal 2001 "future" is mostly about my instantaneous access to information and "real time" communication via the "killer app" -- email -- telegraphic, spontaneous, unnuanced, and about to get me in a great deal of trouble. (See Vanity Fair's must-read oral history of the internet here.)
There's an associate back in Los Angeles, you see, the quality of whose work and the strength of whose dedication to the case at hand is in alarming decline. More troubling, his work is deteriorating at the same time I'm taking old fashioned passenger jets from province to province to take the testimony of as many witnesses still living who know how 500+ toxic waste sites got that way in the first place.
Did I say it's 3 a.m.? The associate I'm thinking about failed to get me the outline I need for tomorrow's deposition on time -- or at all. The "hard copies" that were supposed to be waiting for me when I arrived at the hotel have gone missing. I'm tired. I'm hungry. I'm lonely. And I'm angry.
Worst of all, I'm composing an email to my associate about my considerable disappointment in his recent performance. There is a moment, a split second, in which my finger hovers over the "send" button while a rational voice in my head says "no." Then I push "send."
Email Makes Settlement More Difficult
More and more often when I'm meeting counsel on the morning of a mediation, they're also meeting one another for the first time. In fact, they often have not even previously spoken to one another unless they've met in Court ("good morning, counsel") or in depositions (eyes averted; objections made). Increasingly, by far the vast percentage of their communications have taken place via email.
And that's a problem.
There's no question that litigation escalates whatever conflict existed when our client first walks in our door. We don't, after all, make requests. We issue demands. We don't seek concessions. We insist upon them. We don't make inquiries. We require responses. And we're not such great listeners. Rather, we impatiently tap our feet in Court, waiting for counsel to finish his argument (which we've heard dozens of times before) so we can press our case.
Are these bad things? Not necessarily. So long as we understand what we're doing and the likely results our conduct will have, escalation is not necessarily worse than maintaining a steady state or even deescalating conflict.
The problem for most of us is that we don't know what we're doing and we don't understand the breadth and depth of the likely repercussions.
"an increase in the intensity of a conflict as a whole.” Escalation is important . . . because when conflict escalates it “is intensified in ways that are sometimes exceedingly difficult to undo.” One reason why escalated conflicts are so hard to undo is that when more aggressive tactics are used by one side they are often mirrored by the other side, producing a vicious cycle.
Email, Friedman argues, unnecessarily, and often drastically, escalates conflict in ways none of us fully appreciate. Unlike conversation -- in person or by telephone -- we are not
physically present with others, can’t see their faces or hear their voices, and can’t give or get immediate responses. The lack of contextual clues . . . impose high “understanding costs” on participants in e-mail interactions, making it harder to successfully ground the interaction. . . . /* [T]the inability to carefully time actions and reactions . . . makes communication less precise.
E-mail Not Only Lacks Social Clues, it is "Profoundly A-Social."
Sitting in my Toronto hotel room at 3 a.m., reviewing online documents for tomorrow's deposition and now "penning" an email to my errant associate, I am, argues Friedman, not simply making communication more difficult, I have become "profoundly asocial" as my associate will also likely be when he reviews my email the following day. "E-mails," writes Friedman,
are typically received and written while the writer is in isolation, staring at a computer screen – perhaps for hours at a time, so that awareness of the humanness of the counterpart may be diminished.
As evidence, Friedman cites research in which subjects played the "prisoner's dilemma" game against a computer. Not only did the gamers act asocially in this context, "many continued to act asocially even when told that they were now playing with people (through the computer)."
E-mail, Friedman concludes, "often occurs in a context devoid of awareness of human sensibilities."
The Precise Difficulties Caused by E-Mail Communications?
Use of aggressive tactics. If e-mail communication encourages the use of more aggressive tactics during a dispute, or makes a counterpart’s tactics appear more aggressive, then escalation will be triggered.
Changes in view of other. Escalation is more likely if e-mail causes negative changes in psychological processes (e.g., perceptions and attitudes) towards the other, such as (1) seeing the other as unfair, (2) lessening empathy toward them, (3) increasing deindividuation and anonymity, or (4) or seeing the other as immoral.
Weakened interpersonal bonds. If e-mail weakens social bonds with the other, then escalation is more likely (e.g., due to reduced inhibitions for aggression).
Problems are difficult to resolve. If the communication limitations of e-mail (e.g., asynchrony deficits) make problems more difficult to solve, conflict may be escalated as frustrated disputants move from mild to more aggressive strategies to achieve their goals.
As a result, says Friedman, there are "higher rates of escalation when disputes are managed via e-mail than via face-to-face communication or other relatively rich media . . . such as telephone conversations." /**
Back in Los Angeles the Following Day
You knew this story was not going to have a happy ending. What a cranky, tired, stressed partner types into her computer at 3 a.m. and what a fully awake associate reads with his morning coffee the following day are, as Friedman stresses, two quite different things. And though I've rarely had a face-to-face disagreement with a colleague that cannot be mended by further communication, apologies, explanations and the like, this particular communication caused a rift that I was unable to heal.
This experience from several years ago, coupled with my recent mediation experiences, makes me want to advise, exhort, plead, beseech, entreat and pray that you commence every litigation with a telephone call rather than a "demand" letter or email. And that you continue to communicate with opposing counsel by telephone or, even more radically, in person over a meal, throughout the litigation to make sure channels of communication are as open and clear as possible.
The difficulties saved will not only benefit your personal life (reduce stress, increase fellow-feeling and the like) but will benefit your client as well -- in case efficiencies and better settlements all around.
*/ "Grounding" is the process
by which two parties in an interaction achieve a shared sense of understanding about a communication and a shared sense of participation in the conversation. Grounding is important because “speech is evanescent...so Alan must try to speak only when he thinks Barbara is attending to, hearing, and trying to understand what he is saying, and she must guide him by giving evidence that she is doing just this."
** / There's much more to be learned from this article, but these highlights should tell you whether further reading is in your interest or worth your time.
For those who live under fascism, oppression, or tyranny, or face a fierce, unprincipled adversary, or are afraid even to exercise their own freedom, it may become necessary to engage in conflict, resist oppression, reject settlement, and raise their voices against the silence of acquiescence . . . . [T]here are limits to the desirability of ending [certain conflicts] prematurely, without a fair and honest examination of the underlying issues, and without the full participation of people whose lives will be irrevocably damaged by them . . . Collaboration implies mutuality and partnership, and even compromise involves give and take, but fascism merely [takes] giving nothing in return.
There comes a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part, you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, the people who own it, that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all.
One might criticize this rhetoric as being a bit overblown for the context in which the students were operating but they were young; had been taught in public schools to believe in and cherish freedom; and, were stunned to find that their on-campus speech was regulated, controlled, and, punished. Savio's voice is the voice of all peoples who find their freedom suppressed or denied altogether.
So what do we, mediators and interest-based negotiators, do when confronted with tyranny? Cloke's partial response (see full article here) is as follows:
Genuine, lasting peace is impossible in the absence of justice. Where injustice prevails, peace becomes merely a way of masking and compounding prior crimes, impeding necessary changes, and rationalizing injustices. As the Trappist monk Thomas Merton presciently observed:
To some men peace merely means the liberty to exploit other people without fear of retaliation or interference. To others peace means the freedom to rob others without interruption. To still others it means the leisure to devour the goods of the earth without being compelled to interrupt their pleasures to feed those whom their greed is starving. And to practically everybody peace simply means the absence of any physical violence that might cast a shadow over lives devoted to the satisfaction of their animal appetites for comfort and leisure.... [T]heir idea of peace was only another form of war.
When millions lack the essentials of life, peace becomes a sanction for continued suffering, and compromise a front for capitulation, passivity, and acceptance of injustice. This led anthropologist Laura Nader to criticize mediation for its willingness to “trade justice for harmony.”
True peace requires justice and a dedication to satisfying basic human needs, otherwise it is merely the self-interest of the satisfied, the ruling clique, the oppressors, the victors in search of further spoils.
For peace to be achieved in the Middle East or elsewhere, it is essential that we neither trivialize conflict nor become stuck in the language of good and evil, but work collaboratively and compassionately to redress the underlying injustices and pain each side caused the other. Ultimately, this means sharing power and resources, advantages and disadvantages, successes and failures, and satisfying everyone’s legitimate interests. It means collaborating and making decisions together. It means giving up being right and assuming others are wrong. It means taking the time to work through our differences, and making our opponents' interests our own.
In helping to make these shifts and move from Apartheid to integration, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that for people to reach forgiveness, they needed to exchange personal stories of anger, fear, pain, jealousy, guilt, grief, and shame; to empathize, recognize, and acknowledge each other’s interests; to engage in open, honest dialogue; to reorient themselves to the future; to participate in rituals of collective grief that released their pain and loss; and to mourn those who died because neither side had the wisdom or courage to apologize for their assumptions of evil, or the evil they caused their opponents and themselves.
At the same time, they also needed to improve the daily lives of those who suffered and were treated unjustly under apartheid. Where shanty towns coexist with country clubs, peace cannot be lasting or secure. Where some go hungry while others are well-fed, terror and violence are nourished. In the end, it comes down to a question of sharing wealth and power, realizing that we are all one family, and that an injury to one is genuinely an injury to all.
Making justice an integral part of conflict resolution and the search for peaceful solutions means not merely settling conflicts, but resolving, transforming, and transcending them by turning them into levers of social dialogue and learning, catalysts of community and collaboration, and commitments to political, economic, and social change. By failing to take these additional remedial steps, we make justice secondary to peace, undermine both, guarantee the continuation of our conflicts, and prepare the way for more to come.
By the way, tomorrow is Ken's birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY KEN!!!
As every lawyer knows and most students of high school geometry must learn in mastering "proofs," the answer often comes first, the rationale later. I used to say, "I'm a litigator, I can rationalize anything." As a mediator, my rationalizations have turned from the way in which facts can be shoe-horned into causes of action or affirmative defenses to the way in which harm arising from a dispute (including, most assuredly, the moral harm of injustice) can be monetized.
Now David Brooks in the New York Times (which appears to have disabled the "copy" function/1) tells us that philosophy has been sacrificed on the alter of emotion in his column The End of Philosophy.
As Brooks explains, reasoning comes after moral judgment and "is often guided by the emotions that preceded it." The good news is that those emotions are not merely competitive. Brooks again:
Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other, and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don't just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators.
My mediation experience teaches me that the "soft" arts of influence, empathy, community-building, and prejudice reduction, are as important (and often more important) to the successful (i.e., satisfying) resolution of a lawsuit than our prized ability to parse the evidence, rationalize away the bad and privilege the good to sell our "proof" to judge or jury.
Most importantly, I find that when attorneys' clients leave a mediation with the belief that a certain rough justice has been obtained, they are more satisfied with the outcome, and with their attorneys' representation of their interests, than they might have been had they left with 10% more change jingling in their pockets.
The experts who study mediation tell us that "neutrals" don't make the difference between settling or not settling. The cases will settle with or without us. The difference mediators make is not settlement, but client satisfaction. Satisfied clients are an absolute necessity for a successful legal practice at any time. In these hard times, legal practices may fail in the absence of resolutions addressing the justice issues your client sought out a lawyer to resolve in the first place.
Money is the instrument. But justice is the issue.
Discouraged by the adversarial process? Looking for lawyers who will handle your commercial dispute without going to "war" with all the expense and collateral damage that involves?
This excellent talk by Webb has been viewed 202 times, while "Drunk Lawyer" below has been viewed by nearly 300,000 people. It's not surprising that drunken trial lawyers are far more entertaining than some old guy talking about attorneys bringing potluck to negotiate the resolution of a lawsuit.
The question is this: Do you want to pay for the entertainment of conflict or resolve it and move on with your plans to create a profitable future for your company and its employees.
"Drunk Lawyer" is, after all, free on YouTube!
Thanks to Cutting Edge Law for gathering together the Stu Webb and other videos on the revolution in legal practice that's being fomented right around the corner -- just about the time the BigLaw model fails along with dinosaurs like General Motors.
You didn't hear it here first. But you will hear it here often.
This is the fourth video of this painful encounter on YouTube but it's the one in which the attorney is asked to "blow" a breathalyzer for the Court.
NB: All names and situations altered to protect my own and my "opponents'" anonymity and to honor the confidential nature of the mediation.
This experience is going to take a while to digest. First let me tell you what was GREAT about my recent mediation experience.
I hired an attorney who was a full-time, highly experienced mediator.
Because the mediation concerned a long-term contractual relationship with an emotional breach and immediate cessation of business, I choose a community mediator because I wanted someone skilled not simply in pressing the parties for compromise, but in "transformative" (whole dispute) mediation (about which more later).
With two talented community co-mediators, I experienced the freedom of expression in joint session that confidentiality provides.
I learned how much courage it takes for all parties to face one another and talk about their own part in causing the dispute-creating series of events.
I experienced the nearly invisible but critical support and encouragement provided by an "audience" (lawyers, mediators, insurance representatives) "schooled" "on the spot" in respectful listening.
Though the unguarded nature of my conflict-narrative and the pain caused by listening to my former partners' account initially felt like walking a tight rope without a net, as my story proceeded without interruption or apparent contempt from my "opponents" a great sense of comfort and freedom came over me. I'm an old hand myself at creating an atmosphere of hope and safety so I didn't think that "trick" would work on me. I found, however, that the mediators' ability to assure me of the confidential nature of the process and the benefits of frank discussion, enabled me to tell my truth, in as multi-dimensional, textured and admittedly fallible manner possible. It amazed me -- as the client -- that so subtle shift in the atmosphere of the room would permit me to say, in all sincerity, that "though our experiences of the same series of events diverge wildly, I don't believe either of us is lying. We've simply strung the facts together in a different way from opposing points of view."
The opportunity the co-mediators gave me to apologize for "my part in the dispute" while still asserting the strength of my "position" that I would not be blackmailed, bullied or defeated, left me ready to settle or proceed without feelings of fear, shame, or anger.
To the extent I'll be able to tell this story (and I'm not certain I'll be able to until many years after its final resolution) the readers of this blog will be the first to know.
It's not magic. It does, however, rest upon the mediators' wholehearted belief that human beings desire reconciliation as much or more than they desire money or the "stuff" that money provides. It is premised on the elementary principle that the disputants would rather be happy than right.
Best advice to arise out of this session: when you're mediating, hire an attorney-mediator to represent you just as you'd hire an insurance attorney if you had a dispute with your carrier. One of the smartest decisions I've ever made.
Good resources for transformative mediation practice:
FORUM (FORUM & FOCUS) • Jan. 08, 2009 Every Case Is a Winding Road
By Victoria Pynchon
I have a confession to make. I am about to become embroiled in litigation. Though I preach the religion of negotiated resolution, I've nevertheless hired litigation counsel to assert my rights and pursue my remedies.
This is one of those moments when the rubber of our ideology meets the road of personal circumstance, the moment we are called upon to decide to walk our talk or take the more familiar road.
For more than 30 years - first as paralegal, then as a law student and finally as a commercial litigator - I'd been swimming in the waters of legal rights and remedies. The adversarial ocean had become so familiar a habitat that it rarely occurred to me that I was under the surface. One day toward the end of my first year of mediation practice, a much more experienced friend hooked me by the cheek and threw me on the deck of his ship, where I was gasping for air.
He'd asked me to co-mediate a will contest without the benefit on my clergy - lawyers with experience in the field. The "fish out of water" conversation that ensued went something like this:
Joe Mediator: "The family doesn't want to hire a lawyer. They just want to mediate."
Vickie: "But I know absolutely nothing about wills, trusts and estates. The parties need to talk to a lawyer first to learn their rights and remedies."
Joe: "You still don't get it, do you?"
Vickie: "Get what?"
Joe: "It's not about rights and remedies. It's about interests."
Vickie: "But how can they evaluate their interests without knowing their rights and remedies?"
Joe: "Because they're not interested in what the law says - they want to do what they believe is right for them as a family under the circumstances."
These people wanted to resolve a legal dispute without knowing their legal rights? Were they nuts? I understood "interests" - they were all the rage in ADR circles - the desires, fears and needs of the parties that drove them to take legal positions. Sometimes those interests were non-economic - the need for revenge, the desire to be personally accountable, the fear of failure, the hope for forgiveness and reconciliation. Others, though economic, could not be remedied by way of damages - better access to foreign markets, for instance, or wider distribution chains; the acquisition of better manufacturing processes; or, the retention of executives with "pull" in Washington. But all of those matters were secondary to legal rights and remedies, weren't they? You had to know what your rights were.
Check out Liz Straus'25 Traits of Twitter Folks I Admire and 25 Folks Who Have Them. These "traits" are in fact disciplines. Achieving them on a consistent basis is work but work worth doing. Use them to guide your way in the new year and your conflicts with your fellows will decrease and your fortunes rise! Thanks Liz! Click on the link above for the Twitter "Folks" who have these traits and follow them.
don’t seek to be the center of any universe.
find great conversations and get to know the people there.
realize that every venue has it’s own culture and rules.
do their own talking and their own listening.
talk mostly about the accomplishments of others.
ask intriguing questions that invite others to join the conversation.
don’t worry when folks don’t respond to something they say.
have time for new friends, talk to them, listen to them, read their sites and bios, ask them questions — avoid assumptions.
have a different conversation with every individual and every business.
take embarrassing or private conversations offline.
are inclusive and encourage folks who exclude people to exclude themselves.
shout out good news, help in emergencies, and celebrate with everyone.
say please, thank you, and you’re welcome, and mean them.
are incredibly curious about what works, what doesn’t work, seek feedback often, and look to improve what they do.
study the industry and trends, watch how things occur, share information about those freely, but never break a trust.
offer advice when people ask. Help whenever they can.
aren’t “shameless.” Ask for help in ways that folks are proud to pitch in.
are constantly connecting people and ideas in business conversations that are helpful, not hypeful.
get paid to strategize business, build tactical plans, but won’t “monetize” relationships.
ignore the trolls.
keep their promises.
can be transparent without being naked … most of us look and behave best in public with our clothes ON.
listen to the hive mind, but think their own thoughts.
send back channel “hellos” to friends when there’s no time to talk.
understand that the Internet is public and has no eraser.
The relationships with people — social in social media — is what is changing things. It makes a business experience worth looking forward to and turns a transaction into a relationship. It’s different online because I can’t see you. When I meet folks who make that distance and darkness disappear, I respect and admire them.
"Twitter posts are like any other electronically stored information," explained Douglas E. Winter, a partner at Bryan Cave in Washington, D.C. and head of the firm's Electronic Discovery unit. "They are discoverable and should therefore be approached with all appropriate caution."The increasing popularity of Twitter has made electronic discovery even more complicated.
Litigators! Remember, you and your opponent(s) have a choice. It's not only in arbitration that you can make your own law, but by way of stipulated case management orders cooperatively crafted with an eye toward relative cost and likely benefit (ask me for a template!)
I don't need to tell you that clients are cutting back in 2009. The litigation practice that thrives will be the most efficient and effective dispute resolution vehicle on the road.
And now, for your moment of zen - Charlie Dickens.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce drones on. This scarecrow of a suit has, in course of time, become so complicated that no man alive knows what it means. The parties to it understand it least, but it has been observed that no two Chancery lawyers can talk about it for five minutes without coming to a total disagreement as to all the premises. Innumerable children have been born into the cause; innumerable young people have married into it; innumerable old people have died out of it. Scores of persons have deliriously found themselves made parties in Jarndyce and Jarndyce without knowing how or why; whole families have inherited legendary hatreds with the suit. The little plaintiff or defendant who was promised a new rocking-horse when Jarndyce and Jarndyce should be settled has grown up, possessed himself of a real horse, and trotted away into the other world. Fair wards of court have faded into mothers and grandmothers; a long procession of Chancellors has come in and gone out; the legion of bills in the suit have been transformed into mere bills of mortality; there are not three Jarndyces left upon the earth perhaps since old Tom Jarndyce in despair blew his brains out at a coffee-house in Chancery Lane; but Jarndyce and Jarndyce still drags its dreary length before the court, perennially hopeless.
Jarndyce and Jarndyce has passed into a joke. That is the only good that has ever come of it. It has been death to many, but it is a joke in the profession. Every master in Chancery has had a reference out of it. Every Chancellor was "in it," for somebody or other, when he was counsel at the bar. Good things have been said about it by blue-nosed, bulbous-shoed old benchers in select port- wine committee after dinner in hall. Articled clerks have been in the habit of fleshing their legal wit upon it. The last Lord Chancellor handled it neatly, when, correcting Mr. Blowers, the eminent silk gown who said that such a thing might happen when the sky rained potatoes, he observed, "or when we get through Jarndyce and Jarndyce, Mr. Blowers"--a pleasantry that particularly tickled the maces, bags, and purses.
How many people out of the suit Jarndyce and Jarndyce has stretched forth its unwholesome hand to spoil and corrupt would be a very wide question. From the master upon whose impaling files reams of dusty warrants in Jarndyce and Jarndyce have grimly writhed into many shapes, down to the copying-clerk in the Six Clerks' Office who has copied his tens of thousands of Chancery folio-pages under that eternal heading, no man's nature has been made better by it. In trickery, evasion, procrastination, spoliation, botheration, under false pretences of all sorts, there are influences that can never come to good. The very solicitors' boys who have kept the wretched suitors at bay, by protesting time out of mind that Mr. Chizzle, Mizzle, or otherwise was particularly engaged and had appointments until dinner, may have got an extra moral twist and shuffle into themselves out of Jarndyce and Jarndyce. The receiver in the cause has acquired a goodly sum of money by it but has acquired too a distrust of his own mother and a contempt for his own kind. Chizzle, Mizzle, and otherwise have lapsed into a habit of vaguely promising themselves that they will look into that outstanding little matter and see what can be done for Drizzle--who was not well used--when Jarndyce and Jarndyce shall be got out of the office. Shirking and sharking in all their many varieties have been sown broadcast by the ill-fated cause; and even those who have contemplated its history from the outermost circle of such evil have been insensibly tempted into a loose way of letting bad things alone to take their own bad course, and a loose belief that if the world go wrong it was in some off-hand manner never meant to go right.
Thus, in the midst of the mud and at the heart of the fog, sits the Lord High Chancellor in his High Court of Chancery.
Psychologists tell us that we are not only "meaning making" beings, but that we are all born conspiracy theorists. Viewing a field of nonsensical, unrelated data, we naturally begin to "connect the dots" - to organize the information into a coherent, and often compelling, narrative.
Pattern making or conspiracy theorizing is a human survival mechanism. We have never been the fastest or the biggest creatures on the planet. We don't have the sharpest teeth or blend in all that well with the scenery. Our soft, easily punctured skin is not covered with a protective shell. In a pinch, we can't take a running leap and fly away from land-bound carnivores who might make us their prey.
We are, however, the canniest creatures on the planet. To avoid the tiger who made lunch of our best comrade, we surveyed the scene and committed the pattern of otherwise unrelated details to memory. Five banyan trees, a narrow stream, and, a pile of rubble left by a recent avalanche means "there are tigers here."
Couple this with Fundamental Attribution Error and you have all of the ingredients necessary to blame inadvertently caused harm on elaborate conspiracies cooked up by our untrustworthy companions - Fundamental Attribution Error being our universal tendency to over-emphasize the role of others' negative personality traits to explain why harm befell us.
So it is with our legal adversaries. Once the channels of communication have been severed by the filing of a lawsuit, attorneys and clients alike begin to make up "what really happened" based on predispositions, scattered conversations, faulty memories and scraps of documentation.
Excerpt and video below but a reading of the entire post is a must for anyone looking for reasons to believe that we can reach one another across political, cultural, religious, social and economic divides.
The music develops by a process of answer and call. One of them plays a riff, or a short section of music, which is then followed by the other. They react to one another responding to and developing upon the riff they have just heard. By doing so they produce this amazing music in a memorable scene that is part of cinema folklore.
It represents a rare moment of optimism in what is an otherwise unbearably dark, oppressive film.
In the process of exchanging these riffs the protagonists are effectively collaborating. They are communicating. We can see their riffs as an analogy for talking. The riffs work where the spoken word does not. Drew and the Banjo boy clearly develop and enjoy a relationship while they are playing.
Thanksgiving Day begins a season that reminds many of us that our earliest negotiation experiences were those with our family.
When I was a child, these were the issues on the Thanksgiving bargaining table
Who gets to snap the wishbone (does anyone do this anymore?)
Who gets to sit next to gramma
Who sets the table and who does the dishes
Whether my sister and I have to eat what we don't like (me cranberry sauce; she vegetables of any kind) to "earn" a piece of pumpkin (my sister) or pecan (me) pie
Later, in adolescence, the issues changed
must I follow the parental injunction not to talk about civil rights, pre-marital sex, world poverty, and, the Viet Nam War ALL DAY long
do I have to change out of my blue jeans, workshirt and desert boots for dinner
may I have two Thanksgivings - one with my father & one with my mom & step-dad
MUST I be nice to my sister's new husband
and, of course, who sets the table and who does the dishes (some things never change)
Still later, when my sister and I had married and moved out of town
whose table would we gather around for the holidays: mom's, mine or my sisters
how to accommodate the newly vegetarian in the family
could I skip Thanksgiving in San Diego in exchange for Christmas there (without my mother bursting into tears)
and, of course, who sets the table and who does the dishes
Thanksgiving is my own favorite holiday because there are no gift-giving obligations; everyone (more or less) celebrates the same holiday regardless of religion or national origin; there is no limit on the amount of cream and butter that can be consumed at a single sitting; and, everyone is expected to express gratitude rather than complaint.
Not everyone, however, is lucky enough to have family or even friends with whom to gather for Thanksgiving. I have had these times in my own life, when Thanksgiving is a particularly forlorn and isolating day. It's never mattered to me whether I was economically secure or poverty stricken on Thanksgiving. What mattered were those Thanksgivings when I had no family with whom to gather and no friends with whom to share a holiday meal. For those whose lack of family arises from outright rejection (many young gays in West Hollywood or throw-away kids on the streets of Hollywood) there are few days of the year that are more wrenching.
For the lonely and the forlorn this Thanksgiving, I'm posting the following resources and adding this: not just the good, but the bad is fleeting as well.
Around here, public officials and celebrities pretty much have the T-day soup kitchen duties cornered. Don't despair if all of the opportunities to serve dinner on T-day are taken; there is much else you can do to be of service to those less fortunate than you.
If you're in recovery in the Los Angeles area, I have good news for you. Many of the daily 3,000 local meeting groups have 24-hour meetings over the Thanksgiving weekend and many serve Thanksgiving dinner. Check the local directory (here) for a meeting near you (the national meeting finder is here).
Those who are already trained to answer telephones at the L.A. Central Office might give Harvey a call and volunteer to serve as the saving voice on the other end of the telephone during hard to cover hours such as the midnight to dawn shift. The most recent issue of Hello Central (here) notes that the
Los Angeles Central Office continues to be in need of volunteer telephone workers. The only requirement is a minimum of one year sobriety. We need people who will show up when they say they will. Contact Central Office: (323) 936-4343, and ask for Harvey or Langston.
My husband returned from our local farmers market the other day with the story of a woman in line who was making an entire Thanksgiving dinner just for herself and seemed cheerful about it. Now there's a woman who's made peace with her life. For those who might find the solo T-day dinner a tiny bit depressing, you could cook up dishes for others. Here are some organizations to which you could be of service in that way.
Since all four of us are frequent flyers, a lively discussion ensued about ways the airlines could deliver entertainment at lesser cost.
Sean's life-partner, the rocket scientist, Tony, wasn't chiming in as usual. Only when the conversation flagged did we notice that he had one of those "I'm about to invent something" looks on his face.
"You know," Tony finally offered, chopsticks hovering in mid-air, "producers ought to offer unreleased movies to U.S. Air in exchange for the airlines making willing passengers available as focus groups. U.S. Air would be able to offer its passengers something better than the other airlines -- movies that haven't hit the theaters yet - and the production companies would probably pay the airline a fee for the focus group service."
This is why people say this or that doesn't require you to be a rocket scientist. These are the types of innovative solutions Tony calls up daily on a moment's notice. His take-out dinner proposal was what negotiation gurus are talking when they suggest that bargaining parties use their negotiation for the purpose of creating value.
having created new value, negotiators must still divide the resulting goods. Unfortunately, the competitive strategies used to claim value tend to undermine the cooperative strategies needed to create value. The exaggeration and concealment needed for effective competition is directly opposed to the open sharing of information needed to find joint gains. Conversely taking an open cooperative approach makes one vulnerable to the hard bargaining tactics to a competitive negotiator.
After eight years of catastrophic Republican misrule—in the midst of economic crisis and rising unemployment, in a nation plagued by ruinous energy costs and inflation, bank failures, and staggering public and private corruption—an eloquent, charismatic, intelligent Democratic candidate was locked in a statistical tie with a doddering old hack whose primary argument for his claim to the most powerful office on earth is that he was shot down over Vietnam and tortured for five years. Indeed, this remained the case even after McCain demonstrated beyond all doubt, in his impetuous selection of a ludicrously unsuitable vice- presidential candidate, that he lacked the good judgment that is the primary qualification for the job. If the Democratic Party loses this election, then it should forever concede the presidency.
Ouch! I read this magazine for the same reason I watch Fox News. To upset my own comfortable ideologies. That's the trouble with us liberals -- we're always fretting about being fair, when, according to Harper's Roger Hodge we're just a big bunch of conflict-avoidant pussies.
Conflict in politics is not a metaphor, and as with any fight, the audience is likely to get involved. That is the essence of politics. A campaign that decides in advance that voters are tired of negative campaigning, that they are sick of partisan attacks and will respond only to positive messages, has stupidly left the field of battle. The people who truly dislike political combat are presumably among the 95 million who do not vote. Senator Barack Obama, a sophisticated and intelligent man with sophisticated and intelligent advisers, promises to change Washington, to eliminate the tone of partisan rancor, to foster a new spirit of brotherhood and cooperation. Poor lamb, he wishes to lie down with lions. But the Kingdom has not come.
Unfortunately, the sovereign voter can do little, on his own, to remedy the situation, especially if he happens not to live in Florida or Ohio. Yes, he can make a campaign contribution, a slightly more effective form of voting, but unless the Obama campaign decides to wage a more creative and destructive war, casting monetary ballots remains an empty gesture. (Of course one can also join the battle personally, perhaps by repeating the rumors about John McCain’s Alz heimer’s meds or the Sarah Palin sex tape.) Ultimately, we return to the problem of political will, to the Democratic Party, to the commitment of its party bosses to prevail, finally, in this election.
We can hope for change, that the Republicans will make some fatal error, or that Obama’s party will fight hard enough to persuade a decisive number of “low information” voters that John McCain is not only a liar but a menace to our children’s future. Recent precedents, however, are not encouraging. The Republican Party lied its way through eight years of criminal misrule while Democrats mostly just cowered in a back room. Now, faced with a clumsy deception about whether Sarah Palin sought an earmark for a small town in Alaska, Obama exclaims, “Come on! I mean, words mean something, you can’t just make stuff up.” Oh, yes, Barack, we can.
In the same issue that suggests we dirty our hands by calling John McCain a liar and the Bush administration's "misrule" criminal, we read that Obama is a detached blank screen upon which voters can project any quality they like (or dislike) because . . . well . . . his mother was lonely and so is he:
Obama wants to believe in the common good as a way of providing a fullness to experience that avoids the slide into nihilism. But sometimes I don’tknow if he knows what belief is and what it would be to hold such a belief. It all seems so distant and opaque. The persistent presence of the mother’s dilemma—the sense of loneliness,doubt, and abandonment—seems palpable and ineliminable. We must believe, but we can’t believe. Perhaps this is the tragedy that some of us see in Obama: a change we can believe in and the crushing realization that nothing will change.
This is usually the point at which my own McCain-supporting mother breaks in with "honey, you know, you can think too much." And after years, decades really, of finding this refrain irritating, I finally agree with her about the thinking part if not about her taste in Presidential candidates.
Like the Obama caricatured in this month's Harpers as an ineffective dreamer as intent on replacing his deceased mother's lack of faith with liberal-Christian-do-gooding as Oliver Stone suggests "W" was intent on finally pleasing Daddy, I simply choose to have faith in the stated values of the Democratic party. I continue to believe that over time, we can do better as a nation through consensus and problem-solving, collaboration and compromise, than we can by adopting the tactics of the world's strong-arm leaders and disciples of discord.
The Good News
Assuming that the guy I think Obama is -- highly educated, articulate, and idealistically dedicated to serving the common welfare -- actually exist on the political scene (and I will not give up this faith any more readily that others would renounce their own religions) I believe them to be riding the bow-wave of transformation. I have staked my professional life on this faith in my fellows' ability to work toward the common good, abandoning the extremely lucrative practice of legal battle in exchange for the far less financially rewarding practice of collaborative negotiated conflict resolution.
Who are the real cowards here and who the heroes? People who refuse to negotiate face-to-face "without pre-condition" ("we won't discuss settlement unless they're willing to put $10 million on the table first") and without the protection of several layers of legal counsel? Or those who are willing to test the rectitude of their "position" by sitting across a table with their opponent to frankly discuss their mutual role in whatever commercial or personal catastrophe flowed from the intersection at which their (mis)fortunes collided?
So I will continue to brave reading Harpers (which discourages me) and risk the challenge to my world view of Fox News commentary (which so often enrages me) on the off-chance that my religion -- tolerance; compassion; collective effort; empathy and the like, has more staying power than the religion of hate; discord; and, denial.
And I will also continue to believe that none of us could ever possibly be right.
The first thing we mediators are taught (after digesting the imperative to "be conscious") is that people in conflict need to be in an atmosphere of hope and safety to be able to: (1) recognize the point of view of another; (2) be accountable for his/her own "part" in the dispute; and, (3) generate creative solutions to bust past impasse.
Perhaps the good times are in fact dead. And certainly someone thinking of forming the umpteenth "Web 2.0-widget-to-grab-audience-and-find-advertisers" ought to pause to think whether they really have some kind of defined competitive advantage that can translate into a sustainable business.
But real customers continue to face real problems. And as always, innovators who figure out different ways to solve those problems--and make money doing so--will have opportunities to create new growth businesses. In fact, the creative destruction unleashed by a crisis always opens up opportunities for innovation.
As a simple example, consider a New York based startup called On Deck Capital, Inc. As described in Monday's Wall Street Journal, the company loans money to small businesses. Instead of relying on individual loan officers to pour over episodic financial information and make decisions, the company has an algorithmic approach that uses software to analyze a company's day-to-day activities in a non-obtrusive way to assess credit worthiness. Its loans feature higher interest rates than loans from most banks, but lower than alternative sources.
The company launched in May, and has already distributed $10 million in loans. It has suffered very few defaults. The current credit crisis and hesitancy of many banks to loan to even the best-run small businesses creates substantial opportunity for On Deck to extend its model.
Earlier this week I was asked the following question by a concerned General Counsel: how can we help our employees grapple with on-the-job justice issues without leading them to believe that our proposed solutions are untrustworthy.
Our company spends an inordinate amount of time explaining disability, workers comp and federal employment law to employees who misunderstand what their rights are, or do not give us the right information to help them get the help they need.
Of course, we are the big bad employer, so any information we give them is suspect. I have considered hiring a social worker as a case manager/advocate for these people, but that position would just be interpreted as another tool of the evil employer out to keep them out of work/make them go back to work in violation of their best interests, so it would be a waste.
We would LOVE if there was an independent agency that would assign a case worker, not to work as an attorney for the employees, but as an advocate to help them understand their rights and access the system correctly. I would gladly pay to fund this service.
Then I realized, if the employer, or a group of employers, funded this employee advocacy agency, employees would think the advocates were biased toward the employers and were just in a sham relationship to deprive them of their rights to serve the interest of the employer.
Now, I do not believe this would be the case. I trust in the professionalism and ethics of mediators, but I do believe that uneducated and single users would form that opinion. Professor Murray's opinion reinforces that conclusion, even though at first glance, he would seem to be "educated."
But, is bigger government the answer. My experience with the EEOC is that they want employers to do MORE than is required by law. We have had success with mediators after complaints are filed, but my goal is to get the employees what they need when they need it, not have a mediator help us fix it after time has run out.
What are your thoughts on this?
The Problem as Cognitive Bias
I've highlighted the sections of the GC's email that raise the problem of reactive devaluation -- our tendency to devalue and resist anything our "opponent" offers to us. Most attorneys were taught reactive devaluation as first year associates -- "if opposing counsel wants it, you don't."
One can be led to conclude that any proposal offered by the “other side”—
especially if that other side has long been perceived as an enemy—must be
to our side’s disadvantage, or else it would not have been offered. Such an
inferential process, however, assumes a perfect opposition of interests, or in
other words, a true "zero-Sum" game, when such is rarely the case in real-
world negotiations between parties whose needs, goals, and opportunities
are inevitably complex and varied.
Combatting Reactive Devaluation in the Workforce
Cognitive biases such as reactive devaluation are not random artifacts of an irrelevant evolutionary past. They are built-in protections against deception by our friends as well as by our adversaries. There is only one lasting protection against this bias -- to engage in clear communication with your work force on a daily basis concerning the mutual and complementary interests of employer and employee; to express your belief in your interdependence in word and deed, i.e., by engaging in dialogue and activities demonstrating benevolent intent; and to willingly listen to one another's complaints, understanding that one man's benevolence is another's bondage.
What's a diagnostic question? One that would reveal our bargaining partners' needs, desires, priorities, preferences and motivations. I'm no employment expert, but I have participated in the management of law firm personnel as a partner and have been managed by others throughout my professional life. As a full-time mediator for more than four years, I have also asked hundreds if not thousands of diagnostic questions to help litigation adversaries understand one another's motivations, to reframe those motivations as non-threatening, or, at a minimum, the result of ordinary human fallibility, and to explore the parties' mutual and complementary interests. I also remind my parties and myself as often as possible that you cannot drill a hole in the other guy's side of the boat without making your own side sink to the bottom of the lake as well.
Empowerment, according to [the fathers of the transformative paradigm] Bush and Folger, means enabling the parties to define their own issues and to seek solutions on their own. Recognition means enabling the parties to see and understand the other person's point of view--to understand how they define the problem and why they seek the solution that they do.
(Seeing and understanding, it should be noted, do not constitute agreement with those views.)
Often, empowerment and recognition pave the way for a mutually agreeable settlement, but that is only a secondary effect. The primary goal of transformative medition is to foster the parties' empowerment and recognition, thereby enabling them to approach their current problem, as well as later problems, with a stronger, yet more open view. This approach, according to Bush and Folger, avoids the problem of mediator directiveness which so often occurs in problem-solving mediation, putting responsibility for all outcomes squarely on the disputants.
Rights and Remedies vs. Interests
It's not surprising that employees just don't seem to "get" the legal rights and remedies company HR departments keep trying to explain to them. They don't make any sense absent legal training.
People who are not lawyers simply don't understand why there is a legal remedy for one type of injustice but none for another that feels just as unfair. Let's take our patchwork of Constitutional protections for employees. As an life-long ACLU member, I'd be the last to denigrate them. But we have to understand that we've created a "fair" workplace for only some of our citizens, not all of them.
Women, people over 40, under-represented minorities and the like, can take the square peg of their unfair work treatment and cram it into the round hole of a viable cause of action. If an employee does not want to cry "gender discrimination" even though she's being treated badly on the job, or if he has no bundle of legal rights to assert, there is no remedy for a termination that feels (yes, feels) wrongful. Remember, it took us lawyers quite some time for the legal worldview to "click" and we were immersed in it, drilled in it and eager to learn it. Employees just want someone to listen to their problem and to help them resolve it. They don't want to know the wage-hour laws, the need to exhaust administrative remedies with the EEOC and the like.
Employees and employers have people problems with justice issues, not legal problems with "irrelevant" emotional responses that get in the way of resolution.
Expressed emotion is the key, not the lock.
It is we -- the lawyers -- who legalize and monetize injustice, shutting our clients down when they try to explain what the problem really is because it's irrelevant to the legal solution.
If you're old enough to remember the lingering moment in United States history when our educational institutions went from white, on the one hand, to multi-hued, on the other, you'll know intimately how you deal with reactive devaluation. You get to know one another. Do this andKaneesha is not "black" or "African American" but a well-known acquaintance or dear friend. The same is true for employers and employees. Create activities in which (alleged) oppressor and (purported) oppressed come together to engage in mutually productive (Habitat for Humanity springs to mind) and mutually enjoyable (basketball? girls nights out?) activities. At the holiday party, don't relegate the "underlings" to their own table. Walk your talk. Destroy the hierarchy everywhere except where it's actually necessary to get work done.
I can't describe the benefits of interest-based resolutions over rights-based solutions any better than does my mentor and friend, Ken Cloke, in his brilliant new book -- Conflict Revolution.
[r]ights-based processes . . . generate winners and losers, undermine relationships, and result in collateral damage, . . . Since rights rely on rules, change is discouraged, though not prevented, and conflicts are settled rather than prevented or resolved.
This is not easy work. As a mediator, I know how elusive Cloke’s “outcomes” can be
-- outcomes [in which] both sides win and no one loses, when former adversaries en-
gage in meaningful dialogue and reach satisfying agreements, and when power is exercised with and for each other by jointly solving common problems.
I have, I am afraid, given my GC a problem rather than a solution. More accurately, I've suggested an altered way of looking at the problem without a great deal of detail about crafting a solution. Not only could people better versed in employee relations write books on this topic, they have. Therefore, I'm asking my good ADR blogging buddies to please chime in here for you.
Why was this an echt academic moment? Because the course I was taking from Joe -- "Ideologies of Mediation" -- had, before that moment, been suggesting that all ideologies interfere with durable, party-satisfying resolutions. Now it seemed the problem wasn't with ideology itself but with the wrong ideology. Hmmm, felt like law school. Forget Pennoyer v. Neff. It's all about this Buckeye case with the exploding boiler.
At the time, my litigator husband was skeptical of all mediators and all mediation techniques. We took a long walk down a Malibu beach after one of Joe's classes while I tormented him with questions about ways in which mediators could help him settle the case he was then working on -- the World Trade Center insurance coverage litigation.
If you wonder why I'm such a joint session fanatic, it's due largely to Joe's and Baruch's teaching as well as my own experience mediating community disputes locally -- the only place true transformative mediation is practiced. Engage the people with the problem and you're more than half way home. You just have to be capable of getting the lawyers to trust you enough to give up just a tiny bit of control to help the process happen.
As another mentor -- Richard Millen -- taught me, people don't have legal problems, "people have people problems" which are burdened with justice issues.
Choose your mediator wisesly, collaborate with him/her and you will not only settle the case, but emerge with a client who got what he/she/it hired you for -- to resolve the commercial problem and the justice issue that called for the retention of a lawyer in the first place.
As California's longest budget stalemate in state history ground to a close, six professional mediators met with The Bee's Capitol Bureau last week to offer their thoughts on building a more functional state budget process.
Their advice in a nutshell: Improve lawmakers' communication skills, train them and their aides in mediation techniques, set up a structured negotiation process long before budget deadlines approach, agree on common goals, build trust by reaching incremental agreements – and don't expect perfection.
Now we just need a blogging claims adjuster and we can bring peace to the Middle East.
Below are John's impressive credentials. We meant to meet for a "quick" cup of coffee. We talked negotiation strategy and tactics for nearly three hours.
As I review websites I often wonder about the experiences of the authors and the biases they bring, so I feel I should disclose mine for those who want to know more. I have been fortunate to work with two “hands on” in-house legal teams, with settlement negotiations handled primarily by employed lawyers rather than their law firms. I am also lucky to have practiced in law firms with true trial lawyers who generated genuine negotiating leverage whether settlement was their objective or not. Through these experiences I have settled cases threatened, pending or mediated in about 20 states - from Montana to Florida and from New Hampshire to California - and have managed the resolution of disputes around the world. Working with and against some very good lawyers and employing some of the truly legendary mediators, I feel fortunate to have seen a real cross-section of styles and approaches. In almost all of these cases I have had the opportunity to work behind closed doors with the people who really decide when cases settle - CEOs, CFOs, General Counsel, COOs, individual plaintiffs, insurers, board members, auditors, and more.
First, I note that much of Professor Murray's article focuses on arbitration agreements that are forced down the throats of consumers -- an injustice that is so far removed from one that might arise in a mediated settlement conference that I'd like to address it separately on another day.
Second, I am not without criticism of court-annexed mediation practices -- those criticisms populate this blog in great number. Nor am I naive or inexperienced enough to pretend that mediators do not effect party decisions even when they are represented by attorneys who are presumably mediation- and mediator-savvy.
Nevertheless, re-reading Professor Murray's criticisms of mediation this morning, I am once again stuck by the number of untested assumptions upon which he bases his pretty radical suggestion that mediated settlement agreements be vetted by judicial officers. The major and minor premises of Professor Murray's accusation that mediation corrupts justice include the following:
there is only one set of "powerful repeat players" -- insurance companies -- who choose and use the services of mediators;
the other set of repeat players -- plaintiffs' personal injury and employment counsel -- are more or less universally poorly equipped to either influence the mediator or to protect their clients from mediator bias;
the easily influenced plaintiffs' bar, if not protected from mediator bias, will counsel their clients to voluntarily enter into sub-optimal settlement agreements that favor the interests of insurance carriers over those of their own clients';
there is such a thing as an "objectively bad settlement" that a judicial officer would be equipped to detect and remedy;
money paid to a "neutral" is the only pernicious influence on dispute outcome, as opposed to, say, racial, nationality, gender, and/or any other socio-economic differences between a judicial officer and a litigant or between the jury and a litigant; and,
judicial officers are not subject to the influence of the repeat attorney-players who appear before them and socialize with them at Bar Association and other events.
Of all of the assumptions requiring testing before we impose a supervisory judiciary upon mediators, the premise that an objective, measureably "reasonable" settlement of any dispute exists is the one that most requires addressing.
Because I could write a book on this topic, let me just highlight some of the factors that would make third-party vetting of mediated settlement agreements difficult to impossible.
money is not the only reason people file suit nor the only basis for their decision to settle it;
whether the litigation at issue is a $2500 slip and fall action between a local grocery store and its customer; or a billion dollar insurance coverage dispute between an insurance carrier and an oil company, the people and commercial players involved are at least as -- if not more -- concerned with injustices that the law does not address as they are with those that it can address;
though mediated settlement agreements are partially based upon the cost of further litigation and trial, on the one hand, and the probability of victory times the potential jury verdict on the other hand, they are also based on party needs, desires and fears that have nothing whatsoever to do with legal causes of action such as:
a corporation's fear that it will not be able to overcome jury bias against commercial enterprises, particularly if that enterprise is engaged in providing liability and/or property damage insurance to its customers;
the fear of individuals that they will not be able to overcome jury bias against any marker of their marginalization from the dominant culture such as color, gender, nationality, sexuality or religion;
the desire that one's opponent acknowledge responsibility for the role he/she/it played in the events giving rise to the dispute and for the actions taken to resolve it, many of which further inflame the parties' experience of injustice;
party desires for revenge; and,
party tendencies to "read" and "spin" the dispute in a way that is favorable to him/her/it in all particulars -- misperceptions that are often corrected in the course of joint sessions between the parties who actually experienced the injury-causing event.
Examples of ways in which parties are able to resolve conflict in the context of their highly individual interests rather than the little buckets of rights and remedies into which we pour the facts of their dispute?
a physician gives his consent to settle a malpractice action when he realizes that the Plaintiff is not attempting to "hold him up" but genuinely experienced the breast examination he gave her as an assault;
the creditor agrees to settle for pennies on the dollar when convinced by evidence proffered during a confidential mediation session that the debtor would be bankrupted by any payment in excess of the offer (evidence not discoverable in litigation because it is not "relevant" to the causes of action alleged);
garment manufacturers settle acrimonious copyright infringement litigation after their counsel allow them to have a confidential mediation conversation which cannot be used in court against them during which they learn that they have more in common -- and more ways to advantage one another economically -- than they have to fight about;
a claims adjuster is brought to tears -- and seeks greater settlement authority -- by a father's frank confession in a confidential mediation conversation of the guilt he carries for the loss of his child in an automobile accident caused by the high speed blow-out of an allegedly defective tire; and,
family members not only settle their lawsuit but reconcile after years of self-imposed exile when they realize the "family" asset they've been fighting over is worth less to them than their love for one another.
What I'd like Professor Murray and everyone who reads his article to understand is that we all share this justice problem. The adjudication system is not working well for the people it was designed to serve. The ADR options we've put in place to smooth out the rough edges of 18th century adversarial theory and practice are themselves insufficient to efficiently and fairly resolve 21st century conflicts.
That's why I'm calling for a LegalTED Conference. And if Professor Murray will forgive the snippiness of yesterday's post, I'd like him to be one of the members of the Steering Committee.
A lessee of commercial office space complains that the common areas are not being properly maintained. The local high school has just banned Catcher in the Rye. Again. A prestigious law firm fires a first year associate because he refuses to remove his new “tongue stud.” These seemingly disparate disputes have one quite obvious but ill understood characteristic in common – they are all examples of unresolved conflicts that have ripened into discrete disputes.
Pretend for a moment that you never went to law school. I know. It's hard. But give it a shot.
Lawyers (those other people who went to law school) are are trained to understand, manage and remedy all disputes, no matter however different they might be, in a single, highly controlled manner.
To help their clients deal with the problems mentioned here, lawyers will read the lease; research the latest Supreme Court rulings ("Fuck the draft"); and, study the statutes. Once they understand the facts that are relevant to the law, they “think like lawyers.”
How do they do that? "Think" like lawyers?
First, they subject the facts and the law to as much scrutiny as any idea can bear before it disintegrates into the dust of first principles. They create a chronology of events, highlighting and tailoring the "story" of the conflict that "fits" the available "causes of action" giving rise to "rights" in their client, obligations in their "opponent" and remedies for the harm suffered.
This "legal" dispute was once about a relationship between people. Now it is an "actionable" claim in an extremely controlled process in which one of the parties will "win."
That, of course, rarely happens because the legal system has become too expensive and the law too uncertain for most people to risk what used to be it's goal -- a jury trial.
Lawyers recognize frivolous or baseless or "defendable" claims by observing just how uncomfortably the “facts” sit inside their opponent's “causes of action.” When called upon to justify their entitlement to get their client's claim before a jury (demurrers, motions for judgment on the pleadings, summary judgment motions, non-suits) the Plaintiff's attorneys can and will simply change the way the story is told. They make the facts fit the law. There's nothing wrong with that. That's their job. If the facts won't "fit" the law, lawyers apply themselves to the law's creative expansion.
What attorneys do not learn in law school is how and why conflict develops into a dispute and then predictably evolves, usually getting more acrimonious and difficult to resolve.
My friends who are lawyers (I never went to law school, remember? and neither did you) tell me that they know how to escalate conflict but not how to de-escalate it. They also tell me that they see a lot of injustice. Sometimes the injustice arises because the laws themselves are unjust. Sometimes the tragic and unfair consequences of human interactions just don't have any legal remedy. And sometimes the legal process itself makes disputes worse -- more protracted, frustrating and expensive -- rather than better.
In common law countries, like ours, where the law is forged in the fire of conflict, shouldn't attorneys be taught not only how to "win the case" but also how to dampen the flame? Most litigators I know would respond with a resounding "no!"
Conflict resolution that is not "handled" as litigation or arbitration is for some other professional to deal with. Therapists come to mind. Don't they help the parties deal with that most uncontrollable aspect of any dispute -- something not only lawyers but the law itself exclude from the legal action?
Feelings. Not just sad or mad feelings. But the type of feelings that make teenagers shoot other teenagers on the streets of Los Angeles. Feelings of loss, tragically unfair outcomes, powerlessness, rage and despair.
The purpose of this post and the new thread that it is meant to begin? To start something radical.
If you're not aware of what I'm about to tell you, you should be.
I was just talking to a friend over coffee the other day about how we're using 18th Century technology (the jury trial) to solve 21st Century problems.
Here's the idea. A legal TED Conference.
If you'll look at what TED accomplishes, you'll know what I don't mean. I don't mean a conference to trot out any new/old "ADR" ideas -- mediate this, arbitrate that, create new rules and forms for the lawyers to use.
I mean creating the highest level think tank we can to first envision and then implement a dispute resolution technology that incorporates what we've learned since we first enshrined the jury trial in our Constitution more than 200 years ago.
I have one man in mind -- Larry Lessig. But surely there are others. The first step would be to suggest names for the coordinating committee.
Why do I think of TED? Because what it envisions cannot be accomplished. It cannot even be envisioned. It's a fool's errand. One I'd be willing to spend the rest of my own life working on.
Although I do I try to steer clear of politics, I simply cannot resist during this compelling political week and particularly on this historic day.
F. Scott Fitzgerald said that the mark of a first rate intelligence is the ability to simultaneously hold two contradictory ideas in your mind. I aspire to having a first rate intelligence. Particularly today.
I do not support Obama because he is bi-racial. Nor did I support Hillary because she was a woman. I'm an old fashioned party Democrat. The Republicans could nominate a gay disabled mixed "race" black and asian orphan from Spanish Harlem and I would not vote for him or her.
I nevertheless pause the Negotiation Blog this evening to celebrate the great effort -- the individual and collective acts of heroism as well as the small daily tender merices -- that have moved us so far beyond the society in which I was raised -- one in which Southern de jure and the Northern de facto segregation was an accepted fact -- never to be altered.
But there are many signs that the struggle is only beginning. Jacob Weisberg canvasses the lingering legacy of racism in the US, and Patricia J. Williams puts it in vivid detail:
[W]hile some of us are listening to the soothing tones of National Public Radio, a much larger audience—and larger by millions—is listening to Rush Limbaugh singing those subterranean fears of “Barack, the magic Negro,” or to radio shock jocks cackling about “jigaboos,” or to Pat Buchanan fretting that Obama is a radical, unpatriotic, extremist “elitist” to whom the liberal media hands a pass as a “special-ed,” “affirmative-action” candidate. Not that any of them mean it in a racist way. Hey, lighten up. Don’t you have a sense of humor?
We trained women in the skills necessary to pass apprenticeship tests so they could gain entry into the skilled trades. We opened the way for women to work at one of San Diego's largest employers -- National Steel and Shipbuilding. We helped all women, including those who'd spent time in prison and battered women's shelters, find employment to help them break a cycle of poverty or move from the lower to middle classes by their own efforts and to provide better lives for their children.
We were the so-called Second Wave women's movement, seeking and achieving the same education, training, work and respect that were only a white American man's entitlement when I was born in 1952.
If you want to know what it was like for women when I was ten years old (1962) and my own divorced and single mother was working for $1.29 an hour selling bags and hoisery at a Leeds shoe store in San Diego, watch a single episode of Mad Men. Follow "Peggy" who is opening professional doors long before there were any ceilings in men's rooms to crack. Watch how women were treated and how little they thought of themselves. Think of the way in which we were squandering our human resources by relegating my mother, your grandmother, to just a few honorable but limiting professions -- nurse, secretary, teacher.
(yes, this is the same typewriter I used in the typing pool at Arthur, Dry & Kalish in mid-town Manhattan in 1975; we had one woman attorney in the firm when I joined; she was in her 50's and was still an associate in trusts and estates)
To negotiate our way into a better world in the 21st century, we'll need to understand one another better and learn to drop all of our stereotypes about men or women, black or white, Muslim or Christian.
So let's all celebrate universal suffrage today. Self-determination -- which is what mediation is all about -- democracy liberty justice.
I believe in Unicorns and Max doesn't so I've promised to keep my eyes open for appearances of that storied creature. Previously, I have reported the Unicorn's appearance here (community mediation; potential lawsuit, no lawyers); here (litigation + lawyers who send the parties to community mediation); and, here (litigation + lawyers + clients who seek mediation without lawyers to resolve dispute).
The parties to a lawsuit do not have intertwined interests: they have directly adverse interests. Unless there's some possibility of a future relationship, the defendant doesn't want to resolve the conflict: they want the plaintiff to drop their frivolous claim. In their mind, their best alternative to a negotiated agreement ("BATNA") is for the plaintiff to crawl in a hole and die.
[My Comment: the "intertwined interests" all parties to litigation have is the litigation itself with its attendant cost, delay, and, uncertainty, not to mention the discomfort "ordinary" people experience when plunged into the foreign environment occupied by attorneys with their strange "causes of action" and "affirmative defenses," their demurrers and JNOV's; their res ipsas and, most importantly, their view that only facts pertaining to a "cause of action" or "affirmative defense" are relevant to the injustice suffered by their clients.]
[T]he plaintiff usually prefers imposing a conflict on the defendant (who the plaintiff believes cast the first stone) in pursuit of justice, an imposition they will only relieve for at least "full" compensation. . . .
The problem is that most parties don't consider their claims to be assets; the problem isn't that there's emotional baggage around the economic understanding, it's that the parties interpret their dispute as fundamentally non-economic.
[My Comment: I've said before that all litigation is "fundamentally non-economic" -- it's about justice. Though Max is one of the few practicing litigators who agrees with me, he does not believe in the existence of my solution -- a settlement conference or mediation conducted in joint session].
Hence a Mediation Unicorn with litigation and attorneys prior to any meaningful discovery.
I'm talking to a plastic surgeon whose artistry not only went unappreciated, but which gave rise to a lawsuit for battery and malpractice.
The plaintiff is a model and an actor. The surgery, she claims, left permanent scaring on her nose. Her opening demand is $500,000. I am trying to persuade the physician, his attorney, and the claims adjuster, not to walk out. The plaintiff's deposition has been taken and the doctor's is scheduled for the following week. No experts have been retained.
The parties have made the rare effort to settle the case early in the litigation.
This is what the defense thinks about the opening demand in response to their good faith participation in an early mediation:
%&*#%*#%@& and %&^@(% and *&$)*#!
I am suggesting to the defense in separate caucus that they allow me to conduct a joint session in which the parties can talk about the surgery, the scarring and their post-surgical communications. I explain that the Plaintiff is more angry than acquisitive. She believes that the doctor disrespected her when she complained about the scarring.
He denied that I had a scar. He was rude and dismissive. He disrespected me. He had no bedside manner.
She is one of the few personal injury plaintiffs who comes right out and says what so many plantiffs feel.
I want him to suffer. My attorney says he has to report any settlement in excess of $30,000 to the Medical Board. I want to make him do that. I want him to suffer as I have. It's not about the money. It's about accountability. I want him to be accountable.
The parties resist a joint session and we spend two hours negotiating in the strato- and nano-spheres. $10,000. $490,000. $12,500. $475,000.
"We're getting nowhere," says Plaintiffs counsel. "Tell them we're leaving."
"The case will never settle. This is a waste of time for my doctor and my claims examiner. Tell them we're leaving. The case will never settle. It simply won't settle. The case cannot settle."
Click Your Heels Three Times and Say "There's No Place Like Home."
Attorneys are fond of saying that all mediators do is "keep them in the room." They might be right, but the difference is the room I keep them in. It's a mediation room, not a conference room or a deposition room or a courtroom. It's a room in which I ask the doctor if the feeling he has is something akin to a fish being hooked, pulled up out of the water and thrown onto the deck of someone's boat, gasping. He cracks a smile for the first time that morning.
It's a room in which I say there must have been a miscommunication, a misunderstanding. It's a room in which I say to the defense that the Plaintiff feels angry and disrespected. It's a room in which I caution the Plaintiff that the physician is from a different culture than her own -- one where a doctor does not express empathy but only certainty in his skill and expertise.
The claims adjuster asks me if I'd been able to see the Plaintiff's scar from where I was sitting -- across a conference room table. I admit that I could not. I acknowledge what is patent in the defense room -- the Plaintiff is blindingly beautiful. A jury is unlikely to award her much in the way of damages. I have said as much to the Plaintiff. But she is angry and wants a pound of flesh.
I have another mediation in the afternoon. I tell the defense we have fifteen more minutes. The claims adjuster keeps repeating "the case will not settle, the case will not settle, the case will not settle." I take this to mean that the defense very much wants to settle the case.
"If someone repeats something over and over again," my mentor Ken Cloke taught me, "that is the key to the resolution." While that might be so, I haven't yet found a way to use that key to open any door. But it is not really my case to settle. It's my job to keep them in the room.
"I Want to See the Scar," says the claims examiner.
I wish I could take credit for the following but I cannot. The Plaintiff's attorney says "why don't they go to the ladies room where my client can show Ms. Y the scar and together they can look at it."
I hear the click of the Unicorn's hooves in the hallway. The plaintiff's attorney is male. I don't believe he knows what he's suggesting. He wants to send two women into one of the safest and most congenial, soul-bonding rooms in all of God's creation -- the women's room.
I know the case will settle.
We are finally in joint session. The claims examiner says, "I want to tell you that I now see the scar. I'm sorry I denied it. We'd like to offer you $X to settle the case."
Did $X settle the case? No. But $X + $Y settled the case ten minutes later.
And just around the corner, you could see the shadow of the settlement unicorn rear up on its hind legs in celebration.
Each of the seven steps can help litigators de-escalate the conflict inherent in litigation before all-important settlement negotiations, whether they are conducted with the assistance of a third party neutral or not.
One or more of them might also help ease tension in the law firm -- a very tense place these days given the recession, lay-off's, the de-equitization of partners and the shedding of non-productive practice groups or of those that might conflict with the law firm your firm is about to merge with.
It's a rough time. Let's all be a little more careful of our social capital there.
We're going to need it.
Decide. The first step is you must decide that you want to improve the relationship. The precursor to this step is recognition - recognizing that the relationship needs improving - but the heart of this is the decision that this relationship matters enough for you to make the effort required to improve it. Without this decision, nothing else matters.
Forgive or let it go. If you feel the other person has done something to cause the rift or break-down, you must either forgive them or let go of your issues with it. Without this step, the steps that follow may help some, but will be limited in their success.
Take ownership. Recognize your role in the relationship, and take ownership and responsibility for it. Yes, deciding and forgiving are accountability actions; but being clear that regardless of the situation you have played a role in the change to the relationship is critical to your success in repairing any damage. Otherwise you are only blaming the other person - which cripples your chance for improvement.
Make your intention clear. Once you have decided to take actions to improve the relationship, your behaviors will change. Take the time to explain your decision and your intention to improve the relationship. Let the other person know that both the situation and the person matter to you, and you want a better relationship. This cements your commitment and communicates your intention to the other person.
Assume positive intent. While I have long believed this concept in a variety of situations, a colleague recently expressed it this way and it makes the idea completely clear. Assume the other person was - and is - acting in good faith. Will you be wrong sometimes? Perhaps. But by starting from this assumption you will immediately change your perception and therefore your behaviors toward that person.
Listen more. We all know how important listening is and how good it makes us feel when we are truly being listened to. Grant that gift to the other person. Listen intently, carefully and actively. Not only will you understand them (and their perspective) better, but they will trust you more and the relationship will build from their perspective.
Make an effort. Deciding is one thing. Doing is quite another. If you want better relationships, you must make the effort - it will seldom, if ever, happen automatically.
For the full post (well worth reading) click here.
This is how you know I'm still as much a lawyer as I am a mediator.
The answer is yes and no.
But you can help change the "no" to a yes.
That's the hope part.
Here's the dispiriting part --The answer will not become "yes" if the parties continue to primarily engage in position-based distributive bargaining sessions in separate caucuses.
My own professional experience (and the behavioral research of which I'm aware) suggests that Mr. Kennerly's Unicorn will only come into a room in which an interest-based negotiation is taking place, one in which there is at least one joint session among the baragaining parties.
But first a story.
This very morning I failed to settle a very small case that is poised to become a very big case with cross-actions for legal malpractice and malicious prosecution.
The delta between the Plaintiff's final demand and the defendant's final offer?
And I offered to throw in half the delta myself by making a contribution to the presidential candidate/s of the parties' choice. Shock value.
The parties' failure to achieve settlement couldn't have been about money could it?
Why not? Because it was economically irrational not to settle. Which is not unusual. Because there is no rational economic man.Because we are incapable of making a decision in the absence of emotion. /**
Although some economic decisions are made outside a social context, they are a minority. Social dynamics, many economists believe, are at the core of economic decision making—that is, decision-making about resource acquisition and expense allocation. What I decide affects you, what you decide affects me, and, even more to the point, I care how I fare economically compared with how you fare.
I send a client a bill for $15,000. He pays $9,000, refusing to pay the additional six because he believes I didn't earn it or that I did my job badly or that I didn't communicate to him all of the items I would naturually include in my bill. There is a written agreement but no attorney fee clause. It will cost me at least $3,000 in attorney fees to collect the six. My client offers to pay me half of what is owed.
Do you have the hypothetical in mind? What would the rational economic man do?
The rational economic man would take the $3,000 because he cannot do better at trial.
Did rational economic man appear at the mediation this morning? Of course not. Because he is a Unicorn! He doesn't make decisions based upon numeric calculations or emotionless cost-benefit analyses -- which is why I knew the parties would not accept my gap-closing political contribution suggestion (whew!)
Why Rational Economic Man is a Unicorn
In a social-economic experiment known as the Ultimatum Game, many researchers have found that when one party offered less than half the money subject of the game, "the other player often rejected it, even though by doing so he end[ed] up with nothing." Id. Dugatkin describes the results of one research project involving this Ultimatum Game as follows:
Alan Sanfey, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Princeton University examined the Ultimatum Game with 19 subjects in the role of responder and . . . observe[d] their brain activity. They found that when unfair offers (deﬁned as those of less than half the resource) were made, responders often rejected them. As they did so, the area of their brains associated with negative emotional states (in this case, the bilateral anterior insula), rather than those associated with complex cognition (in this case, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) were most active. The more the offer deviated from fair, the more active was the bilateral anterior insula when such an offer was rejected. Anger at being treated unfairly by other players appeared to override rational economic reasoning. In the minority of cases when the offer was accepted, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex was most active.
We, like the capuchin monkeys mentioned yesterday, will deprive ourselves of thousands, tens of thousands, even millions of dollars if we believe the compensation being offered is so little related to our value or our loss that it seems unfair. We will not pay money at the point of a gun nor accept money offered to us by villains or cheapskates.
Mediation, Money and Justice
In today's semi-hypothetical mediation, the $3,000 offered felt too unfair to the plaintiff and the hypothetical $6,000 demanded felt too unjust to the defendant for the parties to reach a rational economic deal. The parties' potential to achieve settlement was also seriously undermined by the degree of anger they expressed toward one another and the way in which they had villified one another - "rich deadbeat" on one side and "dishonest fiduciary" on the other.
I am neither magician nor miracle worker. Nor am I in the social work or therapy business. I do, however, know that when parties to a lawsuit are hopping mad and believe that the opposition behaved immorally, money is unlikely to change hands.
In an effort to defuse the anger and de-demonize the parties, I held two joint sessions -- one that was not coached and one that was. Then I separated the parties for the purpose of conducting a distributive bargaining session (she offered x; he counters with y, etc.)
In both the joint session and in the separate caucuses, I strove to humanize the parties for one another; attempted to reframe their behavior in a less villianous light; and, assisted them in conducting as rational a cost-benefit analysis as possible. I also helped the parties reality test their beliefs about the likely outcome at trial and to evaluate the likelihood that the strength of their feelings today would translate into a hearty appetite for further, higher-stakes litigation two years down the line.
So What Can You Do?
I would love to deliver a stirring tale of a heroic mediator helping parties settle their dispute in the early stages before the threatened action and cross-actions were even filed. But I can't. This is more art than science and compared to my 25 years of experience as a litigator, I'm still a little green as a mediator after four years of full-time neutral practice.
Let me just say this. Mediating settlements in the early stages works more often than it fails, particularly if you do one or more of the following:
hire a mediator who can rock and roll with the process rather than one who is a one-trick pony -- head-banger, or evaluator, or prophet of doom; peacemaker, or rabble-rouser or King of the Distributive Bargain -- your mediator should be able to play all or any of these roles as the situation demands;
if you're angry and if you have villified opposing counsel or the opposition party, take a deep breath, sit down at your computer and write down the best, the mid- and the worst-case scenarios (I know you've done it already; but take a fresh look again right before the settlement conference)
share these evaluations with your client
if a trustworthy mediator with whom you've worked before suggests that it would be useful in joint session for your client to express his irritation, disappointment, anger or any other feeling that might interfere with his ability to make a rational decision, don't reject it out of hand
help your client de-demonize the opposition, reminding him that the "other side" is human and therefore fallible and is rarely downright evil
remind your client that many disputes that seem to arise from malicious conduct actually stem from faulty communication
know your bottom line and stick to it unless you genuinely learn something that makes you see the entire dispute in a different light, remembering that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"
despite everything I've now said about litigants behaving irrationally, as I've written elsewhere in greater detail, Harvard negotiation gurus Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman suggest that negotiators too often confuse hidden interests and constraints with irrationality. The mistakes and solutions when this is the case?
Mistake No. 1: They are Not Irrational; They Have Hidden Interests -- find out what they are and you may well be able to resolve the dispute and settle the litigation without putting any more money on the table or making any further concessions;
Mistake No. 2: They are Not Irrational; They Have Hidden Constraints -- keep one ear to the ground for hidden constraints, explore them with the mediator, opposing counsel or the opposing party; often those constraints can be problem-solved away;
Mistake No. 3: They are Not Irrational; They Are Uninformed -- listen and respond; respond and listen. You will find that EACH of you is uninformed about something that will likely make a genuine difference in the manner in which the litigation is resolved.
If your opponent cannot or will not see reason, there's always the joy of just trying the darn thing.
Here are the first four suggestions, click on the highlighted article for the full discussion.
Efforts Should Focus on the Following:
1. Establishing a ceasefire to allow for the treatment & evacuation of the wounded and to establish a safe humanitarian corridor for civilians to evacuate. Establish access for Red Cross & other NGO’s.
2. Get all military forces to pull back either completely or partially to establish a demilitarized buffer zone. Deweaponize the area. This will reduce the number of clashes.
3. Establish a more permanent ceasefire and begin negotiations on the long-term status of South Ossetia.
4. Make sure rebel groups stand down and are part of negotiations.
Max Kennerly over at Litigation and Trial has graciously and profusely responded to our call for comments about the road-blocks to achieving optimal negotiated resolutions to litigated disputes.
Because Max and I are straining toward the same goal every litigant does when the burdens of a lawsuit begin to outweigh its anticipated benefits, I'm going to include my readers in the conversation.
Our Interests are Adverse, Not Mutual or Intertwined
Max suggests that the hypothetical "business school" negotiated resolution doesn't provide litigators with much guidance in resolving litigated disputes because the buyer-seller-mutual-or-intertwined-interest template cannot be comfortably laid over a conflict between parties whose interests are entirely adverse. As Max explains:
The parties to a lawsuit do not have intertwined interests: they have directly adverse interests. Unless there's some possibility of a future relationship, the defendant doesn't want to resolve the conflict: they want the plaintiff to drop their frivolous claim. In their mind, their best alternative to a negotiated agreement ("BATNA") is for the plaintiff to crawl in a hole and die.
Same with the plaintiff. Unlike buyers and sellers, who usually don't get much joy out of their 'conflict' as a conflict, the plaintiff usually prefers imposing a conflict on the defendant (who the plaintiff believes cast the first stone) in pursuit of justice, an imposition they will only relieve for at least "full" compensation.
The problem is that most parties don't consider their claims to be assets; the problem isn't that there's emotional baggage around the economic understanding, it's that the parties interpret their dispute as fundamentally non-economic.
Before moving on to adverse/intertwined/mutual interests, I want to emphasize that what the parties "interpret . . . as fundamentally non-economic" is the key to the settlement of litigated disputes -- not a roadblock.
Nor can the feelings that accompany litigation be called "emotional baggage" unless we interpret the desire for justice as pathology.
People seek out lawyers rather than therapists to resolve the emotional issues that accompany conflict -- because they believe themselves to be victims of injustice and lawyers are in the justice business. Our clients have not simply suffered an injury (tripped over their own feet) but have a wrong (stumbled over a trip wire placed in their path by a malicious or careless actor). We can explain until we're blue in the face that money is the only remedy the law can provide. Our clients will continue to seek justice and will not easily settle for money alone.
"The Unicorn Settlement"
Max asks that I acquaint him with the Unicorn -- the state "where two hostile parties on the verge of a lawsuit get lawyers, almost file suit, and then, through deft representation, settle their differences peacefully and move on" Unicorns. Excluding business disputes where the parties have an existing and potentially mutually beneficial on-going relationship, this type of settlement, says Max, is a myth. He explains:
I entered the law expecting The Unicorn to be rare but real; by this point, I have been trained by defense lawyers not to bother to check for it. I still usually do, throwing out what I think is a perfectly reasonable offer early on, which is routinely ignored or dismissed by a letter that gratuitously refers to my claims as baseless, frivolous, or made in bad faith.
So that's my biggest question to you: how do you suggest I get defendants, prior to the courthouse steps, to even enter the mindset that there's a valid claim and mediation / settlement should be considered? Reframed in words closer to your post: what can I do to (a) get the joint session to happen and (b) ensure everyone's in the right mindset?
The Conditions in Which Unicorns Flourish
When I started practice -- in 1980 -- I did so in a small community -- Sacramento -- where everyone was a "repeat player" with everyone else. Perhaps more importantly, you could file a suit in year one and try it to a jury in year two. Not only defense counsel, but insurance adjusters, knew which plaintiffs' attorneys would try cases and which would not. They also knew which ones could persuade a jury to bring back a hefty award.
Though I only handled personal injury litigation for my first two years of practice (after which I changed firms and moved on to commercial litigation) I saw dozens of "unicorns" in my first few months of practice. As the junior-most attorney in a small P.I. practice, I settled hundreds of cases without ever filing a lawsuit -- on the telephone with insurance adjusters. (A really, really good reason to leave PI practice, but that's another story).
I settled these cases in the world of "three times specials" at a time when and in a place where everyone knew one another and used a common metric to evaluate potential liability and damages. In that environment, Unicorns flourished.
Unicorn Hunting in the 21st Century
Max isn't asking me to shoot ducks in a barrell here. He's asking me to deliver the holy grail of mediation -- how to convene an early settlement conference in which the parties (and their attorneys) are united in a desire to settle litigation without protracted discovery or pre-trial procedural wrangling.
I hate to keep leaving my readers on the edge of a satisfactory resolution, but I DO have work to do and will return to this -- and Max's further observations -- soon, really soon. Stay tuned. And join the conversation by leaving your own comments here.
sometimes I don't want to discuss the case. Sometimes either we're at the end of the road or you're not even on our road, and I'm not going to humor you and your insufficient offers and your attempt to use social influence on me. Indeed, many of my best offers come after cancelling settlement conferences before they happen.
Just something to keep in mind. Every trick you know is a trick that can be played on you and/or your client.
While Craig recalls a mediation in which a joint session hardened the parties' positions as follows:
The mediator decided at the last minute that it would be nice to see if we could all meet and agree in a joint session.
In his defense, he had the advantage of reviewing the positions of both parties in their submittals. There was no warning that the mediator was going to try to help the parties come to an agreement in a joint session.
What I remember most was my client getting so incensed by the positions of the other party in the joint session. Unfortunately my client hardened his position – not helpful in mediation – and apparently the other party did the same. I think the theory about eye-to-eye meeting and negotiations is absolutely correct.
The problem is that parties bring so much emotion into a settlement discussion that I think they need to stay separate from the people creating the emotion before they can calmly assess the best course of action.
What interests me most about Craig's comment is this:
I think the theory about eye-to-eye meeting and negotiations is absolutely correct. The problem is that parties bring so much emotion into a settlement discussion that I think they need to stay separate from the people creating the emotion before they can calmly assess the best course of action.
I'm going to be writing about this conversation all week and invite others to please comment.
Right now, I'd like anyone interested in the resolution of conflict close to home (the neighbors; the PTA President; the woman sitting in the cubicle next to you stripping laquer from her nails with industrial strength polish remover; the entire HR department; your boss, etc.) to read It Took a Villain to Save Our Marriage in the Style section of this Sunday's New York Times.
Here's the "money shot" for anyone who has ever mediated neighborhood disputes in a community mediation center as I do pro bono.
Then while the rest of the block kissed goodnight, I stomped down the street in the dark to Blocker’s house and pounded on his door.
He opened it, shirtless and calm; it unnerved me. I’m sure I looked crazed. I felt my face puff up. “Stop taking our signs!” I said.
There was a shift. It was he who had the advantage now — I was on his porch, and drunk.
But Blocker didn’t say anything mean. He didn’t seem angry, as he should have been, that I had bothered him late at night; he didn’t threaten to call the police. We stood close, inches away. There was an intimacy in our strange hate.
“I didn’t take them,” he said. “Seriously. The city picks them up sometimes. I know where they put them. I could check if you want.”
No, I didn’t want. But I thanked him, and walked home both shaken and comforted, and thinking Anthony would kill me if he knew I had crossed enemy lines like that, alone. I didn’t tell him.
There was one more encounter. Blocker drove by me in his car. He slowed and rolled down his window, and instead of grunting or sneering, he said, “Did you find your signs?”
“No. I didn’t look.”
We exchanged a few more words — about the weather, his dogs — but it was quick. He drove off, and a few weeks later we moved.
A trained and skilled mediator would take advantage of these two fleeting moments of concern on the part of "Blocker" who is the bully in this story with a heart-rending conclusion.
Now assume that these people -- all three of them and maybe a few additional neighbors as well -- belong to a homeowners' association with the power to fine the HOA "outlaw," making the fines a lien against his property. Now its a legal dispute.
Ask yourself, what do the parties' legal positions have to do with the resolution of the conflict?
Leave your thoughts here -- down in the comments section -- and I'll be back soon to discuss the New York Times conflict resolution hypothetical based not only on my experience mediating the resolution of litigated commercial disputes, but also based on my pro bono community mediation experience and on the studies that earned me an LL.M that's purportedly not worth the paper its printed on (a judgment that could be just as easily applied to my Bachelors Degree in English Literature were it not for its transmogrification into a ticket to practice law).
Bonus Question: do we really want to dedicate our lives to the satisfactory resolution of conflict -- which is what the law, after all, is all about -- or would we rather, like the author of It Took A Villain, take the pleasure to be had in the state of high dudgeon, self-righteousness, and passionate engagement with someone who is an easy target to blame for our own unhappy life circumstances?
Double Bonus Question for Lawyers Practicing in Los Angeles: Would you let the Los Angeles Superior Court choose your trial attorney or your marriage and family counselor from a panel of people who have had 28 hours of training in their "professional" field of practice just because the first three hours are free?
(photo from Wikimedia Commons -- an Example of What Does Make Us Happy -- Mastery, Accomplishment, Pride, Team Effort, and, yes, Winning (though winning is an emotional high that has a short half-life)
Consider this a place marker to provide a plain English version of the Prospect Theory link I gave you yesterday. While you're waing, here's a reminder of a fact we ofen cite here.
psychological research [concerning] happiness . . . . finds subjective measures of wellbeing are relatively stable over time, even in the face of large increases in wellbeing (Easterlin, 1974; Frank, 1997)
most . . . plaintiffs who decided to pass up a settlement offer and went to trial ended up getting less money than if they had taken that offer . . .
Plaintiffs, however, are not the only ones who made the "wrong" decision -- defendants were mistaken in 24% of the cases. Defense errors, however, were far more costly.
getting it wrong cost plaintiffs . . . about $43,000 . . . For defendants, who were less often wrong about going to trial, the cost was . . . . $1.1 million.
What to do?
It's no answer to say " take the last best settlement offer," though one party or the other will 80 to 90 percent of the time and often on the courthouse steps, i.e., at the point of a gun when decision-making is at its most flawed.
Nor, I must concede, is the answer simply mediation, which is, after all, pretty much a pig in a poke. Why? Because mediation practice ranges all the way from
to a mediator who knows only how to repeat "trial is expensive and the result uncertain"
to a settlement officer who does nothing more than shuttle numbers back and forth between two rooms
to a "transformative" mediator who allows the parties free reign to "vent" their "feelings" without helping them get a grip on the very real and serious consequences of the negotiated resolution that has been proposed to them.
A friend of mine who is a psychoanalyst once told me that patients get better in therapy despite their analysts' "technique." It's the relationship that's curative, she told me. A patient in need will find the water of healing in the desert of a therapist's theory. If the same can be said of mediation -- that it's the relationship that's curative -- the question that naturally arises is whose relationship?
fundamental attribution error -- the tendency to over-emphasize personality-based explanations for behaviors observed in others while under-emphasizing the role and power of situational influences and reversing this error when the behavior at issue is our own.
Just-world phenomenon — the tendency for people to believe that the world is "just" and therefore people "get what they deserve"
We get so stuck in our positions that we fail to ask diagnostic questions that have been proven to result in significantly better negotiated outcomes for both parties.
My friend Judge Alexander Williams -- the soon to retire full-time settlement Judge in the downtown Los Angeles Superior Court -- has the following poster hanging in his jury room.
The surface is what the lawyers know.
The depth and breath; the texture and particularity; the details of the dispute and the desire for justice that exists on both sides, is known only to the litigants. And they haven't (and won't) tell you what they know or want.
Why you should never leave a mediation or settlement conference without letting a skilled mediator facilitate a joint session in which the litigants can explore their joint interests and conflicting goals will be the subject of my next post.
So why would the S[pecial Litigation Committee] release [Wilson Sonsini] and Larry Sonsini? The SLC wrote that it weighed the opinion of a legal ethics expert as well as testimony and documents related to Sonsini and the firm’s roles at Brocade. It also listened to Sonsini and his firm’s “contentions that Brocade employees misled WSGR about stock-option grants” and that the firm had negotiated a good settlement with the SEC and helped avoid DOJ action against Brocade. The committee also considered the firm’s longstanding relationship with Brocade and the firm’s “willingness” to help the company resolve any “outstanding questions” about the backdating.
There's been some salacious commentary (such as WAC's Like a Vixen) about Blawg Review # 171. I just want to say to anyone who missed the sexual revolution -- on either side of the generation gap -- we're sorry to have started it all. We just never really left high school.
We've also heard some complaints that the most recent Blawg Review is just too darn long. In honor of our sister blog and those attorneys who are still billing 2400 hours/year, we give you the IP Executive Summary of the Virgin Blawg Review #171 below.
My late mother, aleha ha-shalom, told me repeatedly that I had a religious obligation to learn every day, and I have honored her memory by doing exactly that. Learning also involves changing how you think about things; it doesn't only mean reinforcing the existing views you already have. In this respect, Second Circuit Judge Pierre Leval once said that the best way to know you have a mind is to change it, and I have tried to live by that wisdom too. There are positions I have taken in the past I no longer hold, and some that I continue to hold. I have tried to be honest with myself: if you are not genuinely honest with yourself, you can't learn, and if you worry about what others think of you, you will be living their version of your life and not yours.
Other IP bloggers have, of course, reflected on Patry's Final Blog Words here and here.
The IP Dispute of the Week, of course, is Hasbro's suit against Rajat and Jayant Agarwalla for their Facebook hit Scrabulous. Scrabble itself was invented during the Depression by Alfred Mosher Butts, an out-of-work architect. How did he do it? As the New York Times explained in its review of Steve Fastis book, Word Freak (Zo. Qi. Doh. Hoo. Qursh)Scrabble's inventor assumed that the game would work best if the game letters "appear[ed] in the same frequency as in the language itself." So he
counted letters in The New York Times, The New York Herald Tribune and The Saturday Evening Post to calculate letter frequencies for various word lengths. Playing the game with his wife, Nina, and experimenting as he went along, Butts carefully worked out the size of the playing grid (225 squares, or 15 by 15), the number of tiles (100), point values for the letters, the placement of double- and triple-score squares, the distribution of vowels and consonants, and so on.
If Player 1 opens with "fringe" (double word) for 24 points; Player 2 follows by slapping an "i" on the triple word score followed by an "n" for "infringe" and 33 points; and, Player 1 responds with "ment" for 19 points, the combined score for "infringement" is 75 points. Our readers can do the math and moves on "trademark" and copyright."
"a new studio tactic [is] not to prevent piracy, but to delay it . . . Warner Bros. executives said [they] prevent[ed] camcorded copies of the reported $180-million [Dark Knight] film from reaching Internet file-sharing sites for about 38 hours. Although that doesn't sound like much progress, it was enough time to keep bootleg DVDs off the streets as the film racked up a record-breaking $158.4 million on opening weekend. . . The success of an anti-piracy campaign is measured in the number of hours it buys before the digital dam breaks.'"
Next week, the Blawg Review will be hosted by the Ohio Employer's Law Blog which we expect will be far more respectful of BR's readers' political, religious and sexual sensitivities than this one was. Thanks for letting us play. And a very, very, very good night!
It is no surprise that increased aggression in a naturally aggressive proceeding has negative consequences. For example, parties that often meet for the first time at a mediation or settlement conference arrive not trusting or respecting each other, making resolution much more difficult. Pynchon suggested a somewhat radical solution to the email problem -- live meetings with opposing counsel. She suggested that you routinely have live meetings with opposing counsel throughout the course of a litigation, including perhaps even doing some meetings over a meal. The face-to-face contact would generate the trust and respect needed to resolve issues that always arise during a litigation. I have always advocated live meetings with co-counsel in a multi-party litigation. Email communications (or even conference calls) tend to get out of hand and the parties tend not to pay enough attention to others' positions. I am going to expand that practice to opposing counsel.
One other thought, that I do not know if Pynchon will agree with. Those who still avoid email and continue using letters as a main communication means are not off the hook. I started practicing when letters, not emails, were how you communicated with opposing counsel. Those letters tended to be far more aggressive than the attorneys were in a live conversation. And I suspect people tended to read extra aggression into the letters they received. I do not know if aggression is stronger in emails than letters, but the same problem exists whether you hit send, hit print or use a pen to write to opposing counsel.
POPULAR ADR BLOGGER GETS SOME FACE TIME IN LOS ANGELES
By Greg Katz
Daily Journal Staff Writer
SANTA MONICA - Nearly everybody in the Southern California mediation community knows the face of mediator Geoff Sharp but not too many have met him.
That's because the New Zealand-based mediator's scruffy mug sits atop his popular ADR blog, Mediator Blah ... Blah ..., at mediatorblahblah.blogspot.com.
Sitting down for coffee at a beachfront hotel with Los Angeles mediator and fellow ADR blogger Victoria Pynchon, Sharp said his blog is what got him his ticket for this trip to Southern California.
He was in town at the request of the Pepperdine University School of Law, giving a lecture at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution's annual summer dispute resolution conference last week.
"For someone like me to get to Pepperdine - why would you ask a farm boy like me?" Sharp said, laughing. "The blog's the only way that I talk to these people."
Sharp's witty and concise blog helps chart the course of the online mediation conversation. There are about 150 ADR blogs worldwide, according to one blogger, and many of them link back to Sharp's.
He blogs a potpourri of ADR links, anecdotes and opinions on a wide range of mediation topics, most of them relevant to both local and international audiences.
In one recent post, he chided some "lazy" neutrals who have given parties the impression that mediation is "a process where you show up at a downtown building but never speak to, or even meet, the room full of people with whom you have your problem and whose cooperation you require to solve it."
In another post, Sharp described a mediation in which a lawyer asked him to calculate the hypotenuse of a right triangle.
Sharp said he initially was worried that he couldn't do it.
"But I am pleased to report dear reader, that I was equal to the task," he wrote.
Sharp also broaches sensitive subjects, writing at length about how difficult it is for mediators to build their practices.
But whether the difficulties of mediation are financial or mathematical, he wouldn't think about going back to litigating.
In the late 1990s, Sharp left his litigation practice at Bell Gully, a large New Zealand law firm, to start mediating.
Sharp is now a member of the advanced mediation panels for both of New Zealand's widely recognized mediation training organizations, LEADR and the Arbitration and Mediation Institute of New Zealand.
He also is consulting with the International Mediation Institute on its proposed mediator qualifications standards. Mediator standards are a frequent subject of his blog posts, as well.
He said he relishes the freedom he gained from leaving a big firm, though mediating often proves lonely.
"If you ask why [mediators] blog, it's because we're so solitary," Sharp said.
Becoming an ADR blogger, he said, was like making friends "on the same block in a new town," even though most other bloggers are in other countries.
Sharp said that blogging about mediations, with their strict confidentiality rules, can be complicated.
At first, he would post about specific events in mediations, such as one lawyer who wore his Bluetooth headset throughout a mediation, even when he "went to the john," Sharp said.
Was it blinking?" Pynchon chimed in.
But now, with a wider audience, Sharp focuses on the more philosophical and legal issues in mediation. When he wants to tell a particular story, he embellishes the events that happened in mediation so no one feels their confidential conduct is being publicized.
"I haven't let the facts get in the way of a good story," says the disclaimer on his blog.
Pynchon, who writes the popular ADR blog Settle It Now, at negotiationlawblog.com, said that even when bloggers are careful, mediator blogs can disturb parties. One party recently came to Pynchon asking whether a post referred to that party's case.
Another post, about the California Supreme Court mediation confidentiality case, Simmons v. Ghaderi, provoked the defendant to call Pynchon personally.
"It's like having a cartoon character come to life," Pynchon said of being contacted by someone she only knew through reading briefs and opinions. Simmons v. Ghaderi, 143 Cal.App.4th 410 49 Cal.Rptr.3d 342 (2006).
But despite the occasional hassle, blogging has become a way of life for the two mediators.
"For me, blogging and dispute resolution rest on the same principles: collaboration and reciprocity," Pynchon said.
Sharp nodded his agreement.
"I don't do this profit," he said with a smile. "I do it for ego."
In the last three issues of The Complete Lawyer (see the LACBA issue here!)Stephanie West Allen, Diane Levin, Gini Nelson and I have been tuning up our conflict resolution violins. In this issue's The Human Factor column, the four of us once again share our TCL space to talk (ever so briefly) about the ways in which conflict resolution techniques can help lawyers achieve that elusive goal of a blanced work-life.
Gini Nelson calls conflict avoidance (one of my favorite techniques in "real life") "deferred relationship maintenance," which nails this way of handling our personal lives on the head. Read all about it here.
Diane Levin (here) addresses the problems none of us like to talk about -- dysfunctional workplaces, noting that
Our ability to connect with others, gain their trust, influence and motivate them is the social lubricant that makes businesses thrive. In fact, Dan Hull, an attorney I admire for his focus on client service, once wrote, "Treat each co-worker like he or she is your best client." He's right—nurture relationships for a healthier law firm.
Our brain likes to be fuel efficient; by discerning patterns, it saves energy. It studies the situations at hand, whether they are protracted mediations, playful exchanges with a partner, or steely verbal duels with opposing counsel, to see if they resemble a situation it has seen in the past. We then base our judgments on that unconscious notion of past—but we are not always fully aware of the present. Yesterday's solutions do not always fit today’s problems.
According to the Global Rich List, AmLaw 100 associates are among the top .01% richest people in the world. Mid-level AmLaw partners are in the top .001% and beyond that the GRL stops counting. Though of course we do not.
If a comparison of our salaries with these galactic levels of compensation make us unhappy, it is unlikely that the following knowledge will make us happy—three billion people live on less than $2 and 1.3 billion on less than $1 per day. Why does this knowledge leave us untouched? Because we don’t compare ourselves to the rest of the world. We compare ourselves to the guy sitting in the office next to us.
So how did we—some of the smartest, richest, most creative, energetic and best educated people in the world—get so unhappy about money? I personally blame it on the American Lawyer even though, like drug dealers and the paparazzi, legal journalists wouldn’t be concentrating on profits per partner unless we were all so avid to know them.
Beginning with the next issue of The Complete Lawyer we'll be taking turns writing the column. If you like what any of us have to say about ADR's value in your work and life, stay tuned! There will be much, much more!
The rest of the issue is also well worth reading. The focus is on EXIT STRATEGIES -- a topic not reserved for those contemplating retirement (though our interests are addressed here as well). This is one profession where people start talking about exit stragies around the second week of the first year of law school. So check it out!
Let's say you meet up with an alien race and you need to bargain with them by radio or some other method of signaling. You don't have any other information other than your knowledge of human beings. What traits should you think are overrepresented in humans, relative to what a rerun of evolution can be expected to produce in an intelligent being? Would you expect them to be more or less benevolent than humans? Should it matter if they have demonstrated superior technology? Should such achievement make you think they are more or less cooperative toward "outsiders"?
I suspect that all of these questions are meant to lead to the conclusion that "people" from more advanced civiliations would naturally be more peaceful, less aggressive and more cooperative with one another than we are.
Even though [our primate forbears the] ustralopiths walked upright on the ground, they retained short legs for 2 million years for the same reason squatness helped out other great apes—for male-male combat. With the advantage in combat, short-legged primates would likely be victorious and gain access to females. That meant passing their genetic traits, like shortness, to offspring.
Could intelligent human beings have evolved without aggression? Certainly.
researchers Male and female [chimpanzees] do not associate in families but in separate hierarchies. Males make females defer to them, with violence whenever necessary, and every female is subordinate to every male.
A female chimp advertises her fertile period with a visible swelling and is then so pestered by males that she may get to eat only at night. . . .
Though bonobos are almost as aggressive as chimps, they have developed a potent reconciliation technique -- the use of sex on any and all occasions, between all ages and sexes, to abate tension and make nice.
Assuming the common ancestor of people and chimps had social behavior that was essentially chimplike, how much of that behavior has been inherited by people? The unusual behavioral suite of male kin bonding and lethal territorial aggression may look as if it has been inherited with little change. Among the Yanomamo, a South American tribe, the number of males who die from aggression is about 30 percent, the identical rate found among Gombe chimps.
Dr. Wrangham said the consistent pattern of aggression seen at all the chimp sites suggests that male chimps have ''a strong emotional disposition'' to be aroused by the sight of strange males, to form coalitions against enemies, to be sensitive to balances of power and to be attracted to hunting. The same disposition could have been inherited down the human lineage.
Turns out Freud was right. Aggression is all about sex. But it's also about tool-making (i.e., weaponry). So we have evolved to be competitive and collaborative. Tool making to ease our work-load and to kill our "enemies." So far, our advances continue to outpace our many attempts to destroy ourselves.
What might have worked for the advancement of other civiliations? If all possible worlds exist, as physicists claim, other worlds may well have developed life in some way other than evolutionarily. Maybe by intelligent design! There's simply no telling. I would, however, speculate that a species taste for its members blood must be balanced by affiliative instincts and activities or its development would be cut short by species-cide.
The take-away for negotiators who are strangers in a strange land?
Learn how to communicate with the aliens. Ask them questions concerning their needs, interests and desires. Tell them about your own. Put down your weapons and back slowly away.
Anyone who is as fascinated by these questions as I am, read this post from Such is Life about whether or not we'd "see" aliens if they arrived on our shores. Answer? Not likely.
My most recent post on this issue stressed the need to de-demonize one's opponent in order to free everyone up to creatively participate in a joint session in which defensiveness and posturing are not the orders of the day.
Listen, the parties have already demonized one another by the time they bring their dispute to an attorney. Once the lawyers take over and the parties stop communicating with one another, it's the interaction between the attorneys thatexacerbates the already existing sense of distrust and betrayal.
Now, several states are trying to improve lawyer-to-lawyer relationships by eliminating the term "zealous representation" from their Codes of Conduct and replacing it with terms like "honest," "effective" and "honorable."
My immediate response to changes in language is that they make no difference. Then I remember how changing "Mrs." and "Miss" to "Ms." and taking the "man" out of fire, police and mail, changed career aspirations for generations of women.
So I'll ask my readers. Do you think the removal of the term "zealous advocacy" will have an effect on the practice of law?
Before you run over to Gini's site to read Lande's excellent post or his great article, I'd like to simply bullet-point some observations based upon my four-years of full-time mediation and arbitration practice.
when I co-arbitrate with some of the best commercial arbitrators in the business -- these are Ivy League lawyers with many decades of experience representing Fortune 50 Companies in AmLaw 100 Law Firms, the ultimate decision changes many times during the course of deliberations and almost always could go either way.
having spent a considerable time in the Los Angeles Complex Court as an experienced commercial litigator "externing" for credit to earn my LL.M in '06, I can tell you that the deliberations in chambers of these highly respected jurists is not much different that those in which I have engaged when sitting on an arbitration panel
The take away? No matter who is hearing your case, your chances of winning are 50-50. Flip a coin. Think this doesn't apply to you? I have arbitrated cases being handled by the top ten law firms in the country. I have seen those same type of firms litigate and try cases in the Complex Court. It's 50-50 friends.
Below -- observations on how you and your mediator can be "happy together." (And the Turtles from 1967 so that you can have a little musical accompaniment to this post)
Observations of End-Game Litigation from a Mediator's and Settlement Consultant's Perspective.
Despite years of inquiry and the review of millions of documents, sophisticated parties (Fortune 50) represented by dynamite law firms (AmLaw 50) haven't yet learned the most fundamental information about the following matters -- most of which are more important to the settlement of the case than the cost-detriment-benefit-position-driven-chance-of-victory settlement posture:
what are the hidden interests that your opponent must satisfy before accepting a settlement that is below the number he once told his client should never under any circumstances be accepted?
what are the hidden constraints upon your opponent's authority that must be removed before he can pay more money than he once told his client should never under any circumstances be paid?
why was this litigation initiated in the first instance?
who gave the litigation the "green light"?
what are the probable consequences to the continued financial security of the person who gave the litigation the "green light" in the first place or who has authorized the defense bills for the last 5, 10, or 15 years?
is the person who green-lighted the litigation in the first place still employed by your client?
what are the probable consequences to the financial well-being of the corporation who must pay more than it wishes to pay or accept less than it wishes to recover?
Who is the most frightened person in the room, i.e., whose hide might be sacrificed if the litigation settles for more/less than predicted, or, often worse, actually goes to trial.
There are so many of these settlement-driving and -inhibiting questions that only my own personal time contraints -- I must start my day's work -- make me stop listing them.
Let me conclude with this however. Never underestimate your client's reluctance to settle the case on terms that seem unjust to it. This is the most important function a mediator can play on the day of settlement -- explaining justice issues to the clients and helping the clients de-demonize their opponent -- which occurs most easily in JOINT SESSION yet which most litigators would rather have their teeth drilled than attend.
O.K. I can't conclude without saying this. If you have the courage to try a case, you possess the cajones to participate in at least one joint session to help the parties come to terms with the justice issues -- which are often driven by the conclusion, affirmed over and over again in the course of the litigation, that their opponent is an evil, mendacious, grasping, greedy, malicious, duplicious lying liar with his pants on fire.
This is almost never true. The parties on both sides almost always possess equal parts of good and bad, just like the rest of us.
Let your parties re-adjust their perception of "the enemy" in joint session. I can almost guarantee you that a conversation will ensue in which the parties spontaneously tell each other what interests they really need to satisfy to settle and what constraints they are really working under. And I don't guarantee a lot of things.
Why can't I do this for the parties?
Because often neither side will disclose these matters to me because they don't trust that I won't use that information to help settle the case and because the parties won't believe what I say about their opposition in the first place (obviously, they've pulled the wool over my eyes).
"How do you know he's not lying?" is a question mediators are asked on a regular basis. My answer is "I have no idea." But if you let your client talk to the opposition -- with any constraints, restrictions and control you wish to retain -- which I can orchestrate for you -- your client will be able to elicit the details that give any story a ring of truth (or falsity) while at the same time watching the body language that constitutes between 60 and 80% of all communication.
Would you try a case without 80% of the information you need? Of course not! And yet you're content to avoid a joint session when that session could provide you with between 60 and 80% more information than you had when you arrived on the morning of the mediation or settlement conference?
Suspend your disbelief in the mediator ("who-will-do-anything-to-settle-the-case") for just a couple of minutes. Remember that we're in possession of confidential information we cannot divulge to you.
Take our lead. And if you don't trust us to do so, for heaven's sake find a mediator you can trust!
Collaboration may be most amenable in areas where there is a need for ongoing relationships, like dissolving marriages that produced children, said Pauline Noe of Cambridge, a past president of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council. Noe suggested that discovery is often more fruitful in collaborations than in litigation, since collaboration requires full, prompt, honest and open disclosure of all relevant information, and vigorous good faith negotiation with full participation of all parties in an open forum.
Taking the long view as I'm now prone to do (by virtue of age and the fact that I generally only see litigation's end game) I continue to say that we're all involved in on-going relationships -- not just those people whose disputes are more personal than commercial.
Schopenhauer, in his splendid essay called "On an Apparent Intention in the Fate of the Individual," points out that when you reach an advanced age and look back over your lifetime, it can seem to have had a consistent order and plan, as though composed by some novelist. Events that when they occurred had seemed accidental and of little moment turn out to have been indispensable factors in the composition of a consistent plot. So who composed that plot? Schopenhauer suggests that just as your dreams are composed by an aspect of yourself of which your consciousness is unaware, so, too, your whole life is composed by the will within you. And just as people whom you will have met apparently by mere chance became leading agents in the structuring of your life, so, too, will you have served unknowingly as an agent, giving meaning to the lives of others, The whole thing gears together like one big symphony, with everything unconsciously structuring everything else. And Schopenhauer concludes that it is as though our lives were the features of the one great dream of a single dreamer in which all the dream characters dream, too; so that everything links to everything else, moved by the one will to life which is the universal will in nature.
It’s a magnificent idea – an idea that appears in India in the mythic image of the Net of Indra, which is a net of gems, where at every crossing of one thread over another there is a gem reflecting all the other reflective gems. Everything arises in mutual relation to everything else, so you can’t blame anybody for anything. It is even as though there were a single intention behind it all, which always makes some kind of sense, though none of us knows what the sense might be, or has lived the life that he quite intended.
A classic example of combative litigation -- YOU ARE NOT THE BOSS OF ME!
I take these criticisms very very seriously, repeating throughout any mediation session my opening assertion that my role is to present the parties with choices and to faciliate a settlement if they believe it may be better alternative to continued litigation, not to hustle them away from their right to a jury trial.
I would be far more successful in being "neutral" about proceeding to a jury trial if there were an easier, less costly, and speedier way to bring a dispute before a jury. We have, lamentably, permitted our cherished rule of law to become so procedurally encrusted that it sometimes seems like no option at all -- at least not an option available to all but the wealthy or those represented by lawyers willing to accept a contingent fee.
All of this troubles me. I invite comment at the same time that I provide the thoughts of some of our greatest statesmen and jurists about the right to trial by jury.
"There was not a member of the Constitutional Convention who had the least objection to what is contended for by the advocates for a Bill of Rights and trial by jury." (1788)
"Representative government and trial by jury are the heart and lungs of liberty. Without them we have no other fortification against being ridden like horses, fleeced like sheep, worked like cattle and fed and clothed like swine and hounds." (1774)
"I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution." (1788)
"Trial by jury is part of that bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation." (1801)
"The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes has been devoted to the attainment of trial by jury. It should be the creed of our political faith." (1801)
"Trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature." (1789)
John Quincy Adams
"The struggle for American independence was for chartered rights, for English liberties, for trial by jury, habeas corpus and Magna Carta." (1839)
Patrick Henry of Virginia [Patriot who said "Give me liberty or give me death!"]
"Trial by jury is the best appendage of freedom by which our ancestors have secured their lives and property. I hope we shall never be induced to part with that excellent mode of trial." (1788)
"The friends and adversaries of the plan of the convention, if they agree in nothing else, concur at least in the value they set upon the trial by jury; the former regard it as a valuable safeguard to liberty; the latter represent it as the very palladium of free government." (1788)
"The protection of life and property, habeas corpus, trial by jury, the right of an open trial, these are principles of public liberty existing in the best form in the republican institutions of this country." (1848)
Judge Stephen Reinhardt
"Our constitutional right to trial by jury does not turn on the political mood of the moment, the outcome of cost/benefit analyses or the results of economic or fiscal calculations. There is no price tag on the continued existence of the civil jury system, or any other constitutionally-provided right." (1986)
"Trial by jury is the best institution calculated for the preservation of liberty and the administration of justice that was ever devised by the wit of man." (1762)
Judge William Bryant [First African-American federal district court judge in D.C]
"If it weren't for lawyers, I'd still be three-fifths of a man." (2004)
Justice William O. Douglas
"The Massachusetts Body of Liberties was a new Magna Carta. It contained many of the seeds of the civil liberties which today distinguish us from the totalitarian systems, including the right to trial by jury." (1954)
Justice Hugo Black
"Our duty to preserve the Seventh Amendment is a matter of high Constitutional importance. The founders of our country thought that trial by civil jury was an essential bulwark of civil liberty and it must be scrupulously safeguarded." (1939, 1943)
Justice Ward Hunt
"Twelve jurors know more of the common affairs of life than does one man, and they can draw wiser and safer conclusions than a single judge." (1873)
The cost of a thing is the amount of life that you must exchange for it -- now or in the long run (Thoreau)
if you have an on-going relationship -- even as limited as a note payable -- squeezing the last nickel out of the deal may impair your bargaining partner's ability to perform
what goes up, must come down, i.e., squeezing out the last nickel creates enemies who none of us can afford when times are good, let alone when times are bad
taking advantage of another's weaknesses tears at the social fabric
it makes us all more watchful and less productive
it doesn't actually feel good to line your pockets with the misery of others
sometimes the downtrodden rise up -- every couple of centuries or so, creating an entirely new order -- the generous man and woman will not be on the wrong side of that revolution
global warming -- think about it -- the order will change as will the countries who will be asking for favors
you reap what you sow (I'm pretty sure I learned this in Sunday School)
social relations do not exist "out there" -- they are co-created by one person's relationship with every other person -- the society you inhabit is the one you create -- if you don't want your neighbor taking your last dime, don't take his
collaborative effort results in greater progress than individual activity -- if you decrease trust, you impede advancement in business, the arts and science
Readers! Can I count on you to give us all more reasons?
I'm tempted to just import Geoff Sharp's entire post on joint session vs. separate caucus mediation or, as Joe McMahon positions the split in current mediation practice in Moving Mediation Back to Its Historic Roots, "dialogue-based" v. "separation-based" practice.
I will give you a few excerpts, though, both Geoff's own thoughts and those of McMahon quoted by him (thanks to our mutual friend Stephanie West Allen at Idealawg).
If denial and avoidance are thought to be the most universal responses to conflict, it is important to consider whether separation-based mediation merely plays into and enables such a response to conflict. If so, it is time to evaluate whether mediation and facilitation were really intended to provide support for such denial...
Support for the market model of mediation ("the market knows what it needs and what it needs is the settlement conference") is claimed in the high settlement rates in commercial settlement conferences. However, a high percentage of civil cases always have settled, even long before mediation was in vogue...
McMahon asks of mediators; 'are you fully satisfied with the quality of dialogue among conflicting parties in the mediations in which you participate?'
What a wonderful question! In my case however, only occasionally.
As McMahon says, 'By broadly considering conflict and mediation, it may be possible... to move these processes back toward their historic roots—that being processes based on parties telling their stories in face-to-face dialogue aided by a mediator who can guide them to more effective communications.'
And though it is, as Geoff says, about the "timbre and tone of resolution," it is also about obtaining more satisfactory resolutions -- resolutions that not only satisfy more party needs, interests and desires but which invariably leave less value lying unused on the table when all parties leave the room.
I'll grill Geoff about this over dinner tomorrow night and get back to you on all of this.
Here, then, is the weakness of shuttle negotiation. The parties' attention is fixated on money. A fixation that neuroscientists tell us makes us ungenerous and anti-social -- the worst possible context for a successful settlement.
The next time you're facing a difficult negotiation or mediation, remember the salutary effect of small talk in helping yourself and your opponent focus on the commercial and human situation that has brought you to the table so that you can more easily resolve the business and the people problem at the heart of the litigation.
Whether justice and fairness are, at some level, hard-wired into us (see Brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate) or culturally controlled, it seems that Rawls' conception of "justice and fairness" based upon reasonableness and enlightened self-interest might flow more or less naturally from a mediated dispute resolution forum where the parties, rather than the mediator, are in control.
Emotions in litigation -- and at the negotiation table -- often run extremely high. It is for this reason that so many lawyers want to avoid joint sessions altogether and conduct their entire bargaining session in separate caucus with a "shuttle" mediator.
What I can tell you from three years of full-time mediation practice, however, is this -- when business people -- properly coached -- are finally willing to sit down and speak to one another, to explain their circumstances rather than their legal and factual position -- cases get settled rather quickly. (See Geoff Sharp's In Praise of Joint Sessions here)
Because they have more in common with one another -- including most particularly the dispute -- than with anyone else.
"Inordinancy" is not, I think, a matter of time but of focus. One's sexual interests might be classfied as prurient if they are stirred by a single act, item or physical characteristic and disregard the humanity of the object of one's desire. In feminist terms, pornography objectifies people, elevating their parts above the sum of their parts and using them to satisfy our own -- but not their -- desires.
And how is pornography like litigation, Ms. Pynchon?
After more than 10 years as a judge of this [Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal] I find that the flow of cases begins to resemble a moving train, with each window revealing a still life of an individual human drama. The sheer volume of cases, and the fact that we rarely see the faces of the participants--just written words on paper and, sometimes, the arguments of lawyers--makes it difficult to remember that there are human beings somewhere looking to us with hope and yearning for a decision in their favor. The law, too, is quite complex. Cases often turn on legal technicalities that bear only a tangential relationship to concepts such as fairness and equity. Justice, we tell ourselves--and I do believe this--is done if the law is applied without regard to the outcome in a particular case.
The artifacts of litigation -- usually called "briefs" and sometimes sprung into life as depositions or trial testimony -- make a fetish of one or more aspects of a complex human drama. Litigation sucks the people out of the play, requiring both litigants and attorneys to objectify and demonize one another. By the time the "case" is ready to be "mediated" or "settled," the people with the problem often feel as if they long ago watched the litigation train leave with someone else's story in it -- that the "still-life" Kozinski observes at a glance through the moving window has little to do with the people and a lot to do with process.
Are we interested in knowing one another? Would a genuine interest in the man Kozinski be more satisfying, finally, than the briefly titillating party joke we might wish to make of him? Do we privilege the prurient or the personal?
If you do this, you will no longer be capable of reducing Kozinski to a ribald joke or reveling in his public embarassment. You will recognize the humanity in him, which is the necessary pre-requisite to recognizing and forgiving the fallible humanity in all of us.
And litigation? Here's my unsolicited advice: Let your clients tell their stories to one another in a joint mediation session. Neither you nor they will thereafter be capable of reducing the "opposition" to a single demonic character trait.
I will say it again. Litigation is not about money. It is about justice.
The defense balks at paying Plaintiff at the point of a gun. The Plaintiff resists releasing the defendant from liability until satisfied that a wrong has been righted or never really existed in the first place.
You can accomplish justice with money. But you can accomplish it far more easily, and with far greater satisfaction for your clients, if you allow them to once again share the depth and dimensionality of their dispute with one another; harmonizing their mutual stories of injustice and betrayal.
In the meantime, I suggest we let Kozinski -- and ourselves -- off the hook by recognizing that the sum of the parts is greater -- and in the end far more interesting -- than the temporary public revelation of the smallest part of any man.
Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let's translate all this a bit: Imagine the Kozinski's have a den in their house. In the den is a bunch of stuff deposited by anyone in the family -- pictures, books, videos, whatever. And imagine the den has a window, with a lock. But imagine finally the lock is badly installed, so anyone with 30 seconds of jiggling could open the window, climb into the den, and see what the judge keeps in his house. Now imagine finally some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family's stuff. He finds some stuff that he knows the local puritans won't like. He takes it, and then starts shopping it around to newspapers and the like: "Hey look," he says, "look at the sort of stuff the judge keeps in his house."
Susan Estrich's 'take" in her post Good Humor, excerpt below:
If everyone who ever viewed or shared pornography were disqualified from judging the line between protected speech and criminal obscenity, we all would be in trouble. The problem facing Judge Kozinski illustrates what's wrong with the prosecution, not with the judge.
Which brings us to the broader point. Judge Kozinski's actions affect the reputation of the judiciary, on which rest foundations of the state, like public respect for the rule of law. To the extent that this public disclosure undermines public confidence in the judiciary or the rule of law, it's a very bad thing. There's a reason for the outrage that's expressed when the public hears about judges' bad behavior. As Stephen Gillers told the LAT, "The phrase 'sober as a judge' resonates with the American public."
The National Law Journal's compilation of Expert Opinionon the matter including legal ethics professor Ronald Rotunda's opinion that the material on Kosinzki's site was "demeaning, infantile, pornographic, [and] offensive," which just makes me want to see what type of internet porn the good Professor prefers.
I do hope you'll pick up Ken Cloke's new book Conflict Revolution. Keep it on your night stand. Dip into it when you feel angry, hopeless, and grief-stricken at a local, national, or international act of violence.
It is possible, as has been demonstrated in Northern Ireland, for former combatants to recognize that nothing can be gained through military methods that is worth the cost; that their mutual slaughter has been a gigantic, tragic, absurd, pointless waste; and that they can reach out at any time to each other without glossing over their differences.
It is possible, even for the most battle-hardened opponents, to learn that there are no differences they cannot solve through dialogue, negotiation, and conflict resolution, or are worth the damage created by their assumptions of evil; that they can engage in open, honest, collaborative negotiations over ongoing issues of justice and equality; cooperate in strengthening their political, economic, and social democracies; develop interest-based conflict resolution skills; and elicit heartfelt communications that invite truth and reconciliation. To do so, they need to penetrate beneath the layer of moral rationalization they have erected to solidify and buttress these cycles of internecine conflict.
Remember Détente? Take a Look at the June 2 NY Times "Backgrounder" on Negotiating with Hostile States. Campaign rhetoric aside, all U.S. Presidents do it; the only questions being when and who and under what circumstances and how. Excerpt below:
Republican President Richard M. Nixon accelerated contacts with Soviet leaders in the early 1970s. Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, introduced a policy of détente that aimed to establish new linkages on issues ranging from arms control to improved trade terms. The goal was to lessen superpower tensions as well as induce positive changes in Soviet international behavior. Kissinger writes in his book Diplomacy that Nixon's advisers "saw no contradiction in treating the communist world as both adversary and collaborator: adversary in fundamental ideology and in the need to prevent communism from upsetting the global equilibrium; collaborator in keeping the ideological conflict from exploding into a nuclear war."
The new contacts bore fruit in the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT I) in 1972 by Nixon and Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. But within a year, tensions related to the October 1973 Arab-Israeli War showed superpower competition remained vigorous, at one point prompting a heightened nuclear alert for U.S. forces. In 1974, congressional critics of détente, led by Democratic Sen. Henry M. Jackson, sidelined a U.S.-Soviet trade agreement with the Jackson-Vanik amendment, which linked trade to emigration of Soviet Jews. Writing in Foreign Affairs, historian John Lewis Gaddis called détente a "sophisticated and far-sighted strategy" that Nixon and Kissinger failed to put across to their "own bureaucracies, the Congress, or the public as a whole." Robert S. Litwak, director of international security studies at the Woodrow Wilson Center, writes in his book Rogue States and U.S. Foreign Policy that the détente policy was hampered by the "Soviet leadership's ability to compartmentalize relations and frustrate the Nixon administration's efforts to establish linkages."
Some Cold War analysts say more effective as a counterweight to Soviet ambitions was the Nixon administration's simultaneous diplomacy with China, which led to the formal establishment of a dialogue with the 1972 Shanghai Communique. While not posing the direct threat that the Soviet Union represented, Communist China was viewed as no less odious by critics of the Nixon negotiations due to its intervention on North Korea's side in the Korean War, and because of massive human rights abuses, especially in the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution. Despite such concerns, Nixon saw value in ending China's isolation. He wrote in an October 1967 Foreign Affairs article: "We simply cannot afford to leave China forever outside the family of nations, there to nurture its fantasies, cherish its hates and threaten its neighbors."
In the years that followed, U.S. administrations held a number of adversarial states at arm's length, diplomatically. These states included Fidel Castro's Cuba, Vietnam, North Korea, Libya, Nicaragua, Syria, and Sudan. In some cases, like Vietnam, diplomatic ties have been fully restored. In others, such as North Korea, dialogue has resumed over the issue of the country's denuclearization. Relations with Iran were severed after the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy, and diplomatic contacts have occurred only sporadically since then. High-level contacts with Cuba remained a remote prospect in 2008 as an economic embargo continued over U.S. concern at political repression.
President Ronald Reagan took office signaling a tough posture toward the Soviet Union and an intention to stanch communist support for rebellions in Central America. But Reagan also stepped up negotiations on nuclear arms control and participated in summits with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, a practice continued by George H.W. Bush until the Soviet Union's collapse. In the 1990s, the Clinton administration pursued dialogue with Pyongyang and normalized relations with Vietnam, while seeking to contain and isolate Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, and Afghanistan's Taliban leadership.
One of the reasons I began this series was to explore the type of professional behavior that tends to trigger professional malpractice litigation -- and how that litigation might be avoided.
As you may recall, my first post cited a study finding that the top three reasons for filing litigation against a medical provider were:
so that it would not happen to anyone else . . . 91%
I wanted an explanation . . . 91%
I wanted the doctors to realize what they’d done . . . 90%
In that same study, only 66% of respondents said they'd brought suit because they wanted money.
Other studies have found that the failure to health care professionals to effectively communicate with patients and their families give rise to more litigation than negligence or bad results in treatment. As reported in the March/April issue of Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare
ineffective communication with patients and families, rather than quality of care, was the underlying cause of patients' and families' decisions to file suit against their caregivers (Vincent et al., 1994; Hickson et al., 1992). Other researchers found that most patients would be less angry and less likely to sue if physicians honestly and compassionately disclosed medical errors that occurred, admitted responsibility, took steps to reduce the chances of repeat errors in the future, and offered sincere apologies for the suffering that may have resulted because of the bad outcomes (Gallagher et al., 2003). Similarly, research on apologies suggests that individuals receiving a full apology that both expresses sympathy and takes responsibility by the person who wronged them are more likely to accept settlement offers and negotiate towards a resolution rather than going to trial (Robbennolt, 2003).
Someone once told me that a divorce is a hologram of the marriage -- that all of the marital dynamics that have never been resolved -- or even surfaced -- by the divorcing couple -- take shape and form in one way or another in the course of the divorce. Not surprisingly, the "weapons" of marital dissolution are its most precious assets -- relationship and children -- and its most symbolic -- money. /*
So it is that historic family dynamics (rife with unresolved conflict) will more or less naturally play themselves out around the bed of a loved one who is -- or may be -- dying.
MAIN RESULTS: At least 1 health care provider in 78% of the cases described a situation coded as conflict. Conflict occurred between the staff and family members in 48% of the cases, among staff members in 48%, and among family members in 24%. In 63% of the cases, conflict arose over the decision about life-sustaining treatment itself. In 45% of the cases, conflict occurred over other tasks such as communication and pain control. Social issues caused conflict in 19% of the cases.
CONCLUSIONS: Conflict is more prevalent in the setting of intensive care decision making than has previously been demonstrated. While conflict over the treatment decision itself is most common, conflict over other issues, including social issues, is also significant. By identifying conflict and by recognizing that the treatment decision may not be the only conflict present, or even the main one, clinicians may address conflict more constructively.
It's Not About Money But it Will Become About Money if Conflict is Not Treated at the Source
I have much more to say about this but I need to get out to the Valley to see my dad who is -- amazingly (to me at any rate) -- surviving without food or water into Day Nine.
For now, I will simply remind my readers of the following:
Why the Coming Crisis and Likelihood of Litigation?
The parents' of the baby-boom are dying. Extraordinarily high levels of conflict in health care settings are associated with dying. Hospitals and health care professionals are not yet up to par in resolving conflict at its source. In the absence of programs to assist the families of the dying negotiate their way through this traumatic experience, people will seek out attorneys; attorneys will, as the law does, monetize pain, suffering, and injustice.
The research is in. The solutions are available.
It's up to us.
*/ Money is symbolic? Yes it is. As my longer article on the many meanings people give to money notes:
It is money’s nearly infinite plasticity that makes exchange of unlike things not only possible, but nearly effortless. Unlike barter, which famously requires a “double coincidence of wants,” money creates a bridge to the future; permits trade at a distance; allows the exchange of durable objects for perishable goods; and, is capable of reducing nearly every human activity into a quantitative monetary value.
Although contemporary money seems to have shed all of its qualities except its quantity, “its oneness or fiveness or fiftyness,” we do not in fact use money as if it were fungible. We experience the value of a dollar earned differently from the way we experience one that is stolen or given to us as a gift and we spend it differently as well.
Let's for a moment assume that I had not surrendered the control of Dad's final days to his wife, into whose hands he has so indisputably placed them.
If you've been following this series, you may have concluded that my Dad's immediate family (step-children; my sister) are likely indifferent to, uninterested in or incapable of dealing with the end of Dad's life. My compassionate default is that these blood- and step-siblings are neither uninterested nor callously indifferent to my father's fate, but simply incapable of responding to this intensely emotional experience for family-historical, social, psychological, emotional or practical reasons.
Let's assume, however, that surrounding my father's hospital bed is a clamorous family, all expressing different concerns, desires, options, solutions and resolutions to the question whether to insert, or later remove, a feeding tube, remembering Ken Cloke's observation in his new book, Conflict Revolution, that a dispute occurs
not only between individuals, but in a context, culture, and environment; surrounded by social, economic, and political forces; inside a group or organization; contained by a system and structure; among a diverse community of people; at a particular moment in time and history; on a stage; against a backdrop; in a setting or milieu.
[These] conflicts were often fueled by different perceptions of the medical facts, different understandings of the prognosis, different interpretations of patient behavior (generally relating to whether the patient was experiencing pain and suffering) and different personal value hierarchies. As we searched for ways to help patients, family members, and staff understand the clashing cultures and discordant assumptions that animated their arguments, we realized that the substantive parts of our interventions were more than outweighed by the process elements. Searching for the right theoretical model steered us to the frame and the techniques of mediation.
The mediators in my readership will not doubt the efficacy of neutral-intervention in these decisions. As my own experience demonstrates, however, no one sends a mediator or even the palliative care nurse or social worker to your loved one's hospital room unless someone has "hipped" you to the fact that they are available to you.
Listen, my first husband was a social worker and it wouldn't have occurred to me to ask for one at the hospital unless my health care executive friend had told me to do so. Nor would I have known there was a palliative care nurse on staff unless my friend the hospital hospice director hadn't told me her name and how to contact her.
So What, if Anything, Could a Mediator Do to Assist the Family in the Circumstances Outlined in My Hypothetical?
Cohen has systems in mind, not merely interventions, so he begins his proposed five-step model with training (echoing my question to the social worker -- "don't they train these doctors in active listening?")
Much of what we have said before about managing emotions [/*] is relevant here, as is the clarification of "professional emotions" on the part of doctors. Negotiation training for doctors is a must. . . . Already the negotiation field is beginning to tailor training programs to health care professionals by using narratives and cases developed by doctors for doctors. , and discussion of appropriate techniques with simulation, exercises and feedback." . . . . .
More specifically, [others] identify five types of ADR training and education: marketing efforts (convincing stakeholders to buy-in),awareness education (informing users what ADR is and what role it plays in the organization),conflict management and communication training (generic training not geared towards a particular type of ADR, [r]ather, it is focused on increasing participants' understanding and acceptance of conflict and on improving their communication skills, including active listening and direct communication"), consumer/user training (focusing on what to expect in the ADR proceeding, how to prepare for ADR, how to identify interests, options, etc.),and training of third-party neutrals.
*/ But please don't let the family know that is what you are trying to do, i.e., manage, rather than support, their emotional responses to a loved one's final days.
[A] bioethical mediator [would] help to identify all the parties and their interests, and develop a common understanding of the medical facts and options. For instance, consultants might be called in to finely tune a prognosis.
When coming into [a case], the [bioethical mediation] team asks: Who are the parties to this conflict? What are their interests? Are those interests in conflict and, if so, how might the conflict be resolved or consensus forged? This formulation grew out of the clinical finding that most of the events labeled "bioethical dilemmas" were really "conflicts" that pitted members of the hospital team against each other, or members of the team against some or all of the patient/family constellation.
The Creation and Use of an ADR-Oriented Ethics Committee
Membership: . . . . What is indispensable is that the panel not be insiders. If having physicians sit on the panel is seen as essential, it may be useful to use physicians who teach at local medical schools or who do not practice at that particular hospital. . . . . .
Initiation: In keeping with the sequencing of low- to high-cost methods of dispute resolution, the process should be initiated at the request of the patient, her family, any member of the health care team, or the bioethical mediator if he or she is unsatisfied with the resolution at Step 2.
Methodology: Here there is a spectrum of formality that will depend on the individual hospital and its resources, ranging from advisory arbitration to mini-trial. In principle, there is no reason why the Committee might not offer multiple options along the spectrum of formality at the election of the parties. Depending on the level of formality chosen, the parties might represent themselves or seek legal representation.
Opinion: This should be delivered in writing, be well elaborated, and be the kind of opinion that can give the parties information relevant to how a court might decide the dispute.
Bindingness: What is essential is that someone present at the arbitration process has the authority to bind the hospital. If power imbalances favoring the hospital are a concern in the process, one possibility to "retilt" the system might be to make the arbitration "asymmetrically binding," making the hospital abide by the arbitration decision while the opposing parties are not equivalently bound. If there are concerns about this, some kind of safety valve could be provided. For instance, the binding nature of the Ethics Committee decision could be overruled by a majority vote of the Hospital's board of directors.
Having used Terri Schiavo's case as a jumping off point, Cohen suggests that the experience of her care-givers, elevated for a time into a national controversy (see Cloke above)
highlights what each of us fears about our own deaths: that we will not die with dignity, that our wishes may not be followed, that decisions on our treatment may tear apart our families and bring rancor to the lives of those we love. Terry Schiavo's case also shows that in quelling our fears, the adjudicatory model offers scant succor.
While in theory, advanced directives offer a promising resting point for American jurisprudence's unsatisfying oscillation between full-on adjudication and completely private determination, in practice they have never caught on. The ideas and techniques ADR has
cultivated over the last thirty years offer us, and our families, a chance to do better. ADR can:
Help to resolve "misunderstandings" that the adjudicatory model tends to treat as full-blown "disputes;"
Identify intermediate options that satisfy both parties and remove the need for rights-oriented dispute resolution;
Offer a lower-cost form of rights-oriented adjudication when a dispute must be "decided;"
Enable the patient and free him from the debilitating "object" status accorded to him by adjudication; and
Offer emotional settlement lacking in the typical litigation process.
Concerns about cost, due process protection, and institutional resistance to implementing such an approach add complexity, but this article has suggested possible approaches to solve those problems. Moreover, these concerns have to be compared to those attaching to the status quo regime that consists of large amounts of "lumping" it. While the details of an appropriate ADR framework will vary from institution to institution, this article has offered a five-step model for implementing an ADR-informed approach to end of life decision-making, as well as discussing alternative options at every stage. It is only by
combining the work of fields such as medicine, law, and organizational development that we are able to provide a thing of major concern to the aging population of America: the assurance of dying well.
Absent our collaborative skills, Tomasello tells us, we're not even the smartest animals on the planet. When comparing adult chimpanzees and orangutans to 2-year-old human children, Tomasello and his colleagues found that apes and toddlers performed equally well on every test other than those measuring social skills -- "social learning, communicating and reading the intentions of others."
We've always known that if you put a human infant on a desert island, he dies. This does not distinguish us from other social animals who depend upon their family, clan, group or tribe for survival.
What's new is Tomasello's observation that we're the only social animal who shares for the sake of sharing. "Human infants," he writes
gesture and talk in order to share information with others — they want to be helpful. They also share their emotions and attitudes freely — as when an infant points to a passing bird for its mother and squeals with glee. This unprompted sharing of information and attitudes can be seen as a forerunner of adult gossip, which ensures that members of a group can pool their knowledge and know who is or is not behaving cooperatively. The free sharing of information also creates the possibility of pedagogy — in which adults impart information by telling and showing, and children trust and use this information with confidence. Our nearest primate relatives do not teach and learn in this manner.
That's the good news. Here's the bad.
[H]umans beings are not cooperating angels; they also put their heads together to do all kinds of heinous deeds. But such deeds are not usually done to those inside “the group.” Recent evolutionary models have demonstrated what politicians have long known: the best way to get people to collaborate and to think like a group is to identify an enemy and charge that “they” threaten “us.” The remarkable human capacity for cooperation thus seems to have evolved mainly for interactions within the group. Such group-mindedness is a major cause of strife and suffering in the world today.
This evolutionary biologist is not content, however, to simply describe primate (that's us)behavior. He also hopes to improve it.
Tomasello's elegant solution to a seeminly intractable problem?
announced Monday a bipartisan agreement on the broad elements of a plan to avoid foreclosures and speed the refinancing of mortgages for roughly 500,000 troubled homeowners without taxpayers footing the bill.
Political deal making showcases high-level bargaining skills at the intersection of interest- value- and rights-based negotiation paradigms. No one files lawsuits against their Senators (well, no sane person). But in the midst of an economic crisis, political representatives might just as well be defendants. As Reynolds explains, the forclosure legislation "deal" reached in the U.S. Senate reflects the election-year pressure that lawmakers feel to find common ground on one of the most pressing issues facing the country.
Some theorists define conflict as a "crisis in human interaction" which the parties need help to overcome for the purpose of restoring constructive interaction.
A stakeholder in a conflict is anyone who might be positively or negatively impacted by the crisis and its potential resolution. In this case, the L.A. Times identifies the entire economy as a "stakeholder." As Ms. Reynolds explains, the "housing collapse"
has inflicted pain on thousands of families, dealt the economy a major blow and ignited a fierce controversy over what -- if anything -- the government should do about it.
The stakeholders to whom elected representatives must answer are, of course, those who elect them -- voters and taxpayers -- as well as those corporate and individual contributors who fill their election coffers. When selling a public good, however, it is best to acknowledge your allegiance to "the people." As one Senator explained:
My primary consideration during negotiations on this package has been to protect the American taxpayer, and I believe we've made significant progress toward that goal.
National Resolution to Public Problems Must Reflect the Voters' Interests and Values
Unlike a lawsuit, where the parties are fighting over existing (or hoped for) rights and obligations, in economic, social or political crises the "fight" is not about "rights" but interests and values. The right to declare bankruptcy aside, no one has a legal right to be "bailed out" of a financial crisis. Nevertheless, a bail out may be necessary if elected officials are to serve the "interests" of their constituents according to those voters' "values."
As Reynolds explains, the lead Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, Sen. Richard C. Shelby, suggested that consensus among law makers could not be achieved if the proposed solution to the foreclosure crisis were seen as a "bail out" of "speculators" or of "borrowers and lenders who made bad decisions out of carelessness or greed." These are the "value" concerns that are part and parcel of any potential resolution of a community-wide conflict.
Because we perceive money to be a scarce resource, we presume that its delivery to Interest Group A will deprive Interest Group B of funds necessary to serve Group B's needs or desires. This is a "zero sum" view of economics. For individuals and many businesses, however, this is often not only perceived reality, but the actual fact of the matter.
If mom and dad bail Billy out of jail for drunk driving, they may not have sufficient resources to pay his brother's room and board at Ivy League U. Not wishing to "reward" bad behavior (a "value" metric) may be only part of the calculus, however. If the family is capable of satisfying both brothers' interests, they may or may not decide to be guided by their "values." They could act out of helpless parental love or simply compassion. If the parents do not have sufficient resources to satisfy both brothers' needs at the same time, their decision about who to benefit will almost always reflect family values (little "F" little "V").
How national problems should be solved within federal budgetary constraints is not so different from the family drama hypothesized above.
The foreclosure crisis is not only about American values such as independence, thriftiness, caution, and hard work. It is also about stakeholder interests. As Reynolds reports:
Some Republicans have supported other versions of the legislation, citing the severity of the housing crisis and the escalating number of foreclosures in some regions of the country, including parts of California. They argued that the foreclosure crisis would damage entire communities and pull the economy toward recession.
If larger societal interests -- like the economy itself /** -- are at risk, a "bail out" plan that "rewards" even the careless and greedy may be palatable to voters, particularly when, as Reynolds reports, "at the luxury end, home prices are falling." In other words -- if this crisis is not addressed by our elected representatives (who are also stakeholders in this crisis) not only voters, but contributors to political campaigns might retaliate against them.
In acknowledging the need for action, Senator Shelby positively "frames" the crisis as one affecting "struggling homeowners" who "should" be assisted so long as "American tax payers" don't have to foot the bill. Others appeal to market and voter fears that the foreclosure crisis might "pull the economy toward recession" (if it has not already arrived there). In all events, a majority of stakeholders in any democracy must feel satisfied that legislation addresses both their needs and their fears.
The Proposed "Deal"
The proposed Senate "deal" to aid borrowers, lenders, and "the economy" is described by the Times as follows:
The Senate plan announced by Shelby and Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) is similar to the House-passed bill in that the centerpiece of each is an expansion of government mortgage insurance. Under both proposals, a borrower facing foreclosure could refinance into a government-guaranteed mortgage under certain conditions, including that the home is the owner's primary residence and that the holder of the existing mortgage accepts 85% of the home's current appraised value as payment in full.
The House bill calls for using about $1.7 billion from the federal budget to set up the program, which would be administered by the Federal Housing Administration.
Under the Senate deal, the start-up funds would come instead from an affordable-housing fund capitalized by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were created by the government but are owned by public stockholders.
This plan satisfies American "self-help" values by requiring borrowers to refinance. It attempts to exclude "speculators" from the benefit created by requiring recipients of the government-guaranteed mortgages to affirm that the home is their primary residence. And it "punishes" imprudent lenders by requiring them to accept 85% of the home's current appraised value as payment in full. Finally, whereas the House would spend $1.7 billion in federal funds, the Senate hopes to tap the resources of Fannie Mae and Freddie-Mac, government created but privately owned lenders.
Selling the Deal
Whatever deal is crafted to address a national financial crisis or to settle a piece of commercial litigation, it must be sold to all stakeholders. Here's a classic "win-win" pitch based on interests and values.
"This legislation is good news for both the markets and homeowners," [Senator] Dodd said. "The bill addresses the root of our current economic problems -- the foreclosure crisis -- by creating a voluntary initiative at no estimated cost to taxpayers, which will help Americans keep their homes." Dodd told reporters the measure would speed the correction of housing prices to return stability to the market as soon as possible and prevent further damage to the broader economy. "Obviously, we want to keep as many people as possible in their homes. But the second goal, as important as the first, is to get to the floor" of the housing correction, Dodd said in a conference call. "Until we get to the floor, none of this is going to get better." "We have a lot of confidence that this is what the market is waiting for," Dodd said.
Deconstructing consensus-building in the political arena should help anyone who is making an effort to settle commercial litigation -- or simply a family dispute over the deployment of family resources.
We thank Times staff writer Maura Reynolds for the depth and breadth of her reporting on this issue.
Nearly every condominium complex harbors an outlaw -- the man, woman, couple or family who refuse to follow the rules. The young couple who blasts the woofers off their stereo system at 3 a.m. The elderly woman who doesn't clean up after her dog. The raucous family that plays "Marco Polo" in the community pool after midnight.
Offended and outraged, other homeowners make demands on their volunteer board who contact the (often unresponsive) management company. The HOA board does its best. It issues warnings to procure compliance. To no avail. Eventually, someone reads the CC&R's. They learn that the Board has enforceable legal duties and the homeoweners actionable legal rights.
Welcome to community mediation -- the non-zero sum, value-based, rights-seeking, joint session transformative dispute resolution process. We're well trained and we're free.
But can we deliver justice?
Attorneys, the Law, Mediation and Justice
Maybe it was just my G-g-g-generation, but I went to law school primarily because I was interested in the delivery of justice. Although my primary involvement in the 20th Century 's civil rights movements was as a Vista volunteer at an activist women's center in San Diego in the early 1970's, I wasn't simply pursuing my own narrow self-interests when I applied to law school.
As early as I can recall -- long before I'd conclude that 1950's and '60s women were oppressed -- I'd already developed a deep longing for the reconstruction of adult relationships along the lines of fairness. This must be atypical childhood longing premised upon our predicament of being physically small and powerless. An "unjust" world that rewards only power would not ensure our survival while a world in which everyone is valued and treated fairly would.
Couple a child's sense of justice with televised images of "the law" aiming fire-hoses at peacefully demonstrating "Negroes" and you get a life-long commitment not simply to the "rule of law" but to the necessity for that "rule" to be premised upon justice.
Are Negotiated and Mediated Resolutions Trumping Justice?
These are just a few of the reasons it troubles me so when scholars suggest that mediated and negotiated resolutions to litigated disputes are unjust. Seeyesterday's post here and the article that prompted it, Justice Trumps Peace (etc.) here. If mediation is truly what its critics contend it to be -- a full-frontal assault upon the rights gained by marginalized citizens during the Civil Rights era -- I'm in serious moral trouble here.
Consider this contention in Justice Trumps Peace:
“ADR rhetoric” reinforce[s] a conservative challenge to “the law and reform discourse of the 1960s, a discourse concerned with justice and root causes, and with debates over right and wrong.” “The rights theme, consistent throughout earlier debates over legal resources,” was conspicuous by its absence in “the policy discussion on alternative dispute resolution.” . . . .
Laura Nader . . . not[ed] that ADR’s “process of communication” ethos took necessary rough, ideological edges off claims, and fostered what she called “coercive harmony.” Nader argued that ADR was permeated with “conformist ideology,” which was employed to “suppress the realities of class, gender, and racial antagonism” endemic to American society, and as such, it comprised an “unreal law movement.” Nader contended that ADR’s emphasis on conciliation meant that critical considerations of “blame or rights” were “avoided and replaced by the rhetoric of compromise and relationship.” She concluded that “cultural notions of justice are factored out.”
This tendency to screen-out unpleasant, divisive, but nonetheless vital social concerns supports Fiss’s characterization of ADR as a “sociologically impoverished universe,” in which critical issues of class, race and gender are subsumed to construct “a world composed exclusively of individuals.”
Rawls asked us to think of justice as a matter of agreement. He suggested that we think of the principles guiding a just society as the ones that individuals would agree to -- with the crucial proviso that they do not know where they themselves would end up in society, on the top or the bottom. They would thus act from behind a "veil of ignorance . . . Given this constraint, no individual could tailor the principles of justice to his or her special talents or circumstances, which is why Rawls called this approach "justice as fairness." Rawls suggested that the principles that would be agreed to would be ones that were deeply committed ot basic human rights and had a strong presumption in favor of economic equality. Inequalities would only be tolerated if they most greatly benefited the least well off.
According to Ryan, Rawls concluded in his later writings that the reciprocity inherent in bargained-for resolutions and negotiation's search for mutual advantage were insufficient to ensure justice. Rawls therefore shifted the basis of his theory from the search for rational resolutions to the implementation of reasonable ones. "The question to ask of principles of justice," posited Rawls, was,
what were the most reasonable ones for people to agree to given the nature of our society and the nature of who we are? Justice, thus reconceived, lost the harsh individualism that Rawls' earlier theory seemed to possess. The stress on reasonableness meant that people taking others into account was an essential part of what justice was all about. His theory also moved away from his earlier hyper-abstraction, insofar as we talk of what is "reasonable" invariably refers not to some hypotheitcal persons with hypotheical aims but to real people -- in this case, us, here and now.
John Jones had practically memorized the CC&R's governing the Board's duties and the homeowner's rights. His wife repeatedly broke into tears as she described sleepless nights spent on the living room couch where the upstairs neighbor's early morning antics were the least disturbing. The volunteer Board member was sympathetic but at a loss for solutions. She'd contacted "management" and sent warnings to the miscreants, all to no avail.
Only punitive measures would do at this point, said Jones. The CC&R's called for sanctions to be imposed on rule-breakers but lacked a means of implementation and enforcement. The HOA representative indicated that she not only had the Board's authority to settle the matter, but to impose any necessary and reasonable rules to flesh out the CC&R's inadequate policies.
"We want monetary sanctions imposed," Jones was saying, "sanctions that can be made liens against the property just as HOA dues can be."
"What about notice?" I asked. "And a hearing? There's nothing in the rules about the procedure for imposing sanctions."
"24 hours!" shouted John. "If they don't comply, a $500 sanction to be made a lien against their property. And another $500 for every day they continue to violate the noise restrictions contained in the CCR's."
Not knowing about Rawls' veil-of-ignorance-just-rule-making principle, I nevertheless wondered aloud whether Mr. and Mrs. Jones understood that the bylaws they were suggesting could be used by their scofflaw neighbors as easily as they could be pursued by the Jones.
"What set of rules do you think would be fair?" I asked.
Two hours later, we had achieved what my Con Law professor would have called "procedural due process" -- a set of rules that would likely pass Constitutional muster that camefrom the parties -- not from the mediator.
Whether justice and fairness are, at some level, hard-wired into us (see Brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate) or culturally controlled, it seems that Rawls' conception of "justice and fairness" based upon reasonableness and enlightened self-interest might flow more or less naturally from a mediated dispute resolution forum where the parties, rather than the mediator, are in control.
Agree with Fiss, Ellinghausen, Laura Nader and Carrie Menkel-Meadow or not, there shouldn't be a mediator practicing who is unaware of these serious criticisms of the mediation process. If we're not aware of them, we can't avoid the potential for "muscle" mediation to prevent even the aspirational goal of delivering justice without regard to gender, color, power, social status, wealth and all the rest of the social markers the law has been so careful to avoid paying obeisance to.
The New York Times reports this morning that there were 243,353 foreclosure filings in April alone, nearly three times the total in the same month just two years ago," making it all but inevitable that "many millions of American families will be losing their homes before long."
In The Scars of Losing a Home, Times writer Robert A. Shiller reports that following a brief moment of sympathy for such unfortunates, we will almost instinctively turn the full force of our judgment upon them.
[I]nstead of having sympathy for these homeowners, many people blame them for their predicaments. That isn’t surprising. It’s an example of a general tendency that was documented by social psychologists decades ago.
In his 1980 book, “The Belief in a Just World: A Fundamental Delusion,” Melvin Lerner, a social psychologist, argued that people want to believe in the inherent justice of the economic system in which they live, and want to believe that people who appear to be suffering are in fact responsible for their own situations.
He provided empirical evidence, derived from experiments, that after an initial pang of sympathy, people tend to develop negative views toward others who are suffering. That negative tendency seems to be at work today.
Losing "Everything" -- How Bad is It?
When the Northridge earthquake threw me out of bed in the early morning hours of January 17, 1994, my financial life was sliding out of control. By May, I'd be laid off from my job as an associate attorney in a prominent Los Angeles law firm and by July I'd be signing bankruptcy papers. Foreclosure would follow.
More pertinent to the morning of the earthquake is the fact that neither my downstairs neighbor --the HOA's President -- nor many of the other owners in my 50-unit condominium complex were speaking to me. Not only was I failing to pay my HOA dues in a timely fashion, I had the scent of failure about me.
Neighbors in Los Angeles tend to come together only following natural disasters. Fire, flood, earthquake, O.J. These were the seasons of the year in which the the federal government erased my indebtedness; the bank foreclosed on my home; and, I was thrown up on consumerism's shores without any credit cards.
On the morning of the earthquake, the shame associated with my financial distress kept me from joining my neighbors on the sidewalk as aftershocks continued to wrench the foundations of our building. Instead, I opened the French doors to my small balcony, pulled the pillow and blanket from my bed and laid down on the living room floor in order to take comfort from the small talk rising up from the street below.
By June, foreclosure papers would be posted on my front door and I would be living in the "studio" apartment good friends created for me out of the chaos of a spacious but unused basement in their small Echo Park house. As L.A. began the slow re-construction of its streets, apartment buildings and houses, as fallen chimneys were rebuilt and freeways restored, I too would begin a recovery of my own, not only materially, but spiritually as well.
Another story in today's Times recounts the shame white collar workers experience in their hot-house communities when they are laid off from high paying jobs. In The Language of Loss for the Jobless we learn that failure leaves our friends speechless and ourselves ashamed. "Victim-blaming," writes Hoffman,
dates to Job’s mourners. “It helps people who are still employed to believe that people who have been laid off did something wrong,” Ms. Baber said. “If you can blame them, then you can feel protected. If it’s just random — ‘they moved customer service to Dallas’ — then nothing will protect you either, and that’s scary to people.”
Though we may not know what to say, most of us know what to do. As the wife of one laid off executive recounts -- “Friends have kept us alive. . . and given us clothes for our kids. One friend just found a job for my husband.”
Material Losses and Spiritual Gains
Our culture suffers from the burden of success. Not only does failure tend to cause us shame, many see the inevitable losses that necessarily punctuate even the most "successful" careers as moral failings. And let's not be coy -- often bad decisions and poor judgment cause successes that are precariously balanced and relationships that are already strained to "suddenly" collapse.
Because we tend only to share our stories of success and not our failures, we hardly know what to do when misfortune knocks on our door. That's why today's Times "recession" stories made me want to share my own tale of loss. Because we too often feel as if we can only share the "success" bits of our personal family narratives.
Here's the good news for those facing bankruptcy and foreclosure: if you are able to find a community of people who are also recovering from life's inevitable reverses, you will eventually find that success -- with its attendant pretense of imperviousness to disaster -- is actually more alienating than its opposite. I consider myself more than lucky to have found such a community. One that taught me how much more important it is for me to be of service to my fellows than to reach some perceived pinnacle of success. One that taught me that it is better to be a worker among workers than it is to be "best in show" One that taught me that my fortune lies in neighborliness and my wealth in the quality of my relationship with my fellows. One that taught me, finally, that it is better to weather flood, fire, earthquake, riot, and recession in a community in which I am simply one of its fallible members than it is to huddle under a blanket holding onto my fragile self-esteem while yearning to join the company of my neighbors on the street below.
(see criticism of Shiller's commentary, in The Mess That Greenspan made here -- The Mess is another Forbes Business and Financial Network Blog that I've enjoyed reading)
We come on the ship they call the Mayflower
We come on the ship that sailed the moon
We come in the age's most uncertain hour
and sing an American tune
But it's all right, it's all right
You can't be forever blessed
Still, tomorrow's going to be another working day
And I'm trying to get some rest
That's all I'm trying to get some rest
Malhotra and colleagues suggest that an adrenaline-fueled emotional state [which they] call competitive arousal, often leads to bad decisions.
Negotiating litigators may want to note that all of the conditions giving rise to "competitive arousal" are the day-to-day conditions in which litigation is conducted, i.e., intense rivalry, especially in the form of one-on-one competitions; time pressure . . . ; and being in the spotlight—that is, working in the presence of an audience.
Sound familiar? Take a look at the consequences and the potential solutions below.
Individually, these factors can seriously impair managerial decision making; together, their consequences can be dire, as evidenced by many high-profile business disasters. It's not possible to avoid destructive competitions and bidding wars completely.
But managers can help prevent competitive arousal by anticipating potentially harmful competitive dynamics and then restructuring the deal-making process. They can also stop irrational competitive behavior from escalating by addressing the causes of competitive arousal.
When rivalry is intense, for instance, managers can
limit the roles of those who feel it most
reduce time pressure by extending or eliminating arbitrary deadlines
deflect the spotlight by spreading the responsibility for critical competitive decisions among team members.
Decision makers will be most successful when they focus on winning contests in which they have a real advantage—and take a step back from those in which winning exacts too high a cost.
Recently, I excerpted the expressed concerns of in-house counsel about ineffective mediators. Among the complaints was some mediators' refusal to see or acknowledge the other side's "irrationality" As Where's the Magic from the U.K. online Mediator Magazine noted:
It can be frustrating where they [the mediator] can see the irrationality of the other party, how their claims and positions are unsubstantiated, and choose to ignore it,' says Frank Aghovia, legal adviser at Exel Plc. He continues, 'It's like saying, "I know he's talking out of his backside, but can you give him what he wants anyway." He concludes that 'steadfast neutrality is irritating and wastes time.'
Helping litigants and their attorneys reassess their case is one of the mediator's greatest challenges. The mediator intervenes only after the parties' dispute has reached stalemate. Each party to a stalemate has negative attitudes about his adversary that are maintained and prolonged by three psychological mechanisms: selective perception, self-fulfilling prophecy, and autistic hostility.
Selective perception: people tend to select those perceptions that tend to confirm their existing attitudes, and ignore or discount information that would disconfirm their existing attitudes.
Self-fulfilling prophecies: people with negative attitudes about their adversary engage in conduct that provokes the adversary's "expected" response, which confirms the party's original expectation, and a vicious cycle ensues.
Autistic hostility: Parties in litigation have stopped talking with one another about their dispute, communicating only through their attorneys. The social scientists would say that such people are "stuck in autistic hostility, that is, their hostility is perpetuated by their refusal to communicate."
Robinson answers his own rhetorical question in this fashion:
When talking to the UFO-guy, I am totally with him. Listening, asking questions, trying to understand whether his delusion actually has some hidden meaningthat might suggest a way to resolve the dispute without asking the other party to "buy in" to the UFO story.
After giving Mr. UFO an opportunity to have his say and to experience -- perhaps for the first time ever -- another human being's willingness to temporarily suspend his disbelief -- I begin to gently "reality test." To do so, I do not have to doubt Mr. UFO's story. I can suggest, however, that not everyone is as understanding as I am.
"Have you told this story to many people?" I might ask. "And what has their response been?" Do you have any reason to believe that a judge or jury might be more likely to believe this narrative of events more than, say, your mother, sister, cousin, wife, best friend, etc. were?
Robinson's suggested action between the rock of understanding and the hard place of consensual reality is shrewd and effective. It neatly avoids the problem recently raised by my friend and colleague Jeff Kichaven who has likened piling rationales atop one another for the purpose of changing another's mind to raising your voice for the purpose of communicating with a deaf man.
Harvard Business School professors Deepak Malhotra and Max H. Bazerman address the irrationality problem in another fashion in their tremendously useful book Negotiation Genius.
"Whenever our students or clients tell us about their 'irrational' or 'crazy' counterparts," they write, "we work with them to carefully consider whether the other side is truly irrational. Almost always, the answer is no."
Malhotra and Bazerman list the mistakes that lead us to call our negotiating partners "nuts," "delusional" or "evil" as follows:
Mistake No. 1: They are Not Delusional, They are Uninformed.
If you can educate or inform your bargaining partner, say Malhotra and Bazerman
about their true interests, the consequences of their actions, the strength of your BATNA, and so on - there is a strong likelihood they will make better decisions . . . [I]f someone says "no" to an offer that you know is in her best interest, do not assume she is irrational. Instead, work to ensure that she understands why the offer is in her best interest. She may simply have misunderstood or ignored a crucial piece of information.
Mistake No. 2: They are Not Irrational; They Have Hidden Constraints
In negotiation, a wide variety of possible constraints exist. The other side may be constrained by advice from her lawyers, by the fear of setting a dangerous precedent, by promises she has made to other parties [this is a particularly common constraint in IP infringement actions] by time pressure and so on. [D]iscover these constraints . . . and . . help other parties overcome them . . . rather than dismissing others as irrational.
Mistake No. 3: They are Not Irrational; They Have Hidden Interests
[P]eople will sometimes reject your offer because they think it is unfair, because they don't like you [or are tired of feeling as if you don't like them] or for other reasons that have nothing to do with the obvious merits of your proposal. These people are not irrational; they are simply fulfilling needs and interests that you may not fully appreciate. . . [I]nvestigate: "What might be motivating her to act this way? What are all of her interests?"
But What if They Really Are Irrational
If your counterpart truly is irrational -- in other words, he is determined to work against what is in his best interest -- then your options will be fewer. You can try to push through an agreement despite his irrationality, you can try to "go around him" by negotiating with someone else with authority who seems more willing to listen to reasons . . . or you may decide to pursue your BATNA because his irrationality has eliminated all hope of creating value.
I have a friend who is, literally, a rocket scientist. He says that there are no problems which cannot be solved -- only problems that we don't yet understand. This is as true in negotiation as it is in rocket science. In both cases, the wisest course is to assume you know nothing and begin asking the type of questions that would help learn something.
Thanks to Geoff Sharp at mediator blah blah for directing us to this great U.K. Mediation resource, The Mediator Magazine which is great to poke around in a little when you're home for mother's day and mom's gone off to bed. Here, for instance, are some well taken criticisms of mediation practice by in-house counsel from the article Where's the Magic?
Top of the list of issues which invite scorn is perceived weakness on the part of the mediator. Giving palpable nonsense and well documented fact equal air-time in the interests of appearing open-minded has backfired for a number of mediators. 'It can be frustrating where they [the mediator] can see the irrationality of the other party, how their claims and positions are unsubstantiated, and choose to ignore it,' says Frank Aghovia, legal adviser at Exel Plc. He continues, 'It's like saying, "I know he's talking out of his backside, but can you give him what he wants anyway." He concludes that 'steadfast neutrality is irritating and wastes time.'
One public sector lawyer, though generally more favourably disposed towards mediation, shares a sense of frustration with the purely facilitative model: 'If a mediator is too passive,' he says, 'there isn't going to be any realignment of expectations, there isn't going to be the refocusing of the parties on the strengths and weaknesses of their own and the other party's case. It's simply not going to happen. You're not going to facilitate the movement.'
Naturally it is all a question of degree, but frustration with a style perceived to be 'slow', 'wet', 'namby-pamby', or worse, 'like therapy' is real, and stands in the way of mediation increasing its meagre market share.
It is also evident that some mediators have failed to manage the process with sufficient vigour, fuelling comments like 'I've been at quite a few [mediations] and question what the mediator actually does.' No doubt they've had to spend all their time working with the other side, but if so, this needs to be communicated.
This lack of robustness which for many is synonymous with mediation has bred the widespread belief that mediation only works when both sides want to mediate. And where that's the case, without prejudice discussions will do the job. Until mediation's image hardens to the point where people realise that great mediators can deal with the shirty, dismissive and gratuitously rude types, mediation will remain in the shadows. . . .
These criticisms are real and require attention. I'm uncertain of the state of "professional" mediation in the U.K., but here in California, its all over the board. For the mediation advocate and his client, finding the right mediator for the right case at the right time is not only more art than science, it's often more guesswork than art.
I'll be dealing with the issues raised by this U.K. article in the coming weeks. For the full article, click on the link above.
The BFNetwork has not only introduced me to many business blogs that otherwise wouldn't have come to my attention, my narcissistic perusal of my own posts listed there have drawn me into abundant Forbes.com resources that benefit my readers.
I urge my fellow Forbes BFN Bloggers to poke around Forbe's pages to unearth riches that can benefit their readers there.
(right: Forbes.com staff writer Tara Weiss)
That ridiculously lengthy introduction out of the way, here's a great article on how to negotiate a higher salary during a recession from Forbes.com staff writer Tara Weiss -- How to Ask For A Raise When Times Are Hard. Summary below:
find out what people in your market and your position are making.
once you know your market value, request a conversation with your manager about salary
remind your manager of the strong contributions you've made.
during an economic downturn, highlight new clients you've brought to the firm and cost-saving measures you've enacted. Include the key projects you've completed and goals you've met.
prove you're vital to getting the company through a recession
present your manager with the research you collected on what others in your market are making.
consider perks outside of salary such as vacation time, health benefits, or reimbursement for commuting and professional training in a job-related skill.
if you're rejected, ask what you can do in the next six months to make this conversation successful the next time.
The friendly bailiff unlocked the small courtroom. After telling me to make myself at home, he pointed to a small red button on the wall. “If you need me, just press that button and I’ll be in here faster than you can blink and eye. It’s an emergency button.”
“Ok, thanks,” I replied, and began to unpack my briefcase.
“I mean it,” he said. “Just press the button. Maybe you should set up your chair so you’re near it.”
I gave him a long look. “You seem to want me to know about that button. Is there something else you want to tell me?”
I'm asked this morning by an ADR colleague whether we can criticize diversity without sounding like racists. The question itself is problematic because it not only assumes a racial divide, it places "us" on the "white" side of it.
introducing supplier diversity to the ADR profession [by] extend[ing] business opportunities to certified minority and women ADR neutrals. These efforts, coined as "second tier," allow Shell to influence prime or majority ADR firms, with whom they do business, to also contract with minority and women owned ADR firms within the business community.
In the upcoming months Shell will be targeting . . . ADR services to participate in second tier efforts. Shell astutely recognizes that by embracing the concept of inclusion, the company will rise to a higher level, reflecting its belief that it "will benefit from diversity through better relationships with customers, suppliers, partners, employees, government and other stakeholders, with positive impact on the bottom line."
I'm assuming that my questioner does not agree with the "affirmative action" aspect of this program. Having debated the affirmative action issue since I began law school at U.C. Davis where the Supreme Court Bakke decision originated, I know well how divisive this issue can be. But it is an important issue -- an issue critical to a nation not only "conceived in liberty" but "dedicated to the proposition that all men (sic) are created equal."
So Let's Take a Look at ADR and Diversity
I'll ask the academics over at the ADR Prof Blog to correct me if I'm wrong.
I understand the academic criticism of mediation to be this: in the immediate post-civil rights era while greater legal protections have been afforded to women and under-represented minorities, the "people" have been channeled into a system -- mediation -- that lacks the prejudice-flattening constraints of the rule of law. More disturbing, say critics, is the fact that this "lawless" system is largely presided over by -- excuse me if this offends anyone -- OLD WHITE MEN.
I've learned more about racial bias talking to my liberal (white) "unprejudiced" friends this election season than I have since I participated in the "second wave" women's movement in the early nineteen seventies (remember consciousness raising?) I do not judge them, nor myself, for our necessarily limited view which just happens to be that of the dominant culture.
I know we still have a serious racial divide because when I talk to my educated and liberal African American friends they say things that shock me. Things like -- the U.S. may have started the AIDS epidemic to rid the world of Africans. OK. I get it. There's something about their experience of America that is so radically different from mine that I think their point of view is, frankly, just a little nuts. This is what I do know -- I will never truly be able to see the world from their point of view.
That said, I do think we can criticize people for taking advantage of "diversity" issues to forward an agenda -- or their own personal advancement -- other than forwarding diversity itself. We can criticize those who would deepen the divide to profit from it.
If I could write a sentence in a circle at this point, instead of linearly as the language requires me to do, I would do so. Here is what I understood Obama's response to the question of the racial divide in America to be.
Acknowledge it Heal it Move on Heal it Move on Acknowledge itMove On Heal it Acknowledge it
There are no periods in this sentence because this activity needs to be constant and on-going. Because we will always be stuck in our own point of view. Because in-group and out-group prejudice will always be with us. And because the more visible markers there are for "otherness" in others, the more prey we are to the error of dividing the world into "us" and 'them."
The answer? Diversity. Vigilance. Education.
Toward that end, here are some ADR Diversity resources:
Center for Dispute Resolution, whose mission is to "to promote and provide education and comprehensive approaches to dispute resolution that constructively serve the needs of our culturally diverse society."
Here's a local community protest being "handled" -- in part -- as a community-wide "mediation," "facilitation," or "public dialog."
We have an attempted engagement here over the apparently unwanted "gift" of a new Home Depot in the Sunland-Tujunga community. It appears that the community would like to see an Environmental Impact Assessment conducted and an EIR filed before the Depot moves in (if ever).
The City Attorney stepped in to help -- recruiting community mediators and facilitators to conduct a community dialog. It's my understanding that Home Depot representatives were not present at this dialog (please correct me if I'm wrong about this). For that reason alone -- a missing critical stakeholder -- a suspicious or hostile community response is unsurprising.
Let me say, however, that we/** are new at this -- making an effort to engage an entire community in a facilitated conversation about the issues giving rise to a protest. We're bound to make the type of errors highlighted by community members below. So let's not call this a failure but an opportunity to learn.
Here, for instance, is a recent blog entry calling the "community meeting" a facilitation rather than a mediation -- correctly noting that mediators have no allegiance to one side or the other and no agenda. See the Zuma Times -- LA Daily Blog coverage with one or more YouTube videos here.
SUNLAND - Amid a contentious battle over a proposed Home Depot, city officials tried to cool tempers Saturday by hosting a community dialog aimed at finding a middle ground between warring factions.
About 200 community residents attended, although organizers had been expecting up to 1,000.
Although a few supporters, including Home Depot employees, noted the project would likely bring more jobs to the community, most in the crowd were against it.
Asked for opinions, most listed complaints such as traffic and an increase in day laborers. Some even used the term "community assassination." . . . .
Some residents sat and listened patiently as mediators engaged them in dialog in an effort to understand their concerns and to work toward constructive solutions.
Billed as "the Sunland/Tujunga dialog," the meeting at Mount Gleason Middle School was set up by the Los Angeles City Attorney's Office as part of an agreement with The Home Depot Inc., which suspended a $10 million lawsuit against the city while it seeks a building permit.
The company is seeking to build a store on the old Kmart lot on Foothill Boulevard . . .
Attorney Barbara Goldfarb, a volunteer facilitator with the dispute-resolution team that conducted the meeting, made sure everyone knew that she and her staff had no connection to the home-improvement company.
"I do not have a Home Depot credit card," she said before people split up into 27 groups. "I do not own Home Depot stock."
Goldfarb said the dispute-resolution program is funded by grants and funds from the city and county.
"Certain times (these types of efforts) don't work. Other times, they work out wonderfully," Goldfarb said.
"There's always an answer to conflict if people will talk."
Lots of folks have comments and questions about the evaluation form we were asked to fill out at the end of the small groups. I have some of my own, too. I was shocked and horrified at some of those questions. I thought the questions showed a slanted, pre-conceived idea of what someone thought our issues should or would be, not what our concerns really are. I spoke with Barbara Goldfarb, the lead facilitator, about it. Yep, the evaluation form was written by the RAND Corporation, just as the pre-questions were. Ms. Goldfarb agreed with me that some of those questions were way off the mark, too complex to be answered by just checking a box, or unrelated to our actual concerns.
I just want to add that I am so proud of us, all of us who showed up yesterday. We were well prepared, and participated with a mature and honest approach. Also, to those who wrote intelligent, well thought out answers to the questions, I applaud you. There were a lot of people who let us know that they were unable to attend the “dialog” due to other commitments, but those of us who were there, carried the message loud and clear! No Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga! Home Depot must follow the rules! We want our EIR!
/** When I say "we" I'm referring to mediators in general who are part of a theory and practice of facilitated dialog as well as many other strands of the mediation movement including consensus-building, prejudice-reduction, settlement conferences, mediations of litigated cases, community mediation, restorative justice and the like. I personally have had nothing to do with the community "dialog" or facilitation or "mediation" arising from the dispute over the development of a Home Depot in Sunland-Tujunga.
My first day of mediation training progressed in somewhat the same fashion as my first few weeks in Civil Procedure. I remember struggling with the theoretical bases of jurisdiction in Pennoyer v. Neff one day only to be told the following week that Pennoyer was no longer the law. “Why,” I remember thinking, “did we even bother with Pennoyer when this Buckeye case about an exploding boiler now seems to be the law? Or would it be replaced next week as well?”
Law school, which taught me to “think like a lawyer,” was the precise opposite of my new mediation studies. Now, it seemed, I was being trained to stop “thinking like a lawyer.” Still, mediation, like the law, was full of conflicting ideologies from which it appeared I was required to choose.
It was easy for me to be evaluative: I had 25 years of legal practice in my backpack. I learned Dr. Cialdini’s “Principles of Ethical Influence”—Reciprocation, Scarcity (the rule of the rare), Authority, Commitment, Empathy, and, Consensus. These power principles helped the mediator to “make the other side see reason” when called upon to do so.
But the evaluative style was not the only prescribed route to mediation mastery. There were many who favored facilitation. The facilitative mediator first creates an atmosphere of hope and safety before helping the parties locate areas of agreement and mutual benefit. Here, the mediator is a follower or helper on the path to resolution, like the protective figures who appear early in a hero’s journey to enlightenment.
You can’t immerse yourself in mediation for long before you hear the clamor of the transformative crowd. Facilitative mediators, say the transformative folks, too often present themselves as wizards who intrude upon the parties’ conflict with their own agenda—usually “resolution be damned, let’s settle this darn thing!” The transformative mediator lets the session wheel out of control if that is where it is eager to go. Conflict is not seen as a state to be avoided or suppressed. Like a loving mother following the course of her child’s flu, the transformative mediator provides the parties with encouragement, opportunities to rest, lots of fluids and a metaphoric place to lay their heads as the conflict runs its natural course.
When I first brought this tangle of methodologies to the few master mediators I know, they all made short work of it with the scalpel of experience. “You are the technique,” they instructed. “Just stay in the process. Don’t guess. Ask questions. Listen. Don’t give up before the miracle of mediation happens.”
Now, four years into a full-time ADR practice, I am still struggling to embrace the entire dispute—the business or people problem that found its way to an attorney because of the justice issues with which it was burdened. I often feel that I’m walking a razor’s edge. I will never stop “thinking like a lawyer.” Nor will I stop pursuing this new way of thinking—one that looks for the opportunity to finesse the legal impasse by using the problem itself as an opportunity to broker a deal.
Why mediation? For me, it’s simply a broader canvass on which to paint a new picture. How mediation? In baby steps, one after the other, in just the same way I learned to be a litigator and trial attorney. How can the Human Factor help with your own life and legal practice? Stick around. Miracles are common here. We think you’ll enjoy the ride.
On North Korea: "We should negotiate with the North Koreans. We should be tough. We should require that they stop their nuclear development program. We should have the absolute ability to verify that that has occurred."
On the Middle East: Has said that he believes "a two-state solution is ultimately the answer" but would not negotiate with Yasir Arafat. (before Arafat's death, obviously) Would send an envoy to the region.
Sixty-four percent of Israelis say the government must hold direct talks with the Hamas government in Gaza toward a cease-fire and the release of captive soldier Gilad Shalit. Less than one-third (28 percent) still opposes such talks.
I could go on but you get the point. The first decision any negotiator must make is whether he's willing to negotiate with the "opposition." And the second is on what terms.
That decision -- and the many ways in which you can bring your opponent to the bargaining table any time you wish -- with the expectation that your negotiations will either successfully resolve your dispute or drastically limit the amount of time you spend litigating it before settlement will be the subject of this week's posts.
Along the way, we'll talk about the many ways in which the masters of international diplomacy manage to take advantage of favorable negotiation conditions and to finesse unfavorable political climates for the purpose of getting warring parties to meet in an attempt to reach accord..
Not long ago, Bob Benjamin and I offered a session at the ABA meeting in Seattle called “Beyond Orthodoxy: The Adaptive Mediator in a Perpetually Changing Marketplace of Clients, Needs, and Ideas.” The session, surprisingly packed to the gills, focused on new and alternative frameworks for mediation.
We began with three assumptions.
First, we posited that mediators have become much too self-absorbed with rules, laws, titles, professional issues, and organizational matters.
Second, we noted that there is insufficient attention being paid to ongoing core negotiation issues and intervention dilemmas, as well as to the tensions surrounding competition, cooperation, and the deep human needs that attend conflict resolution.
Third, we stressed that it is time to take mediation to the next level in our popular and political cultures.
At the end of the session, one very thoughtful gentleman came up to me and said: “I like what you guys are saying but I really need to make a living. Much as I want to move our work to the next level, I have to focus on professionalization issues.”
But are the two incompatible? Not at all!
Certainly mediators need to be concerned about fees, markets, specialties, certifications, associations, and affiliations. But there is a more important challenge, one that, if we meet it capably, will help advance our professional goals and simultaneously take our work to its zenith.
Quite simply, we must make our core mediation values part and parcel of the way leaders in the public and private sectors lead. The creation of a widespread cultural mediation “pull” would necessarily both overtake and serve as the engine of our much narrower efforts at “pushing” settlement, resolution, and agreement in legal markets.
Mediators like to talk about “the field” or “the profession.” But let's remember that our work is, at core, a passion. It is a shared calling that links us to millions of people worldwide who do not have the word "mediator" engraved on their business cards.
Most of people with whom we are so aligned have never been formally trained and don’t know what we are talking about when we slip into technical mediator-babble. Nonetheless they share the same passionate impulses and intellectual creativity as we do when they talk about the power of beneficial negotiation processes, the inclusion of diverse voices in our communities, and the ability of ordinary people to forge wise, effective, and tractable solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
In my work at The Keystone Center, I see these people all the time. Many of them are at the table grappling with the energy, environment, and public health cases and consensus building projects we work on. They come to assert their positions on reformulating food products, realigning the I-70 highway, or stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions and are stunned by their own progress. They open lines of genuinely new communication, form improbable alliances, and craft smart deals.
Tough as nails as negotiators, they also see the enormous value of collaborative problem solving. These same people are in positions to change our political and popular cultures. They hold influential positions in their companies, government agencies, and NGOs. They sit on library boards, church councils, and education commissions. They volunteer time to the PTA and sit on the boards of the local United Way. Some of them occupy elected or appointed to public offices. Others coach basketball teams, lead Rotary Clubs, or run neighborhood farmers' markets. .
We need to connect with these people, learn from them, pass our knowledge and experience to them, and help foster a new generation who can make the obvious links between the mediation skills we have learned and the native leadership work they are doing.
If we do that well, our political culture will flourish in new ways and business will boom.
Peter S. Adler, Ph.D. is President of The Keystone Center, which applies consensus-building and cutting-edge scientific information to energy, environmental, and health-related policy problems. The Keystone Center also offers extensive training and professional education programs to educators and business leaders and runs the Keystone Science School in the Rocky Mountains.
Adler's specialty is multi-party negotiation and problem solving. He has worked extensively on water management and resource planning problems and mediates, writes, trains, and teaches in diverse areas of conflict management. He has worked on cases ranging from the siting of a 25-megawatt geothermal energy production facility to the resolution of construction and product liability claims involving a multi-million dollar stadium. He has extensive experience in land planning issues, water problems, marine and coastal affairs, and strategic resource management.
Adler has written extensively in the field of mediation and conflict resolution. He is the co-author of Managing Scientific & Technical Information in Environmental Cases (1999); Building Trust: 20 Things You Can Do to Help Environmental Stakeholder Groups Talk More Effectively About Science, Culture, Professional Knowledge, and Community Wisdom (National Policy Consensus Center, 2002); the author of Beyond Paradise and Oxtail Soup (Ox Bow Press, 1993 and 2000) and numerous other articles and monographs.
I talk a lot in this blog about community; about the need for all of us to understand that when you drill a hole in the other guy's side of the boat, you sink too. There's something about disaster on a grand scale that brings the best out in us -- creates heroes. And maybe, if you're inclined to ask why "bad things happen to good people" the answer is that we need to be reminded of our common humanity; common fragility; and, our common obligation to serve as stewards of the planet and all life on it.
So it is with more than a small amount of pleasure that I announce the book launch for my good friend Cathy Scott's memoir of the heroic pet rescues that took place in the wake of Katrina.
Cathy was one of the "kids" in my neighborhood fom the time I was five years old until we all left the old neighborhood for our adult lives. She was also a member of the first writers' group I was ever part of -- Sisters of the Pen -- a neighborhood "club" we started when I was in the sixth grade and Cathy just entering high school.
Only Cathy has truly fulfilled the dreams of that small group of children and teenagers. This is her sixth or seventh book and the one that I just know is going to sell a million or more copies for her.
On display at the Welcome Center patio deck during the event will be Ark, a full-sized replica of a flat-bottomed boat used to save animals from floodwaters. It was created by Cyrus Mejia, in-house artist and a co-founder of Best Friends . The 4-by-10-foot boat is covered in a unique collage of animal admissions forms (with rescued pets' pictures), photos from volunteers, satellite images of Katrina, maps of New Orleans and strips from pet product bags used during the rescue effort.
Volunteers from Katrina will be at the event, and many Best Friends staffers who worked in the region will be attending too, so it will very much be a reunion. While book signings are scheduled for other parts of the country (including New Orleans on the third anniversary of Katrina), this is the kick-off event and a great opportunity to visit the sanctuary.
A new Holiday Inn Express has opened in Kanab (435-644-3100), so if the sanctuary cabins and cottages or other hotels are full, the new one will probably have openings. Summer is a busy time in the area, because of nearby Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon, and booking early is highly recommended.
I promised you a series of posts on mediating complex and sophisticated commercial mediation.
Here's what I'm really most interested in doing -- starting a high level conversation among commercial litigators and commercial mediators about the best way in which we can help one another help your clients to achieve the best resolution possible to their commercial dispute and the legal problem/solution associated with it.
I'm always looking for the smartest guy or gal in the room because. I'm just a geek who really enjoys spending time with people who are savvy, astute, original well-read, and, well-spoken. These people tend to see things more clearly than I do and that clarity of vision often results in a way of approaching problems that generates better results in a shorter amount of time than is the norm.
One of the smartest guys in any room is AAA arbitrator and Judicate West mediator, Jay McCauley. O.K., he's Harvard Law and I'm just a state university girl. But pedigree doesn't matter to me. Brilliance and creativity does. Jay and I have recently spent a lot of time talking about the way we feel that we're sometimes talking past our attorney clients and they us. So we have plans to write some really interesting articles that we hope will help both mediators and attorneys achieve better results more consistently when they decide to settle, rather than to try, a case.
Jay's written a lot already. And because I'm now getting around 11,000 hits/month (!!yay!!) I've decided to simply pull up his existing articles on mediating particular commercial disputes before launching our jointly written posts. If any of those 11,000 monthly "hits" come from commercial litigators, we'd LOVE to hear back from you on this series.
That said, here's Jay's article on Wage and Hour Class Action Mediation.
There is no such thing as a "cookie cutter" mediation. Nonetheless, most mediations have, among other things, the following general characteristics:
At least four participants whose interests are not naturally aligned - Plaintiff, Plaintiff's counsel, Defendant and Defendant's counsel.
Little or no genuine concern that a settlement will foster future claims.
Some prospect of integrative, or "value adding," resolutions.
A rich body of applicable case law to serve as the empirical basis for risk-based claims valuation analysis.
A virtually unrestricted free market where almost any resolution agreeable to the parties can be turned into a contract fully enforceable by the courts.
Wage & hour class action mediation, by contrast, has none of these characteristics.
Mediating with Only Three Participants
All fictions aside, there are three, not four, interested participants in a wage & hour mediation. They are the defendant, its counsel, and the counsel for the class. Plaintiffs themselves (including the named representatives) are literally absent from the negotiation altogether, and are typically absent physically from the mediation sessions.
Any imbalance resulting from the absence of plaintiffs themselves is, in theory, "corrected" by an institutional device unique to class actions: the fairness hearing, in which a court imposes outside boundaries on the settlement for the protection of the plaintiffs.
Nonetheless, the absence of the plaintiffs themselves is significant. The court is not, in any sense, a substitute negotiator for the plaintiffs. It simply either approves or rejects the settlement agreement, in accordance with reasonably well-established standards, after the settlement has been negotiated by plaintiffs' counsel and the defense team.
The actual negotiators have a common interest in avoiding agreements so extreme that they will be either rejected by the court, or undermined by excessive "opt-outs" from the plaintiffs themselves. But subject to these outside limits, the three players at the negotiating table have an interest in maximizing two things: the portion of the settlement funds that goes to plaintiffs' counsel as approved fees; and the portion of the settlement funds available to be returned or otherwise used by the defendants.
The upshot is this: Plaintiff's counsel seek, and usually get, one third of the settlement funds as fees; amounts unclaimed by class members revert to the defendant to the extent the court permits ; and the stated settlement amounts include the resulting social security and FICA charges the company will have to bear as a consequence of the settlement - an amount that turns out to be 13.85% of the total paid to the class members. These terms are easily arrived at because those at the negotiating table can "give" each other these benefits, without cost to themselves.
The absence of the plaintiff also eliminates one of the most common challenges a mediator has to face in "ordinary" litigation - the challenge of plaintiffs resisting economically advantageous proposals because of a desire to use the courts to obtain perceived benefits that go beyond economics: retribution for perceived wrongs; public vindication; and principled refuge in the Rule of Law.
This not to say that the issues addressed in wage & hour class action mediations are entirely economic. But the non-economic issues characteristically arise from the defense side, and tend to break down into two categories. The first category is the common "principled" resistance to a fairly rigid statutory scheme that typically strikes defendants as entirely inconsistent with the statutory purpose and with common sense. Specifically, those rationally thought to be managers cannot be treated as exempt in California if the time they spend in identified categories of non-exempt functions (e.g. sales) happens to take up more than half their time. The "player-manager" may be thought of as a manager, but there will be exposure if he is paid like a manager, and that fact is a hard-to-swallow surprise for many companies.
The Defendant's Need to Deter Future Claims
Then there is the second form of defendant resistance to otherwise attractive settlement opportunities. This one is born of a genuine dilemma: the company concludes it cannot "turn managers into foremen" without losing the critical work incentives or esprit-de-corps or "company culture" that it concludes comes with classifying class members as exempt; but to "buy off" the class action claim through settlement without also turning class members into non-exempt workers for the future would be to inspire, by that act, endless waves, every three or four years, of new wage and hour claims.
These claims would come from new employees who are not collaterally estopped or otherwise bound by the class action judgment supporting the settlement. It would also come from its current employees, class members, who have a basis to argue their release can only apply to past "wrongs," but cannot release the continuing "wrongs" that take place after the release is entered into. Such companies are sorely tested take their chances at trial to escape the dilemma. The prominence of that question is an unusual hallmark of wage & hour mediations. And much of the focus of mediations I have handled has involved finding creative solutions to this very dilemma.
The Absence of Integrative Bargaining Opportunities
While there is a need to find creative techniques to subdue extraordinary needs for deterrence that wage & hour defendants will often have, there is a curious absence of opportunity to employ another form of creativity - that of finding integrative (rather than purely distributive) resolutions to the dispute. With one obvious exception , the "Jack Sprat" non-monetary exchanges that are the special joy of mediators - where parties give what's cheap to get what's dear, and thereby optimize the likelihood, as well as the quality, of the resolution - are not to be found in this arena.
The reason is not that negotiators in this specialty are not creative, but simply that the inherent nature of class actions virtually eliminates any prospect that the form of any exchange will be anything other than money. Specifically, one stricture of class actions is that similarly situated class members be treated uniformly, and the only uniform needs the members will have is the presumptively universal need for money. As a result, the nature of class action bargaining is heavily distributive, not integrative.
The Absence of a Rich Body of Case Law to Support Risk-Based Claims Valuation Analysis
It is a bit of an irony that a field which is so tilted toward distributive bargaining is also one in which mediators are essentially deprived of a major tool used to facilitate such bargaining - a substantial body of actual outcomes at trial in analogous cases to provide a realistic assessment of the actual risk of trial, and therefore the reasonable settlement value of a release. Because the large volume of wage & hour class actions is historically new, and because so few that do exist go to trial, little such evidence of likely outcomes in fact exists.
What girds the negotiation in the absence of that evidence? It is four things. First, the statutory scheme in this area is fairly administrable, and results are arguably more predictable for this reason even in the absence of extensive actual results.
Second, there is an extensive and ever increasing body of evidence of actual class certification decisions, and the factors relevant to class certification decisions in wage & hour actions are more closely related to the ultimate issues at trial than they are in other actions (compare, for example, securities fraud class actions, where the class certification issues have almost nothing to do with the significant issues at trial).
Third, some narrowing of the range of potential settlement is achieved by the fact that extreme low ball offers typically are not made, even preliminarily, because both sides know (or can be reminded) that there is a certain threshold that will not survive a fairness hearing, nor sustain the plaintiff's counsels basic need to preserve reputation in the context of a settlement record that (unlike the settlement of individual claims) is always public.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, parties tend to be guided by a kind of "market price" for these claims - settlements tend to fall within a fairly well defined band established by publicly available information of what other cases have settled for relative to the total potential exposure in the case.
What is notable is that, given the fairly strict and administrable standards of liability set forth in the statutes, the market price of the claims is probably materially below the amounts that a standard risk-based discounted claims valuation analysis would yield. This probably makes sense in light of the various incentives of the participants. Defendants need attractive offers (relative to exposure) to overcome both non-economic resistance factors as well as the lack of extensive palpable evidence of trial results. Defense counsel, paid hourly, have, if anything, an economic advantage to honor the client's resistance, as well as reputational and self-fulfillment benefits to keeping at least some quota of cases to try.
Plaintiffs' counsel, particularly specialists in demand, reach a certain threshold where the economically optimal course is to declare the offered amount to be enough and free up their time to fry another fish. And that threshold, in turn, need be no greater than a respectable outcome as compared only to the settlement market price itself. The Court, for its part, is institutionally loath to second-guess the norm, and institutionally dependant on most large cases settling in any event. Finally plaintiffs, themselves, are, for all practical purposes, absent from the process. They can opt out, and thereby preserve the right to bring claims on an individual basis, but the value of individual claims is rarely enough to warrant the transaction costs.
Role of the Mediator
It helps immensely for the mediator to have substantive familiarity with the rhythms and restrictions of class actions generally, and specific familiarity with the rights and duties of employers regarding wage and hour matters. That is the environment in which the mediator is applying his or her skills. But the mediator's primary contributions come from the use of more general "process skills" to anticipate, analyze and avert impasse in the negotiation process. Those skills are not unique to wage & hour mediations.
Some taste of the actual process of analyzing and averting impasse may be provided by an actual example of an email I sent to defendant's counsel to overcome an impasse in a wage & hour class action I was mediating. The text - attached as "Attachment 1" - has been left in its raw form, with one exception: all names appearing in the original have been made generic so as to fully protect confidentiality. The case settled shortly after the email was sent.
John (Jay) McCauley is a mediator who also serves as an arbitrator on the Complex Commercial Panel of the American Arbitration Association and an Adjunct Professor at the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law. He is also a hearing officer for the ADR firm Judicate West.
It Pays refers to recent work done by Kellogg School of Management Professor Adam Galinsky, who has demonstrated (with colleagues William Maddux -- (INSEAD -- Debra Gilin -- St. Mary's U. -- and Judith White -- Dartmouth) that success in negotiations depends on focusing on the head and not the heart. In other words, it is better to take the perspective of negotiation opponents rather than to empathize with them. (You may remember Galinsky as the academic responsible for demonstrating that the person who makes the first offer will (nearly) always get the larger share of the delta between the two parties' "bottom lines." See Making the First Offer here).
Now Galinksy and friends inform us that we are far more likely to reach a negotiated resolution to a conflict if we use our heads rather than our hearts. As It Pays reports:
Perspective-taking, according to the study published in the April 2008 issue of Psychological Science, a publication of the Association for Psychological Science, involves understanding and anticipating an opponent's interests, thoughts, and likely behaviors, whereas empathy focuses mostly on sympathy and compassion for another.
"Perspective takers are able to step outside the constraints of their own immediate, biased frames of reference," wrote the authors. "Empathy, however, leads individuals to violate norms of equity and equality and to provide preferential treatments."
The researchers performed a total of three studies designed to assess the relationship between successful negotiations and perspective-taking and empathy tendencies. In two of the studies, the participants negotiated the sale of a gas station where a deal based solely on price was impossible: the seller's asking price was higher than the buyer's limit. However, both parties' underlying interests were compatible, and so creative deals were possible. In the first study, those participants who scored highly on the perspective-taking portion of a personality inventory were more likely to successfully reach a deal. In contrast, higher scores on empathy led dyads to be less successful at reaching a creative deal.
Why Enlightened Self-Interest Trumps Sympathy
Just when you were about to stereotype "negotiated resolutions" as commie-pinko limp-wristed new age aquarian left-of-liberal kum-by-ya marshmellow toaster solutions to the problems of (excuse me fellas) real men -- along comes new research once again demonstrating that negotiation requires hard heads rather than soft hearts.
Because our competitive natures ("I need my stuff to survive") will almost always trump our collaborative inclinations ("we need each other to survive"). If this weren't so, the world wouldn't be divided into its current "pie pieces" -- the first, second and third worlds for instance.
More particularly, because distributive non-interest based bargaining is all about getting "our share" of a fixed pie while interest-based or integrative negotiations require the parties to: (1) learn about and attempt to satisfy their bargaining partners' often non-apparent needs and desires; and, (2) to collaborate in an effort to find ways to satisfy those needs and desires in novel and creative ways, reaching an integrative agreement becomes much more likely than reaching a purely distributive one.
Because the integrative deal will -- by its very nature -- serve more of both parties' interests than would its distributive counter-part.
Perspective-Taking, Sympathy and Foreclosure
I don't know my neighbors well. They have a small family with very young children and keep pretty much to themselves. I understand from the local grapevine, however, that they're selling their house because one of them lost their job and they can't make the mortgage payments.
If we lived in another country or if the neighborhood belonged to certain religious sects that make it their business to take care of their own, we might all come together to help the neighbors save their house. But we don't.
We have and express a lot of sympathy when we discuss our neighbors' plight. "Must be hard for the kids," we say, "and the parents have worked so hard to improve the property. It would be a shame if they lost their equity."
Our sympathy, however, does not lead us to trump our self-interest (which includes simply "keeping to ourselves") in favor of the interests of the neighbors.
If, however, we learned that the neighbors were about to sell the house to a local fraternity, you can put easy money on the neighborhood mobilizing into action to find a solution. And once the neighborhood starts looking for an affordable solution to a neighborhood problem, the chances that the interests of the distressed family and their (temporarily) better-off neighbors will intersect and that new resources will be brought to the table ("hey, George, I know a lawyer who specializes in these things" or a banker or a politician or a journalist for the L.A. Times) increase exponentially.
Heck, instead of hiring lawyers to stop the sale to the fraternity, we might put together an emergency neighborhood loan-fund. Or simply help find the unemployed neighbor a new job. There are a lot of resources in my neighborhood. And many good-hearted people. But I'm afraid modern American folk-ways just don't allow for a neighborhood solution to one of its member's problems. Until, that is, our own self-interests are threatened.
So it might seem counter-intuitive to say that mentally putting ourselves into another's shoes to ascertain their interests needs and desires (perspective-taking)is more likely to create a "deal" between people than simple sympathy.
But we didn't survive as a species because we're particularly loving. We survived as a species because its in our best interest -- our only interest -- to cooperate with one another.
As I promised last week, we'll be providing our readers with a series of posts about the use of settlement counsel in sophisticated and complex commercial litigation.
While searching the internet for pertinent articles, I came upon an interview with a New York attorney, Lew Goldfarb, whose entire practice is devoted to settling cases for clients already represented in litigation by other law firms. Mr. Goldfarb's credentials are impressive, his observations shrewd and his opinions about the use of settlement counsel closely match those of our colleague Jay McCauley whose article we published earlier today here.
Typically, I am retained by the defense side as part of a dual-track approach. The litigation continues on one track, while I advise the plaintiffs' lawyers that I have been retained by the defense to take a look at the possibility of settlement. At the outset, I make it clear that I have been given only a 30 day window to attempt settlement and that my involvement should not be construed as a lack of resolve to litigate the case.
Following this initial dialog, I review the strengths and weaknesses of defendant's position. Class action litigation often produces a contentious dynamic that polarizes positions based more on emotion than factual disagreements. One of my most important tasks is to identify the true elements of disagreement. When I have a good understanding of these factors, I make recommendations to my client and obtain parameters for my discussions with plaintiffs' counsel.
I then meet with the plaintiffs' counsel, preferably one who is not involved in the litigation, to focus on ways to settle the case. Plaintiffs' lawyers are usually receptive to this approach, because they are looking for ways to get relief for their clients and to get their legal fees without the costs and risks of further litigation.
In some cases I am first approached by plaintiffs' counsel who are interested in settling a case and who know me from years of litigating class actions. I will then take this overture to the corporate defendant who will decide whether to retain me to attempt a settlement. I have resolved a number of cases in this manner.
I have also found success in ending class actions by combining the resolution of a government investigation with additional relief to class members. Very often class actions follow on the heels of a government investigation. In negotiating a settlement with a government agency, it is often possible to synchronize the remedies that the government wants with those that plaintiffs' counsel is seeking and put them all into one package. This serves not only to end the government's involvement, but also to satisfy the claims of the plaintiffs, and provide a compelling argument for ending the class action. I would then go back to the plaintiffs' lawyers, demonstrate how their clients' claims have been fully satisfied, and offer them appropriate attorneys' fees.
In some cases plaintiffs' counsel demand greater relief for the class, in part, to justify higher attorneys' fees. If agreement is not reached, the client can attempt to persuade the court that the relief to the class is adequate. If the court agrees, the lawsuit becomes a catalyst case where the only issue is whether the plaintiffs' lawyers are entitled to attorneys' fees for achieving results for the class. The defendant often is in a much stronger position arguing this issue rather than the merits of the case.
Thanks to WorkLifeBridge for including us on its resource page. We're happpy to reciprocate and pleased to find another good source of information on collaboration, dispute resolution, and making life and work better for everyone.
Ah ha! Now I see that the prolific negotiation-guru, ADR queen, and mediation czar Diane Levin is a part of this dynamic group. Diane -- one of the few people who make me feel as if I'm sitting around watching soap operas and eating bon bons all day. Do you NEVER sleep my friend?
This post was originally meant to highlight Allstate's (or its consultant's) unfortunate use of the term "Zero Sum Game," when discussing claims handling procedures. My original comment was that "those who continue to play it often get their . . . uh . . . soft parts caught in a wringer."
The Slabbed post highlights the damage done to an admitted "Zero Sum Game Player" who is engaged in a human-harm-cost-benefit analysis. The Pinto punitive damages award came readily to mind because the case was decided while I was in law school learning about negligence.
For my non-attorney readers, I need to stress that it's not wrong to engage in a cost-benefit analysis for the compensation of injury under a negligence system. In fact, this is what the law itself (and injured Plaintiff's attorneys) do, i.e., "calculate" the risk of harm + the potential severity of the injury against the cost of avoiding that harm.
People react badly when they see that type of calculation being applied to human injury or the loss of human life because those losses are considered to be "incommensurable," i.e., no amount of money can recompense someone for, say, the loss of a child. For an excerpt from my own article discussing the concept of incommensurability -- The Cost of a Thing is Your Life, click here.
I'm hoping my non-attorney readers will understand that these formal monetary calculations are routinely made by businesses and governments when making decisions about how much risk to human life is worth taking when they engage in potentially dangerous activities for the purpose of creating a significant benefit for many.
In a previous post that received a notice in the Silicon Investor BB I spoke of insurers and their lawyers using the court system as instruments of institutionalized bad faith. Indeed Allstate has taken much criticism for ignoring lawful subpoenas over these documents as well as substantial fines as noted by Ms St John. This brings me to the beginning of the main story.
For more than a decade, Allstate Insurance Co. kept a secret from its auto policyholders — a national strategy to force customers to accept reduced cash payouts or face years in court.
Thousands of pages of Allstate documents reviewed by the Herald-Tribune detail how the nation’s second-largest insurer systematically cut payments to customers as a way to boost profits.
The documents describe a two-pronged strategy.
First, the company evaluates claims with a computer program designed to reduce payouts by as much as 20 percent of what the company once paid for the same injuries.
Second, Allstate pushes policyholders to accept quick settlements without the help of lawyers. Policyholders who try to fight for more money face Allstate attorneys coached to refuse to negotiate and to drag out litigation.
The approach often forces car accident victims to take what Allstate offers right away or spend years in court while their bills go unpaid — a strategy Allstate spelled out in guidelines for claims adjusters that “forces the claimant and attorney to think about the obstacles they must overcome …”
Indeed it appears we have a road map of how tort reform is being used against us. Limits on damages only make it easier for these large insurers to get away with outrageous behavior. The story continues:
It was a “Zero Sum Economic Game. Allstate gains … others must lose,” declared a consultant’s PowerPoint slide from a 1994 presentation to executives.
During the next five years of Allstate’s claims overhaul, the same consultant, New York-based McKinsey & Co., chose confrontational words to describe the new system. In PowerPoint presentations and discussion papers drawn up for Allstate executives, McKinsey used “boxing gloves” to characterize how Allstate should treat policyholders who balk at settlements. For customers who hired lawyers, McKinsey urged, “align alligators,” adding these instructions: “sit and wait.”
The documents also show:
Allstate removed much of the discretion of local claims agents to set payouts, requiring them to base their recommendations on a computer program called Colossus. Under that program, average payouts for bodily injuries dropped more than 20 percent in the first few years, internal documents show, a big step toward reaching McKinsey’s goal of “establishing a new fair market value” of such injuries.
Allstate recognized that when an injured driver hired a lawyer, the insurer lost money. In repeated presentations to Allstate executives, McKinsey coached tougher and increased legal action. By 1996, Allstate had doubled its legal force, hiring 225 more lawyers. “The bottom line is that Allstate is trying more cases than ever before,” a corporate newsletter said . . .
Allstate Corp., the second-biggest U.S. home and auto insurer, released 150,000 pages of documents sought by opposition lawyers and company critics related to McKinsey & Co.'s review of claims-handling practices.
McKinsey suggested strategies for the company to become more profitable by paying less in claims, according to videotaped evidence presented in Fayette Circuit Court in Lexington, Kentucky, in a civil case involving a 1997 car accident. Lawyers for policyholders said Allstate's previous refusal to release the documents showed the company wasn't treating its customers fairly. The insurer has said the documents include trade secrets.
``Public criticisms by people with a vested interest in creating an inaccurate picture of the company's claim practices have been based unfairly on only snippets from the documents taken out of context,'' the Northbrook, Illinois-based insurer said in a statement today. ``Because of the need to address misunderstandings resulting from the growing misplaced focus by our critics on very small pieces of the whole, we have decided to make the documents public.''
One slide the consultant prepared for Allstate was entitled ``Good Hands or Boxing Gloves,'' and recommended the insurer put on ``boxing gloves'' to deter about 10 percent of claims deemed to be exaggerated, padded, or fraudulent, according to portions of the report shown to the Kentucky jury. For more than 50 years, Allstate has advertised its employees as the ``Good Hands People,'' telling customers they will be well cared for in times of need.
The strategy proposed by McKinsey would ``send a message to the attorneys of our proactive defense stance'' in cases dealing with minor impact soft tissue injuries, the consultant said in the document. Lawyers would have to ``think about the obstacles they must overcome to recover significant settlement or the benefits of a smaller, walk-away settlement.''
Allstate implemented the plan in the 1990s because studies showed more people were submitting claims even though accident rates were declining and cars were safer, Allstate lawyer Floyd Bienstock told the Kentucky jury. The McKinsey report found Allstate was overpaying bodily injury claims by 16 percent, Bienstock said.
``It was never a plan to intimidate people,'' he said.
See what Lincoln has to say about "God being on our side" and the end of negotiations in this short but stirring speech.
At this second appearing to take the oath of the presidential office, there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement, somewhat in detail, of a course to be pursued, seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention, and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself; and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it. While the inaugeral [sic] address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war--seeking to dissole [sic] the Union, and divide effects, by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.
One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war, the magnitude, or the duration, which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with, or even before, the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered; that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether"
With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.
Though I don't often avert to religion or spirituality, my own values are firmly grounded in mid-century mainstream Protestantism -- most prominent of which are compassion, tolerance, apology, forgiveness, reconciliation and the very real and ever present potential for the redemption of the human spirit.
Resentment, bitterness, anger, vindictiveness and the desire for retribution are all emotions that interfere with the expression of the forgiving side of our spirits.
More than one friend has likened the holding of resentments against others to "drinking poison and expecting the other guy to die." Because I have personally reaped the soul-soothing benefits of the challenging practice of apology and forgiveness, my posts on apology -- though calculated to ease business negotiations -- are as grounded in reconciliation's spiritual as well as its material value.
To forgive is to let go of a form of anger – specifically, resentment. Even more specifically, the resentment we feel toward someone who has wronged us is a deep and long-lasting blame. Blame is based on judgment: he or she shouldn’t have done that because they should have known better; or because it was unjust; or because, in the same situation, I wouldn’t have done that…
In most cases where we struggle with the issue of how to forgive someone, the primary motive is our own peace of mind, not how to help the person who has wronged us. This is because the odds are that we, as the wronged party, remain disturbed over the incident long after the person who wronged us has moved on.
Forgiveness is related to love. To understand just how, we’d need to know just what we mean by love – a big topic. But to briefly mention one angle on this, we can easily see that forgiveness is related to self love when we realize that to forgive someone else is to promote our own mental health and spiritual peace.
If you're interested in what shame and guilt have to do with moral development as a preclude to recognizing the difference between guilt-ridden and shame-infused apologies, read on. (and yes Janis, I'm working on it!)
A SHORT PRIMER ON SHAME, GUILT AND MORAL EDUCATION
A. The Origins and Effects of Shame.
The word shame is derived from the Indo-European skem which means "to hide." Shame makes us want to hide - from ourselves, our God and our peers - making shame an existentially isolating state of mind. Feeling shame makes a person "dejection-based, passive, or helpless," causing the "ashamed person [to focus] more on devaluing or condemning his entire self" than upon his behavior. He sees himself "as fundamentally flawed, feels self-conscious about the visibility of his actions, fears scorn, and thus avoids or hides from others."
The shamed individual wants "to undo aspects of the self" whereas the guilt-ridden one wishes to undo aspects of his behavior. It is therefore not surprising that guilt tends to motivate restitution, confession, and apology, whereas shame tends to result in avoidance or anger.
The psycho-biology of the constellation of emotions we call "shame" is innate. It produces a sudden loss of muscle tone in the neck and upper body; increases skin temperature on the face, frequently resulting in a blush and causes a brief period of incoordination and apparent disorganization. No matter what behavior is in progress when shame affect is triggered, it will be made momentarily impossible. Shame interrupts, halts, takes over, inconveniences, trips up, makes incompetent anything that had previously been interesting or enjoyable.
A state of cognitive shame follows this initial cluster of feelings. After the painful jolt of shame, we begin to search our "life scripts" for some way to integrate the shameful experience with our prior experiences, to make sense of the pain and disorientation caused by the sudden upset of a positive emotional state.
Because our earliest experiences of helplessness relate to our size, strength and intelligence, only anger and its explosive cousin, rage, allow us to prove to ourselves and others that we are powerful instead of weak, competent rather than stupid, large rather than small. Thus do many shame-suffused individuals respond to chronic shame in an attack mode, particularly those who feel "endangered" by the depths to which their self-esteem has been reduced. Such individuals experience shame as a threat to their physical well-being and lack the ability to trust and rely upon others.
Shame thus serves as a barrier to one's capacity to achieve empathy and develop conscience.
Easter is one of those holidays that resists secularization unless you have children, grandchildren, hard boiled eggs and a rainbow of pastel dyes.
People don't casually say "Happy Easter" to one another, particularly in an urban American city and especially if half your family is Jewish.
Still, Easter reminds me that I used to be a practicing Protestant and that my values derive substantially from the liberal Christian teachings I was dipped into as a child -- first in Sunday School and then in church.
What did I learn? Tolerance. Compassion. Empathy. Forgiveness. Reconciliation. And perhaps most important of all, the genuine potential for every ordinary human spirit to experience a radical transformation -- so radical that one might say the individual had been reborn as a spiritual being.
Listen, this is not light weight stuff.
I like to write, but I'm no philosopher. Nor am I writer with a huge brain, steadily empathic heart, encyclopedic knowledge, original thought or the courage to dream paradigm shifting dreams. I do know that writer, however. His name is Ken Cloke and I am steadily making my way through all 500 and something pages of his new book.
These are the times to put our own individual highly personal spiritual or religious faith and a great deal of our material resources behind the transformation of human understanding necessary to save the species.(as James Lovelock , author of Gaia instructed us, we have no need to worry about the persistence of the planet itself. We are not necessary to its survival; we are merely its "spokesmodels.")
Prejudice is complex and operates on many levels. It can be found not only in insults and judgments, caricatures and stereotypes, but refusals to listen and communicate, stories of demonization and victimization, inability to experience empathy with others, and infinitesimal denials of humanity. It is reflected in personal selfishness and hostile relationships, bullying and aggressive behaviors, and ego compensations based on poor self-esteem. It is expressed through contempt, disregard, and domination, as well as through low status, inequitable pay, and autocratic power.
Prejudice commonly operates by stereotyping. People form stereotypes, in my experience, in eight easy steps:
1. Pick a characteristic
2. Blow it out of proportion
3. Collapse the person into the characteristic
4. Ignore individual differences and variations
5. Disregard subtleties and complexities
6. Overlook commonalities
7. Match it to your own worst fears
8. Make it cruel
If these steps routinely produce prejudice, it is possible to undo them, for example, by making people more complex than their stereotype permits, or distinguishing unique individuals within a group, or recognizing commonalities between people. It helps, in doing so, to acknowledge that everyone is equal, unique, and interesting; that everyone forms prejudices; that everyone can learn to overcome them through awareness, empathy, and communication; and that everyone can become more skillful in communicating across stereotypes and lines of separation created by fear.
It is common for people, when accused of prejudice, to respond defensively, but to confront other people’s prejudices aggressively, leveling accusations and instilling shame. These responses may initially succeed in suppressing the expression of prejudicial attitudes and undermining social permission and the cultures of discrimination that allow it to continue. But to root out the deep-seated biases that keep prejudice alive, it is necessary to dismantle it at a deeper level, in people’s hearts and minds.
Our principal goals in responding to prejudice are therefore not to castigate, blame, or point fingers at those who exhibit prejudicial attitudes, as shaming and blaming merely triggers defensiveness and counterattack. Instead, they are to defuse prejudice by assisting those in its grip (including ourselves) to:
develop a knowledgeable, confident self-identity, and appreciate who they are without needing to feel superior to others
experience comfortable, empathetic interactions with diverse people and ideas
be curious and unafraid of learning about differences and commonalities
feel comfortable collaboratively solving problems and negotiating differences
be aware of biases, stereotypes, and discrimination when they occur
stand up for themselves and others in the face of prejudice, without becoming biased in turn
experience diverse affectionate relationships that grow stronger as a result of differences
"A man likes to make his own decisions," she says as she sends John off to the Continental Congress to seek men and arms (and help from the French) in Massachusetts' recent violent confrontations with the British Army.
Abigail takes a breath to make sure her head-strong husband can hear her.
"Men," she concludes, "do not like to have their decisions made for them."
Still, it wasn't until we reached the movie's scenes dramatizing the delegates' after-hours meetings in the local public house that my husband finally turned to me and said "they're mediating in separate caucus."
The Unity Necessary for Political Change Requires Mutual Self-Interest and Common Ground
The unity necessary to make the agonizingly difficult 1776 decision for independence, revolution and war was not achieved by persuasive argumentation, but by the alignment of each state's self-interest with the self-interest of each other state. This was Franklin's brilliance as international ambassador and as one of the founders of our unprecedented and improbable political enterprise - the united states.
I want to tell you all about Ken's revolutionary shift from rights and power on the one hand to mutually beneficial interests on the other, but I've got work to do. For now, I'll leave you with a snippet from his last chapter which should whet your appetite for more.
Political theorist John Schaar wrote:
“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and their destination.”
Ultimately, we are the social, economic, political, and environmental impediments we are seeking to overcome. All the problems and conflicts we want others to resolve are already present within us. The systems, paradigms, cultures, and environments we regard as dysfunctional exist not just around and between, but within each of us. They are us, even if we have devoted our lives to changing them, and must be transformed both within and without.
Systemic, paradigmatic, transformational, revolutionary changes therefore require personal as well as social revolutions. These revolutions do not happen merely by participating in recycling efforts to reduce environmental pollution. At their deepest level, they require us to actually experience ourselves as no different from the plants and animals we are destroying and, more problematically, from the people who are doing the destroying. Only by accepting personal responsibility for global problems on this scale can we discover where they begin inside us, and identify the practical steps we can take to stop them at their source.
Consequently, we not only need to transform the dominating and coercive nature of social, economic, political, and environmental power, and dismantle them at their systemic source by expanding the use of interest-based alternatives and increasing the ability of civil society to solve problems collaboratively. We also need to refuse to participate in them personally, even when they are dedicated to achieving “good” ends. This is no easy matter, both because a great deal is at stake and because domination and coercion are not just large-scale events, but small, barely noticeable everyday behaviors whose origin lies in all of us.
Allen Rostron[ and] Nancy [Levit's] . . . . series in the UMKC Law Review last year called Law Stories: Tales from Legal Practice, Experience, and Education . . . [was begun] to expand on the art of legal storytelling:
Over the last few decades, storytelling became a subject of enormous interest and controversy within the world of legal scholarship. . . Some . . . . told accounts of actual events in ways that gave voice to the experiences of outsiders. . . . [A] major textbook publisher developed a new series of books that recount the stories behind landmark cases . . . to help students appreciate not only the players in major cases, but also the social context in which cases arise. . .
Legal theorists began to recognize what historians and practicing lawyers had long known and what cognitive psychologists were just discovering - the extraordinary power of stories. Stories are the way people, including judges and jurors, understand situations. People recall events in story form. Stories are educative; they illuminate different perspectives and evoke empathy. Stories create bonds; their evocative details engage people in ways that sterile legal arguments do not.
Because . . . I [too] believe that legal storytelling is not only educative, but also a way to illuminate different perspectives, I chose to contribute this year to the Second Law Stories Series [--] Mediating the Special Education Front Lines in Mississippi [which] comes directly from my first-hand experiences as a special education mediator in Mississippi.
Professor Secunda concludes by asking whether story-telling should have a place in legal scholarship. And quite a propitious day he posed to ask the question.
Obama's speech today -- triggered by but not solely given to address questions about inflammatory statements made by his pastor from the pulpit -- was grounded in story. Why? Because only the texture, detail, ambiguity, contradiction, and paradox of actual "lived experience" at a particular time and in a specific place, is capable of approaching the "truth" of the human predicament. Where does story start? Classically, with one's his birth and lineage.
I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.
Giving to Airy Nothings/A Local Habitation and a Name
By beginning with autobiography, by taking the time to tell his wholly personal yet universal story, Obama does what Shakespeare said all writers must do -- "give to airy nothings/a local habitation and a name." No single snapshot, no view from 30,000 feet, no abstract and colorless (or "colored") everyman can do much more than to "simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality."
We should long have known that only a bi-racial man might be permitted to take the national stage to address "white" demoralization with as much forcefulness as "black" misery; to describe "black" and "white" anger with equal understanding; to say that "[m]ost working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race."
Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.
To acknowledge that
for the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicia ns, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.
And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. . . . . That anger is not always productive . . . But [it] is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.
So Where Do We Begin?
Story, for Obama, is not simply a way to approach the difficult truth. It is the instrument to cauterize our wounds; the weapon with which to resist the easy answer and the politically "correct" response.
Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have . . . white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – . . . . And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.
This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.
So where do we begin?
"There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina," Obama concludes.
She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.
And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.
She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.
She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too. . . .
. . . Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”
“I’m here because of Ashley.”
The recognition that we are involved, engaged, hopeful, willing, motivated, cheered, encouraged, and made more courageous because we have connected with one specific textured, multi-dimensional, storied human being, is not, Obama admits "enough."
Not only is the delegation of Dan's blogging responsibilities smart, it's pie-expanding.
Though Dan's readers are likely missing his voice with their daily coffee and eggs, he's turned their loss into other bloggers' gain by asking several of his colleagues to "guest blog" while he's gone.
I should tell you that I do know [Evil's] first name; but she has told me that she'd hunt me down if I revealed her identity. So instead, I've asked her to provide a short blurb to introduce her; here was her candid response:
Evil HR Lady works for a Fortune 500 Company making sure that as many people as possible get fired. Hence, the Evil part of her name. She blogs and takes questions here.
Nothing like an HR person with a sense of humor, right? Well, she also has a very entertaining blog that is part Ask Amy, and part Jack and Suzy Welch. . . .
Even though I do hate the term 'win-win' as far too redolent of marshmellows roasting over a camp fire ("say, pass the Hershey's chocolate, would you?") Dan is exemplifying the essence of integrative, interest-based "win-win" problem solving for his readers.
While he rides off on his white stead to win win win win win his client's case at trial!
Thanks for the opportunity to meet your readers, Dan. And go get 'em!
Being "neutral" does not mean we check our common human decency at the door.
Do understand this however. When we are feeling frightened and disoriented, anger and its explosive cousin rage, consolidates our sense of self. This is one of the main reasons why aggression is so emotionally satisfying. /**
Let's do continue to talk with one another about these matters -- whether we agree about them or not. Understanding our own fallible human nature and forgiving ourselves for our momentary failures to rise above our baser instincts is the critical first step in living our values.
Today, this morning, I must admit that my response to the headlines is anger. My own fear and anger, however, have not been transmogrified into national and international policy and practice. I am sorry, very sorry, to say that the American administration's fear and anger has been.
US President George Bush says he has vetoed legislation that would stop the CIA using interrogation methods such as simulated drowning or "water-boarding".
He said he rejected the intelligence bill, passed by Senate and Congress, as it took "away one of the most valuable tools in the war on terror". The president said the CIA needed "specialised interrogation procedures" that the military did not. Water-boarding is condemned as torture by rights groups and many governments. It is an interrogation method that puts the detainee in fear of drowning.
Despite the advice of mothers everywhere -- "you get more with honey than with vinegar" -- that renegade of international law, George Bush, has once again contravened this country's aspirational goal of serving as a model of human rights and liberties.
Why mother was right -- and Bush wrong -- in my next post.
/** Because our earliest experiences of helplessness relate to our size, strength and intelligence, only anger and its explosive cousin, rage, allow us to prove to ourselves and others that we are powerful instead of weak, competent rather than stupid, large rather than small. See See D.L. NATHANSON, SHAME AND PRIDE: AFFECT, SEX AND THE BIRTH OF THE SELF 209 (1992).
Thus do people who feel humiliated by another's aggression (such as the 9/11 attacks) respond in an attack mode, particularly those who feel "endangered" by the depths to which their self-esteem has been reduced by the assault on their sense of safety and self-determination. Id. Such individuals experience humiliation as a threat to their physical well-being and lack the ability to trust and rely upon others. Id.
In this issue, I also review a little book about networking called The Go Giver by Bob Burg and John David Mann -- a happy prescription for a successful career for those of us who have the education, training and experience to give freely and make use of the benefits that flow from our fortunate human tendency to reciprocate favors.
The "Women's" issue comes at a time when I'm hungrily devouring Lauren Stiller Rikleen's tremendously readable, inspiring and fascinating Ending the Gauntlet -- Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law. I'm not even through Chapter One yet and I can tell you that this is no ordinary book about women's challenges in the legal profession. It's a book for men and women who can still recall -- and share with future generations -- a time when law firms were more like professional partnerships than the corporate behemoths so many have become.
As Ms. Rikleen promises, her book explores the "confluence of circumstances" that marked my generation and shaped the following generations of women in the law -- the flood of female attorneys into firm practice in the 1980's coupled with the modern law firms' explosion in size, wealth and complexity.
To give you a small taste of Ms. Rikleen's scholarship and vision, here's a thumb-nail of her diagnosis of the ills that have beset Mid-to-BigLaw practice:
As [law firms] have grown . . . they have failed to develop an infrastructure which could channel the energies that have led to huge financial success into a coherent management framework. The result is a series of internal, unstructured organizational units which often have more in common with life in the frontiers of the Old West than they do with sophisticated businesses.
Sound familiar? Either buy the book now!or wait for my lengthier review in an upcoming issue of The Complete Lawyer.
Take a look at Geoff Sharp'sMediator Blah Blah post today about mediation coaching. Here are five different ways in which a mediator can coach a party to achieve more from the negotiation than he might otherwise be able to achieve without assistance:
1. Talk to [the] parties about who is the best person in the group to make the offer to the other side and . . . . [which of their negotiating partners] they might want to look at when they do...
2. [P]resent a worst-case settlement offer first then contrast that with their present, and more favourable, offer.
3. [Make] their suggestion as if] they were planning . . . .
4. Point out the hot buttons for the other side and assist a party to make symbolic offers that will have a favourable psychological impact . . . .
5. Suggest and then assist one party to restate all the interests that have been identified in the mediation so far (with the other party's first) - then present a proposal and identify how it meets those interests [in a manner that is] mutually beneficial for all.
Soon, the Complete Lawyer'sHuman Factor Columnists (first appearance, Vol. IV, Issue 2 /*) are going to be addressing the ways in which you can use conflict resolution techniques to create, or restore, peace in your law firm.
Though my contribution to that particular column is slicing the law firm's money pie with an eye toward the collective good rather than the individual's advantage, I can't pass up the opportunity to note the importance of accountability -- one of mediation's core values -- covered by The Snark in -- Oops! An Associate Did it Again (excerpt below).
This is the hardest plan to implement because you fear finally being discovered for being imperfect and possibly over-rated. Will you be fired? Will it go down in your "file" only to rear its head in four years when you are denied admission into the partnership and the only reason they can give is, "Back in your second year, you missed that 1 p.m. meeting with our best client, MegaCorp."
But I think in the end it is better to fess up. Just don't do it in a way that makes things even worse: no crying, sniveling or begging for mercy. And no need to shave your head or hold a press conference.
You just need to explain yourself while displaying the appropriate level of remorse blended with confidence that says, "Yes, I screwed up that once, but it was an uncommon lapse that will be rectified. I will work even harder and bill a few extra hours to make up for lost faith in my value."
Provided your mistake didn't actually cause lost revenue or client relationships, you likely will be forgiven. But don't let it happen again. You get paid way too much money to make mistakes.
BigLaw or Small, You are Not a "Cog"
I know the Snark's column is meant to be witty, sarcastic, ironic, snide, and all of that, but the demeaning reference to BigLaw associates as "Cogs" is unfortunately reflective of some young lawyers' felt reality. (Remember Jonathan Swift'sModest Proposal -- eat the poor? It's not a joke)
Here is my advice to every first year associate at every law firm in the country -- be it a Two-Person Enterprise or a Ginormous BigLaw Endeavor:
NOT ONLY ARE YOU NOT A COG, YOU DO NOT WORK FOR THE LAW FIRM
You WORK for the client. If your "boss" or your firm is not helping you do that to the highest level of your own abilities, then he/she is simply the guy/gal you need to circumvent so that you can give your client the best legal advice and services available.
THE BUCK STOPS WITH YOU.
You are a lawyer, with a lawyer's professional responsibilities and the right to be respected for the highly educated, skilled and semi-trained professional you are.
Don't let anyone fool you. You are not only important, you have power. And with power comes accountability.
Compare the hilarious Bob Newhart routine above (from Mad TV) with any episode whatsoever of HBO's new series about psychoanalysis The Treatment.
In legal/mediation terms, Bob Newhart's "treatment" -- "just stop it!" -- is akin to the mediator's refrain -- "move past it," "get over it" or simply "move on."
Gabriel Byrne's methodology in The Treatment, on the other hand, is more akin to the process of complex commercial litigation. The litigator, like the analyst, doesn't focus so much on the "patient's" described experience as he does upon his own interpretation of that experience. We litigators -- like the chair-bound analyst -- too often ignore our client's actual, multi-dimensional, ambiguous and self-contradictory experience in favor of the form of their "problem" -- the size and shape it must take to fit the "remedy" we are capable of providing.
In either case, the patient/client too often feels like he is being treated like a child -- a child whose possession of a problem seems to give the designated authority figure the right to tell him what to do -- "just stop it" -- or to re-interpret, shape, edit or "spin" his very personal story into a "form of action" the law will recognize.
Take a look at how unhappy Gabriel Byrne's patients are. They're not unhappy just because of the problems they had when they first stepped through the therapist's door. They're agonizingly unhappy because "the doctor" infantalizes and objectifies them; tells them they don't know what they're really thinking; suggests that they don't know what's best for them; and, then "hides the ball" while he lets them drift around without mooring.
The Mediation Story
The "mediation story" excerpted below -- like last week's litigation story -- is not the client's story but the lawyer's or the mediator's preferred narrative. Here, we tell our clients to "get over it. Fix the future. Don't obsess about the past. Just stop it!"
But some clients are not going to want to "get past it." Some want to, need to, maybe even should "right the wrong." Others want to, need to, maybe even should put the past behind them and problem-solve the future.
What do we do?
We listen with as little judgment and as few pre-determined "solutions" as possible. Then, we outline for our clients what we can do to help them solve their problem with our particular skill-set. Then we tell them about the myriad other solutions available to them. Preferably, we have a referral list in our desk drawer so we can provide them with the names of people whose skills and solutions best suit what they want.
What we shouldn't be doing is selling our process.
[The mediation] narrative profoundly differs from that of litigation. The engine that drives litigation's morality tale is that conflict resolution is a contest between parties, one of whom necessarily represents good and the other necessarily represents bad. As a result, litigation seeks to designate who has committed moral transgressions by breaching legal norms (or, from the perspective of the defendant, who wrongfully accuses others of having done so).
The Story of Mediation subverts these norms by transforming this familiar morality tale into a story of collaboration. This subversion begins through how mediation conceives of conflict itself. Implicit in the Story of Litigation is that conflict represents a breach of the norms of conduct, thereby ripping the social fabric in some way large or small. In contrast, in mediation, conflict is a norm of conduct, a necessary byproduct of humans having distinct experiences and personalities and needs. Conflict is thus not necessarily a disruption of the moral order, and, indeed, can sometimes be productive. . . . . .
[T]he meta-narrative of mediation seeks to map the [parties'] "strivings" and "vanquishings" onto a collaborative struggle to resolve conflict. This narrative casts all participants as players in a process - collaboration - that is focused on reaching the common goal of successfully resolving or transforming a dispute. This story has moral entailments because collaboration is accepted as a social and moral good. Unlike litigation, however, this story does not generate a binary moral universe that divides the good from the bad, but, rather, a universe that values collaborative striving to achieve common ground and resolution.
This story places mediators in a role that is very different from the role played by decision-makers in litigation. Rather than being heroes of moral vindication to whom wronged parties appeal for justice, mediators promote and model collaborative striving to overcome conflict. This plays out in many accepted techniques in mediation. Mediators, for example, often seek "commitment" from participants to the process of mediation, although mediators are careful not to extend this commitment to a commitment to agree.
This commitment to process is a proxy for a commitment to collaborate to seek to resolve conflict, thus incrementally moving participants away from contested litigation and towards collaborative problem solving. Similarly, mediators often "reframe" participants' statements in order to emphasize "common ground." This is also an effort to move parties away from a morally charged contest and into collaboration. Finally, mediators encourage and model collaboration through a positive message of optimism and progress towards resolution, even when (or, perhaps, especially when) impasse appears likely.
Moreover, mediation approaches the narrative movement from Efforts to Restoration of Steady State in a very different way than litigation. . . . . The very language through which litigants seek redress of grievances - to "be made whole," "to pay your debt society" (with its implication that payment of the debt would return the ledger to balance), even the word "remedy" - implies Restoration.
In contrast, mediation tends to reject Restoration as a state to which the parties (and society as whole) should or even can return. Rather, mediation seeks Transformation on the part of all disputants so that conflict is resolved. It does so by embracing the notion that perceptions of the world (including perceptions of the actions of others) are unstable, thus enabling parties to appreciate alternative perspectives as a way to promote resolution of conflict. Mediation, therefore, does embody a plot that adheres to the narrative movement described by the Austere Definition, albeit in ways that are utterly alien to the morality tale of the story of litigation. The story of mediation can be characterized as follows:
Steady State: Whatever Each Party Views as Pre-Conflict
Trouble: Whatever Each Party Views as Constituting Conflict
Efforts: Collaborative Striving To Overcome Conflict as Modeled and Promoted by Mediator
Transformation of Steady State: A New Relationship Among Parties
Crystal and Keith /* are the unmarried parents of a seven year old girl, Taniyah. They have sought the services of the West Hollywood community mediation center because they want to discuss the resolution of their custody dispute outside the presence of their attorneys.
After introductions, Keith and Crystal push a proposed settlement agreement across the conference table. They are shy with one another but united in their desire to reach agreement without any pressure from "The Attorneys."
Two hours later, we are at item no. 23 -- "neither Parent nor either set of grandparents shall physically strike The Child at any time."
"Is this a provision you agree with?" I ask. "It means you can never slap Taniyah's hand," I add. "Is that something you want to agree to?"
"We don't have a choice," says Crystal. Keith nods in assent.
I let the word "choice" hang in the air for a moment as I begin to understand why these two bright, well-educated and articulate young parents have so reluctantly given their meek and mutual approval to every previous item they said they came to the mediation center to discuss.
The Shadow Conflict
I put the "proposed" agreement aside.
"Why don't you have a choice?"
"Because Taniyah's attorney put this into the agreement," says Keith as Crystal nods in agreement, repeating Keith's remark "we don't have any choice."
Taniyah has an attorney, I learn, because Keith's mother -- one of Taniyah's primary caretakers -- left Taniyah at home with her nine-year old cousin, Arabelle to run an errand. Arabelle, a curious child, led Taniyah on an expedition to her grandparents' bedroom where the two found a stash of light porn -- Playboy and the like. That, I'm told, is the only reason Taniyah has an attorney.
It quickly becomes apparent that Crystal and Keith simply assume that Taniyah's attorney is a decision-maker. I'm still considering how to approach this problem when Keith asks the question that leads to the resolution of the "shadow" dispute between the parents and Taniyah's attorney.
"How do we get our power back?"
Justice, Mediation and the Rule of Law
I tell this lengthy story as preface to another from this weekend's Mediators Beyond Borders Founding Congress. Yesterday, someone suggested from the podium that we should include mediation and arbitration agreements in our own contracts with our own clients.
I raised my hand.
"Why," I asked, "do you want to restrict our clients' access to the justice system?" once again demonstrating a fractious lack of diplomacy that makes some people wonder how I could possibly be an effective mediator. /**
It wasn't a well-placed question but it is of a type I often find myself more or less compelled to shoe-horn into any conversation that assumes mediation is best for other people.
A number of scholars have pointed out the danger lying in an ideology of harmony related to ADR where agreement is seen as the panacea in every conflict.
They have argued that mediation was essentially supported by [the] middle upper class and social scientists whereas people . . . involved in conflicts[, including the] working class were expecting law and rights to protect them.
Emphasizing free choice, individualism, autonomy and advantage, and assuming instrumental rather than normative and religious orientations of social action, the concept [of mediation as an ideal form of dispute resolution] seems to describe the culture of professional elites rather than of residents of these urban/ethnic neighborhoods.
As Abel has stated, "there is considerable evidence that people want authority rather than informality. They want the leverage of state power to obtain the redress they believe is theirs by right, not a compromise that purports to restore a social peace that never existed."
According to those scholars, ADR could serve as a means of control and domination in keeping and reinforcing power relations. For instance, Milner Ball has defined ADR as "another form of the deregulation movement, one that permits private actors with powerful economic interests to pursue self-interest free of community norms. "
They argue that in traditional societies . . . mediation is used [when] there is no danger of retaliation from the weaker party. The . . . focus on relationships [diminishes the parties' focus on] justice[;] individual satisfaction has become the main purpose of conflict resolution.
Although they are conscious of the paradoxes of Law which can either "symbolize justice or conceal repression, reduce exploitation or facilitate it, prohibit the abuse of power or disguise abuse in procedural forms, promote equality, or sustain inequality, they argue that "Without legal power, the imbalance between aggrieved individuals and corporations or government agencies cannot be redressed".
* I have changed the parents' names and merged two separate mediations in the interest of confidentiality.
** The answer to this question is as follows: I am not mediating when I am engaged in discussion with friends and colleagues. Just as I do not observe the rules nor use the language of the courtroom at a dinner party, I do not observe the niceties of mediation in public discourse. It would be better if I did. I know that. I'm working on it and will post some insights about constructive public conversations on difficult and divisive topics in my next post.
You give others power over you by attempting to get them to do what you want them to do. Ask any parent in a supermarket with a two-year old. The only power the 2-year old has is not to do what you want him to do.
Stephen King wrote the Shining here, not in my room, but right down the hall. The book was Inspired by the Stanley. Hence the picture of Jack.
What's most exciting, however, is that I'm attending the Founding Congress of Mediators Beyond Borders; seeing old friends and meeting for the first time people I've long known at a distance; and getting to know an incredibly diverse and fascinating group of people dedicated to bringning conflict resolution techniques to international conflict.
More of that later.
Before getting to the "money shot" about changing the other guy's mind, I want to share with you Ken Cloke's12 Ways Systems Resist Change from his lecture yesterday: Mediators as Global Citizens: How Mediators Can Change the Planet.
I start with resistance because you can't even begin to think about change until you understand why it is you're not getting past opposition's door. You might most readily notice in the following list the ways in which your workplace (or your government!) supports its dysfunction.
You'll also recognize your opponent's opposition to you and perhaps even yours to him.
Marginalization: Making ideas, people, perspectives, or insights that could threaten the system appear unimportant, irrelevant, irrational, or impossible to achieve.
Negative Framing: Using language that frames new ideas and critics negatively so that nothing that threatens the system can be thought or communicated successfully.
Exaggeration: Stereotyping or exaggerating one part of an idea in order to discredit the other parts and the whole.
Personalization. Reducing ideas to individual people, then discrediting or lionizing them.
Sentimentalization: Using sentimental occasions, ideas, emotions and language to enforce conformity and silence criticism.
Seduction. Describing the potential of the existing system in ways that unrealistically promise to fulfill people's deepest dreams and desires and blame the failure to achieve them on others.
Alignment: Communicating that in order to exist, succeed, be happy or achieve influence, it is necessary to conform to the system regardless of its faults.
Legitimization. Considering only existing practices as legitimate an all others as illegitimate.
I often find myself explaining lawyers to their clients and clients to their attorneys. Here are some typical client complaints I hear about their litigator attorneys:
he tells me to forget about the most important losses I've suffered
she keeps editing my story
I don't understand why I can't . . . i.e., recover my attorneys' fees or cross-complain, etc.
he wouldn't let me tell the mediator everything I wanted to
she didn't let me talk to the other side
And here are the typical litigator complaints I hear about clients:
his expectations of success or recovery are commpletely unrealistic
if I tell her the weaknesses of her case, she says I've become the enemy
I've explained the limitations of the case to him, but he just doesn't seem to understand
Translating the Law into Justice -- An Explanation for Clients
The chart above and photos below are simple ways to explain to clients the gap between the law and justice. Sample explanation --
The dispute you're having exists in the world of injustice.
Picture the earth.
Now picture a grain of rice somewhere on the earth.
The grain of rice represents the injustices the law will remedy.
The earth represents the injustices the law will not.
Square Pegs in Round Holes -- An Explanation of the "Legal Story" for Clients
It feels like your attorney is "editing" or shaping or "spinning" your story of injustice because she is. The yellow square represents the facts necessary to obtain relief in court (damages, an injunction, etc.). It also represents the facts necessary to defeat your opponent's claim for relief.
The entire dispute -- everything that happened inside the green circle -- is generally what you, the client, want to resolve.
IT OFTEN INCLUDES FACTS THAT WOULD BE HARMFUL TO YOUR CASE.
That's why your attorney doesn't let you talk in the presence of the "other side" and asks you not to discuss the dispute with your opponent anymore. Because you might reveal something in the green area that's bad for proving your case in the yellow area.
THE MEDIATION ZONE -- AN EXPLANATION FOR ATTORNEYS AND THEIR CLIENTS
Mediators work in the green area. Clients almost always want to resolve all of the issues raised by the dispute, not simply the "legal" ones. Perhaps more importantly, there are many opportunities for resolution in the green mediation zone that no one has yet seriously explored because the green zone is not the focus of the legal action. Only the yellow legal zone is.
Mediation restores the dispute to the people who have it. They are the only ones who know and understand that dispute in all its detail, texture, dimension and meaning. Party interests -- their hopes, fears, desires, needs, etc. -- exist in both zones. The good news of mediation is that the party interests outside the legal zone can often be traded for concessions that are in or out of it.
When you have only one currency to negotiate with -- dollars -- you often reach impasse. Why? Because it seems so unfair to both parties that they should give in, compromise, split the baby in half, etc. just because the cost and aggravation of getting to trial is so high.
When you have more than one currency to negotiate with, however, like dollars and "face" or dollars and unexplored business opportunities or dollars and apology, or dollars and an explanation for the dispute's events that has the ring of truth, you can trump legal impasse with party interests.
Writing on a Grain of Rice
Vendors who line beach boardwalks or the sidewalks of tourist towns often include the guy who will write your name on a grain of rice. HERE!!!
Sometimes I feel as if my entire career as a litigator was written on a grain of rice -- that's how small the legal zone sometimes looks from here. It's O.K., though. Litigation isn't just a job or even just a career. It's a calling, this business of rights and remedies, of following a rule of law instead of a strong arm or the snake-oil's charm.
As the poet Lao Tzu wrote,
whether a man dispassionately
Sees to the core of life
Sees the surface,
The core and the surface
Are essentially the same,
Words make them seem different
Only to express appearance.
If name be needed, wonder names them both:
From wonder into wonder
Trial attorneys, negotiators, mediators and settlement judges all share the same essential concern -- how to reach and persuade our audience.
Trial lawyers have a product to sell -- their client's narrative -- which is always just one version of the "truth." Negotiators are also selling -- a business proposition their bargaining partner will find attractive. Settlement judges who have not been trained as mediators are generally selling fear -- the uncertainty! the expense! the delay!
And mediators? What's on display at our hot dog stand? The needs and desires of the parties, certainly. Many arrive at the mediation without having given any thought to their own true wishes at all. We tend to go a little deeper than the negotiators, who are selling the future rather than also attempting to repair the past. We try not to be fear mongers like some of the worst settlement head-bangers we remember from our own legal practice. And, unlike trial lawyers, we straddle the "truth," attempting to harmonize the parties' narratives rather than selling one version as superior to the other.
So what are we mediators really selling? Reconciliation. Accountability. Understanding. Consensus.
And this Bears Upon Political Campaigns and Jury Trials in What Way?
I don't subscribe to many blogs, diverting the few dozen that capture my interest to my news reader. I do subscribe to Anne Read's Deliberations, however, because she really "gets" people's pre-dispositions -- the ones I need to understand for the purpose of helping my clients to comprehend -- appreciate even -- the other guy's point of view.
Today, for instance, Anne reminds us that we are in the midst of a Great National Jury Seminar. All we have to do is click on the campaign news. As usual, Anne is looking past the easy answers -- race, gender -- in favor of exploring the deeper reasons we might vote for someone of our own nationality or hair color -- shared stories. Here, for example,
What do race and gender really mean? Most studies of jurors conclude that juror demographics don't directly affect verdicts -- with the important exception that jurors lean toward parties of their own ethnicity. (That's from Devine et al, Jury Decision Making: 45 Years of Empirical Research on Deliberating Groups, 7 Psychology, Law, & Public Policy 622 (2000)). But at the same time, we know that people of different races and genders often have shared experiences. Since experiences in turn shape attitudes, race and gender matter in ways that go beyond loyalty, but are difficult to define.
Trial lawyers have long wanted to understand this better -- and these days, so does every news organization in America. One fascinating piece of this is how individual one's group identity can be, as Newsweek explains in an article that's well worth reading in full:
Which candidate a voter identifies with is one of the most important gut-level heuristics, since it is tantamount to deciding that someone is enough like you to "understand the concerns of people like you," as pollsters put it. "If you feel a candidate is like you racially or by gender, you're more likely to believe that that candidate will support what you support," says [Harvard political scientist Pippa] Norris. But with a white woman and a black man vying for the Democratic nomination, where does that leave black women? Whom they most identify with depends on which aspect of their own identity dominates their self-image. . . . .
So are we all just Willy Lomans, carrying our self-esteem, our hopes and dreams, our successes and failures in our sample cases -- to display -- or not -- when a customer calls? I think we are. And the mistake we make, when we make one, is to direct our customers' attention only to the glittering lures -- the "sales" talk -- the promises of a brighter future, a better marriage, a faster car.
If we take a deep breath from time to time and listen to ourselves instead of pontificating and persuading, we'll be reminded that we're all seeking the same thing. Community. Belonging. Understanding. Even shared sacrifice. Every negotiation, every mediation, every trial represents a human relationship in crisis. If we really get that, we can start working together again, in the same general direction, even when our ideas about how to accomplish that differ.
An Unpaid Political Stream of Consciousness
Listen. No one will gasp in surprise when I say I'm a lifelong Democrat. Nor will my readers likely be surprised to hear me articulate my fondest election year desire -- that Hillary and Barack -- sooner rather than later -- will find a way to join experience with vision for the purpose of leading this country out of the long season of division that, let's be frank, began in the sixties and has never healed. That they will together lead this country back to what it's truly best at -- uniting a diverse, fractious, irritable, needy, greedy, fearful, hopeful people into a single nation with a higher purpose than our own individual and narrow interests. The UnitedStates.
If both candidates could put their campaigns -- their money; their volunteers; their momentum -- together for the purpose of healing discord and revealing a new national consensus -- we would not simply feel great about our country again, we'd actually begreat again.
Evaluative mediators provide the parties with an evaluation of the strength and weaknesses of their legal positions, usually in separate caucus. If asked, the evaluative mediator will give his/her opinion about what verdict a jury would likely deliver. Though I've co-mediated with sitting Judges quite a lot (the paradigm of evaluative settlement officers or mediators) I rarely see them tell the parties what to do -- see DIRECTIVE MEDIATION below.
Evaluative mediators often end a session with a mediator's proposal, i.e., the mediator chooses a number he/she believes would be acceptable to all parties (not necessarily what he/she believes the case is "worth") and tells the parties. If both parties accept, the deal is done. If either rejects, neither will know if the other party accepted.
I rarely make a mediator's proposal -- preferring to help the parties move toward resolution so long as no one is walking out. They really do feel better making their own decisions. That's why they've come to mediation and not arbitration. So long as I believe the parties' differing "bottom lines" might overlap, I encourage continued discussion even when the parties are feeling exhausted and cranky. Persistence and optimism about resolution in equal measure. Sometimes the process just needs a cheerleader.
Faciliatative mediators assist the parties, again often in separate caucus, to decide how the bargaining session will proceed, i.e., how high a first offer or demand should be; which party might benefit the most from making the initial offer; how many concessions the parties should consider making during the course of the negotiation; and, what reasoning might spur their opponent to make another concession. Once again, I rarely see the mediator, settlement officer or Judge tell the parties what to do. But see DIRECTIVE MEDIATION.
Transformative mediators strive to empower the parties to express their true needs and desires; to shift from self-concern to understanding of the other and to move from entitlement and blame to accountability. Transformative mediators do not direct the process of the mediation, which is always held in joint session.
Transformative mediators encourage the parties to set their own ground rules; state what their own desires and interests are; and, express themselves as fully as they wish, even if that includes persisting through angry outbursts, tears, recriminations, and the like.
In its pure form, the mediator acts something like a therapist. Uh, huh, uh huh, anything else? Have you said everything to Jim or Julie that you want to say? Uh, huh, uh huh? Jim/Julie, what do you want to say back to Julie/Jim about that? The purpose of transformational mediation is to resolve the conflict completely to the parties' mutual satisfaction even if that does not settle the actual dispute. See Bush and Folger, The Promise of Mediation.
DIRECTIVE MEDIATION -- Once again, I've never see Judge or mediator tell the parties to do anything other than to bring all the stakeholders and their insurance carrier representatives. I have, however, seen and done the following:
I need $X from you to settle the case -- $Y is not going to do it. Please talk to you client/carrier and bring me back that number if you want to settle the case today.
This directive usually occurs very late in the proceeding and most often in a multi-party mediation in which a dozen or more defendants are contributing to the settlement. I also call this type of mediation FUND RAISING MEDIATION. I've never seen anyone do this better than Judge Victoria Chaney in the Complex Court in Central Civil West, Los Angeles.
My own "directive" suggestions to the parties generally concern the need for at least one party to step up to the line of impasse. If I believe the parties are bargaining in the nano-and stratospheres and are not getting within a hundred yards of where they'd really settle the case, I'll generally tell them so -- i.e.,
someone needs to step up to the line of impasse for this case to settle. If you don't do it, you'll likely lose your opportunity to resolve the matter today.
That's about as "directive" as I get, although I have been known to say I need $5,000 or $500,000 or $1 million more NOW. Or, I need you to drop your demand by $10K or $500K or $50 million NOW.
You can only do this if you have established a strong relationship of trust and confidence with both sides. Each side needs to know that you are not simply carrying the other side's bluff to them with your extra weight behind it. So directive and evaluative techniques -- I don't know their bottom line but I believe we're getting pretty close to it -- go hand-in-glove.
Ideologies aside, here's the real reason to probe party interests -- i.e., their genuine desires, expectations, fears, business needs, financial situation, lines of authority, reserves, reporting relationships, etc. -- it's the only way you can offer, with any credibility, your opinion about the "temperature" in the "other room" and the likelihood that party A might settle the case somewhere in the range of $X and party B somewhere in the range of $Y.
get the Plaintiff to concretize his monetary expectations, i.e., what he might do with the money to take the Court-as-Gambling-Casino element out of the process;
ask the Plaintiff to imagine the offered sum sitting on the table before him -- to see it as a stack of cash or a thing or services or an improved quality of life he might purchase with it -- this makes the money real and more difficult to literally "leave on the table;"
assist the defendant to:
subtract "sunk costs" from his/her/its calculations when considering the "body blow" that paying money to their opponent will be;
brain-storm about business interests that could be satisfied by using the litigation as an opportunity to make a business deal;
come to grips with the loss that settling the litigation will inevitably entail, dealing directly and honestly about the issues of unfairness and injustice that must often be accepted to justify paying even a reasonable sum.
don't let the parties leave until they've had principal-to-principal discussions -- the parties are often able to resolve a matter that their lawyers cannot because their lawyers are acting on instruction (I don't have the authority to settle for that) whereas the principals have more flexibility on often arbitrary "bottom lines" -- this also helps humanize the opponent who has been thoroughly demonized by the process of adversarial litigation (see autistic hostility)
Why should a commercial mediator read these books? For the same reason your business clients should -- they address the most important technology for making business effective and efficient -- do it yourself dispute resolution.
I've adopted Richard's mantra for commercial litigation -- businesses don't have legal problems; businesses have business problems and most of those business problems are people problems.
Organizing teams of people into efficient working groups -- whether it be your Board of Directors; your research scientists; your associate attorneys; your sales staff; or, your physicians -- is the greatest challenge of every business -- making inventing the cure for cancer look like child's play.
We are a fractious, competitive, grudge-bearing, insecure, angry, difficult bunch. And yet everything we have ever accomplished by way of creating civilization and insuring our own survival as a species has resulted from our ability to communicate with one another for the purpose of engaging in a team effort.
Suppose you are not the biggest person on the block, but you have thousands of years to become one. What do you do? If you are an animal, the most straightforward approach is becoming physically bigger, like the alpha male in a dog pack, with selection favoring muscle and bone. But there is another way to double your biomass. It's not be creating a body but by creating an ally. If you could establish cooperative agreements with some of your neighbors, you could double your power even if you did not personally double your strength. You could dominate the world. Trying to fight off a woolly mammoth? Alone, and the fight might look like Bambi vs. Godzilla. Two or three of you however, coordinating your behaviors and establishing the concept of teamwork, and you present a formidable challenge: You can figure out how to compel the mammoth to tumble over a cliff. There is ample evidence that this is exactly what we did.
Did I say I'm also in the middle of reading The Brain Rules and you should be too?
So, here's the thing. I'm starting a new category on the negotiation blog -- Do It Yourself Dispute Resolution. The next several posts are going to talk about what we need to understand to do that, jettisoning our attorneys for most of the business and people problems that end up in court so that we can reserve the attorneys to plan a better, more profitable future instead of fighting over the unprofitable past.
And the litigators? There will always be matters of principle; new law; new problems; and, new conflicts to resolve that require the process of an adversarial proceeding. I'm just looking to notch up your legal work a bit -- make it more interesting, satisfying and people-problem free.
You don't have to be an expert in this -- your mediator is.
To the degree you "get" this, you will form a far better negotiation team with your mediator to obtain the best deal possible for your client in any settlement or commercial negotiation.
Principled negotiation is the name given to the interest-based approach to negotiation set out in the best-known conflict resolution book, Getting to Yes, first published in 1981 by Roger Fisher and William Ury.
The book advocates four fundamental principles of negotiation: 1) separate the people from the problem; 2) focus on interests, not positions; 3) invent options for mutual gain; and 4) insist on objective criteria.
Separating the people from the problem means separating relationship issues (or "people problems") from substantive issues, and dealing with them independently. People problems, Fisher, Ury and Patton observe, tend to involve problems of perception, emotion, and communication.
Perceptions are important because they define the problem and the solution. While there is an "objective reality," that reality is interpreted differently by different people in different situations. When different parties have different understandings of their dispute effective negotiation may be very difficult to achieve. (This is what we have been calling framing problems.) Fisher, Ury and Patton suggest seven basic strategies for handling problems of perception. [go to linked article for further explanation]
People problems also often involve difficult emotions — fear, anger, distrust and anxiety for example. These emotions get intertwined with the substantive issues in the dispute and make both harder to deal with. Fisher, Ury and Patton suggest five tactics for disentangling and defusing emotional problems in the negotiation process. [Click on the link for further explanation]
Fisher, Ury and Patton consider communication problems to be "people problems" as well. They list three types of communication problems.
First, disputants may not be talking to each other. While their comments are formally addressed to the opponent, they are actually addressing some outside audience. They are grandstanding, or playing to the crowd.
A second communication problem arises when parties are not listening to each other. Rather than listening attentively to the opponent, parties may instead be planning their own response, or listening to their own constituency.
Finally, even when parties are both listening and talking to each other, misunderstandings and misinterpretations may occur. Fisher, Ury and Patton suggest techniques for minimizing communication problems. [Click on the link for a description of these techniques.]
Negotiating about interests means negotiating about things that people really want and need, not what they say that want or need. Often, these are not the same. People tend to take extreme positions that are designed to counter their opponents’ positions. If asked why they are taking that position, it often turns out that the underlying reasons--their true interests and needs--are actually compatible, not mutually exclusive.
By focusing on interests, disputing parties can more easily fulfill the third principle--invent options for mutual gain. This means negotiators should look for new solutions to the problem that will allow both sides to win, not just fight over the original positions which assume that for one side to win, the other side must lose.
The fourth rule is to insist on objective criteria for decisions. While not always available, if some outside, objective criteria for fairness can be found, this can greatly simplify the negotiation process. If union and management are struggling over a contract, they can look to see what other similar companies have agreed to use as an outside objective criteria. If people are negotiating over the price of a car or a house, they can look at what similar houses or cars have sold for. This gives both sides more guidance as to what is "fair," and makes it hard to oppose offers in this range.
We will continue with this series: What Mediators Wish Lawyers Knew in subsequent posts and encourage our lawyer-readers to please let us know what they wish mediators knew.
The ABA Ethics Committee has given the green light to collaborative law agreements -- considered unethical in Colorado -- so long as the clients give their informed consent. See Putting a Kinder Face on Litigation. Excerpt below:
“When a client has given informed consent to a representation limited to collaborative negotiation toward settlement, the lawyer’s agreement to withdraw if the collaboration fails is not an agreement that impairs her ability to represent the client, but rather is consistent with the client’s limited goals for the representation.”
The oxymoron? Litigation is definitionally a "contentious tactic" pursued for the purpose of making someone else behave in a way they do not wish to behave == to pay money they do not want to pay; to accept less money than they are demanding for the injuries they claim to have suffered; to refrain from trespassing on your land or demonstrating on the street in front of your house or performing on a contract they contend does not require them to obey.
Why is litigation a "contentious" tactic? Because its entire purpose is to overcome the will of another. It is not an invitation to dinner to discuss the dispute in an attempt to find common ground. Does litigation sometimes lead to collaboration? Most certainly, as do other contentious tactics such as persuasive argumentation, ingratiation, and violence -- all of which can serve to bring the parties to the bargaining table.
I am all in favor of collaborative processes for the resolution of disputes. It's what I do for a living for heaven's sake. But I am also an advocate for the preservation of meaning in the English language. Collaborative litigation is a contradiction in terms. And if you want your client's informed consent to anything, it would be best to remember that the "litigation" part of collaboration remains the iron fist inside the velvet glove.
there we were - just after Christmas - on a main highway at the bottom of the South Island of New Zealand and crossing a one-way road/rail bridge. . . a one-way bridge on the main trunk road and the train goes over the top!
As we pulled up to the bridge I saw a number of cars in line . . . .
I got out to investigate wishing I was a doctor. The cry rarely goes out for a mediator at roadside emergencies, although we probably see about as much blood on the floor as they do.
I eventually got to the head of the line of rubber-neckers half way over the bridge, only to observe two beefy looking high context campers facing each other off, both red from the sun and the conflict - one with his belly protruding under his dirty white singlet, the other in a terry towling hat known to be extinct since the seventies.
They were at a stand off. They had entered the bridge at the same time from opposite ends and neither was willing to select reverse gear. As onlookers enjoyed the sport, it was clear they were growing restless in the heat of the day.
What was to be done?
A couple of people were making half-hearted interventions to make both men see sense, but they were ineffectual.
I diagnosed the situation...nothing, nada, a blank - hey! I was on holiday.
Then, as I stood there, on that old creaking wooden bridge, I had my new year's eureka moment.
That was the problem. Both men had got themselves into a corner, neither knew a way to put themselves and their overloaded old cars into reverse without backing down.
I was a doctor after all! But how to address this prickly barrier to resolution in the hot midday sun so far from a whiteboard?
So I hesitated - well they were big, fat and angry - and I was only one of those after my Christmas day.
Then I did what any reader of this blog would do... I acted in a decisive and professionally appropriate way.
And that's my question to you, my dear reader: What did I do to get the traffic moving?
In 2006, The New York Times® reported that only 17% of partners at major law firms nationwide were women—and according to a National Association for Law Placement study, less than 5% were managing partners. In a recent survey, less than 15% of general counsel at Fortune 500 companies were women, according to the ABA. These statistics raise the question: Is the glass ceiling giving way in the legal industry?
At the LexisNexis Women in the Legal Profession Summit: Rainmaking, Negotiating and Collaborative Development, you’ll hear about the techniques and approaches that successful female attorneys have employed to overcome the odds and achieve equal status in their firms or legal departments. And you’ll hear from in-house speakers from Chevron, The Clorox Company, Starbucks Coffee, LexisNexis Examen and Union Bank of California. You’ll get:
Techniques for overcoming gender bias and improving the inclusion of women in practice
Strategies for leveraging your strengths to create leadership and rainmaking opportunities
A better understanding of what work/life balance is and ways to achieve it
Insight into how others perceive your communication style and what you can do to translate it into effective negotiating skills
Strategies for attaining partnership and for succeeding once you get there
Insight from a corporate roundtable on how the panelists got where they are today
And much more
From impressive speakers, including:
Linda Marks, director of training and consulting, Center for WorkLife Law University of California, Hastings College of Law
What is that advertisement at the top of Victoria Pynchon's Negotiation Law Blog?
It's the first of several ads to be delivered on this site by Forbes.com.
Why is she junking up her blog with advertising; does she need the $$$ that badly? .
It's true that I will earn some income (a few dollars a month? a couple of hundred? I have no idea).
But I'm not in it for the ad revenue.
Believe it or not, this blog is not merely a marketing device. It is also an attempt to spread the good news of collaborative problem solving and interest-based negotiation to whomever those skills might help in their business and personal lives.
Learning interest-based negotiation and mediation skills radically changed the quality of my life, my work and my personal relationships. I don't just want to share that, I'll go all the way to say I have a mission to share that.
O.K., But What Does This Have to Do With Advertising from Forbes.com
I'm joining the Forbes.com Business and Financial Network to bring the Settle It Now Negotiation Blog to as many people as might find it useful, most particularly business people and attorneys.
Forbes.com's homepage has -- drum roll please -- 20 million visitors a month.
I have 5,000-6,000 visitors a month.
I'd like to have more.
I'm truly hoping that the Forbes.com network will provide a greater array of information and advice to my existing five to six thousand monthly visitors and that the addition of my blog to the network will get the central message of this blog to more people.
What is your blog's central message anyway?
Here it is.
A community thrives on collaboration and reciprocity. All communities -- local and global -- thrive on collaboration and reciprocity. And individuals living in collaborative and reciprocal communities are happier and healthier than those who don't.
The rest is implementation. And practice.
So, let's see how this Forbes.com community can further that goal.
Hop on board! The train is getting ready to leave the station.
But don't worry about being left behind. We're a local so you can jump on any time you're ready!!
Thanks to Joe Provenza of Can I Have That With!! for dropping by yesterday's post and leaving a comment and for hipping us to the Mental Blocks that prevent every negotiator and negotiation advocate from distinguishing the conflict resolution forest from the money trees. Joe comments upon and quotes Steve Pavlina's post “2 Mental Blocks to Making Money” with the good news that we should be thinking about people, not money.
“…By focusing on trying to get money, you’re missing the point. The point is to provide value to others. This means serving people in a way they aren’t already being served, in a manner that aligns with your unique creative self-expression. Share what only you can share. Express what only you can express in the way that only you can express it…
…Try to look past your own needs and recognize there’s a pretty interesting world around you. Through your actions you can have an impact on it, for better or worse. Think about how you can provide something that people want or need in a way they aren’t already being served, something that will make a positive difference. Then act on it.”
"Focus entirely on the customer," echoes Provenza "and then act upon it."
A bias for action is tantamount. Too often we spend our energy preparing to act, yet take no action. We have the resources all about us, however we do not use them.
Focus on the customer and acting upon that focus is the only way to break through Mental Blocks!
What kind of consultant has the opportunity to, in one year, consult with everybody from Microsoft and Starbucks to her Majesty Queen Raniya to hostage negotiators with the FBI to working with NYPD’s hostage negotiation team, to working with lawyers and medical doctors?
Let me just say I'm prejudiced on this topic before we begin yet another discussion of the Vioxx settlement -- this one focusing on the stellar and collaborative case management skills of the jurists responsible for managing these cases through litigation, trial and settlement.
I was a true-believer of the benefits of the Complex Court on the first day my nine-figure environmental insurance coverage dispute was reassigned from a downtown courtroom to the Hon. Carolyn B. Kuhl, presently the Presiding Judge of "Complex."
My respect for the Complex Court only grew when I became Judge Victoria Chaney's superannuated law extern while pursuing my LL.M degree in Conflict Resolution at the Straus Institute.
So it is no surprise that Judge Chaney was one of those Judges who were highly instrumental in pressing the parties to resolve one of the most sophisticated mass tort cases ever -- and not by "twisting arms" or "banging heads," but by the art of case management, collaboration and principled persuasion.
By December 2006, there had been enough [Vioxx jury] trials for both sides to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of their arguments, [New Jersey Superior Court Judge Carol] Higbee said.
Both sides had spent a lot of money, but the litigation was still progressing too slowly.
That month, [U.S. District Judge Eldon] Fallon, Higbee and [Ass't Supervising Complex Court Judge Victoria] Chaney met in New Orleans. Over dinner, they prepared for a meeting the next morning with attorneys from both sides. It was time, the judges had decided, for the lawyers to discuss a resolution.
The judges urged the lawyers to begin talking. They asked for monthly meetings and regular progress reports. They emphasized, among other things, the need to move the cases along.
"We were simply not going to be able to continue this slow progress," Higbee said. "It would go on forever."
Six months later, in June, the judges notified the team of plaintiff attorneys they intended to meet with Merck's legal team, Higbee said. The pace of the litigation weighed on the judges.
"Trying the cases one at a time was no longer going to be an option," Higbee said. "We never thought we would try all the cases, but there was a chance we would try another 500 cases."
The judges told Merck's lawyers they would have to start spreading the cases out among more judges, which would diminish the chance of getting a settlement. "The chance of a fair resolution was much more likely," Higbee said, "while there was a control of the litigation by the three judges."
The Judges' Management Strategy Plus the Three-Year Statute of Limitations, Pushed the Negotiations Along
Kent Jarrell, an outside spokesman for Merck's legal team, said the possibility of the lawsuits being spread out among additional judges was "a factor" that pushed the negotiations along. But Jarrell said the three-year statute of limitations, which arrived at the end of September, also was a big factor.
The statute of limitations on filing new cases gave Merck a clear definition of the litigation's magnitude, and that would prove to be a key factor in Merck's ability to formulate a settlement.
The settlement negotiations, which grew more serious during the summer months and into the fall, culminated in the early morning hours of Nov. 9.
"Both sides had a similar goal -- to settle as much of the litigation as possible and to pay people with the strongest cases, the most serious injuries, the most money," the judge said.
Higbee believes the settlement will ultimately succeed. "I'm anticipating they will get more than 85 percent of the cases," she said.
Because these materials are the basis for a speech and not the speech itself, they may be a bit confusing. I'm providing them for those who attended the seminar. If you didn't, please understand that not everything discussed appears in these materials.
The entire day of speakers (a pretty high powered group) will soon be available in audio from the Pincus CLE company here.
The judge didn't care where they went, Herman said yesterday from his New Orleans office, he just wanted them -- all of them -- in one place. Fallon wanted the settlement done by the end of the week.
They converged in New Orleans, where they averaged three hours of sleep a night and lived on pizza, gumbo, diet coke and coffee.
And before dawn yesterday, they finalized the agreement . . .
This was not, of course, the first time these high-powered lawyers met to resolve the most aggressively defended pharmaceutical litigation in remembered history.
From the Star Ledger again
Herman, the plaintiff attorney in New Orleans, said the judges, including Fallon and state Superior Court Judge Carol Higbee from Atlantic City, ordered negotiations to begin last December. The judges' message, said Arnold Levin, who helped negotiate the settlement, was it was a good time to get started because the litigation had matured, or progressed.
Over the course of the past 11 months, two teams of attorneys -- 10 in all -- met face-to-face as many as 50 times in a variety of cities across the country. The negotiations, which remained confidential until late Thursday, involved as many as 100 conference calls, Herman said.
They Don't Call Them "Behind the Scenes" Negotiations for Nothing
As the Star Ledger coverage concludes:
"Negotiations over a multibillion settlement only work when they're done confidentially," Herman said, adding the attorneys were under orders by the judges to keep them secret.
In New Orleans, it was nearly 5 in the morning when the attorneys finalized the agreement. Most went off to their hotel rooms to nap or shower before they had to head over to a regularly scheduled conference before Judge Fallon.
And never underestimate the power of pizza, coca-cola and sleep deprivation to get the deal done.
. . . with the usual groveling thanks to charles fincher of lawcomix for the generous giving of permission to use his brilliant and hilarious cartoons . . . .
. . . to be fair, the final round contestants were all ridiculously well-prepared, articulate, bright, thorough and just generally the kind of young people you'd hoped would one day be in charge of the world . . .
. . . it's just that the ABA rules apparently require them to be very very very very very NICE . . . .
Because I am always looking for the most efficient and effective means of resolving disputes, I am often drawn to what's new in social science. Political science too often goes under my radar, as does mathematics -- the number one reason people go to law school -- because they can't do math.
The book at right was brought to my attention by this highlighted text in Good Magazine:
In the foreboding world view of rational choice, everyone is a raging dirtbag.
What made me decide to introduce my readers to the father of "rational choice" theory, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, however, was the application of his theory to international political problems such as the reduction of conflict between Israel and Palestine (quoted below).
I'll have to admit that his claim to "produce a settlement [in litigation] that is 40 percent betterthan what the attorneys think is the best that can be achieved” -- also caught my attention. Of such smaller conflicts is my attention consumed by.
In my view, it is a mistake to look for [peacemaking] strategies that build mutual trust [between the Israelis and the Palestinians] because it ain’t going to happen. Neither side has any reason to trust the other, for good reason. . . .
Land for peace is an inherently flawed concept because it has a fundamental commitment problem. If I give you land on your promise of peace in the future, after you have the land, as the Israelis well know, it is very costly to take it back if you renege. You have an incentive to say, ‘You made a good step, it’s a gesture in the right direction, but I thought you were giving me more than this. I can’t give you peace just for this, it’s not enough.’
Conversely, if we have peace for land—you disarm, put down your weapons, and get rid of the threats to me and I will then give you the land—the reverse is true: I have no commitment to follow through. Once you’ve laid down your weapons, you have no threat.
The "rational" solution?
In a peaceful world, what do the Palestinians anticipate will be their main source of economic viability? Tourism. This is what their own documents say. And, of course, the Israelis make a lot of money from tourism, and that revenue is very easy to track. As a starting point requiring no trust, no mutual cooperation, I would suggest that all tourist revenue be [divided by] a fixed formula based on the current population of the region, which is roughly 40 percent Palestinian, 60 percent Israeli. The money would go automatically to each side. Now, when there is violence, tourists don’t come. So the tourist revenue is automatically responsive to the level of violence on either side for both sides. You have an accounting firm that both sides agree to, you let the U.N. do it, whatever. It’s completely self-enforcing, it requires no cooperation except the initial agreement by the Israelis that they are going to turn this part of the revenue over, on a fixed formula based on population, to some international agency, and that’s that.
It actually gets much more controversial and interesting than this -- the "kicker" to the headline in Good Magazine reads:
Can a fringe branch of mathematics forecast the future? A special adviser to the CIA, Fortune 500 companies, and the U.S. Department of Defense certainly thinks so
If that intrigues you, you'll want to read the entire article here.
This is Geoff Sharp's (Mediator blah blah) lovely family, wife and Judge Susan Sharp, and children Hector, Jack and Kate. My husband Steve is in the fore and our good friend and neighbor Tony, who appears here on Geoff's Mediation Video Blog, is far right. I understand Tony taught the children the siren song of TiVo which we're hoping the pleasure of the dinner mitigates (and yes of course your parents can afford it, kids! and no it won't interfere with your homework a bit)
Geoff and I are hiding in the back after being publically shamed by both spouses and neighbor Tony (the young people were remakrably indulgent) for our blogging habits.
Geoff and I nevertheless planned joint blogging endeavors which we'll unveil soon!
Have a great trip back to New Zealand Sharp family.
S/he doesn't want to leave $$$ or value on the table?
This great ABA article, How to Make a Losing Argument can be translated, almost point by point, into How to Lose the Negotiation (i.e., how to leave too much value on the table).
The points? It's worth your time to read the ABA article in full, but for the hassled and harried, here's the executive summary:
Argue with the [mediator]
Bury [the heart of the dispute] in clutter
Misstate the facts
Base your argument on obscure technicalities.
[Remembering that in negotiations, most legal positions constitute "obscure technicalities." Why? Because only lawyers have legal problems -- people and business people have people and business problems. Some of those problems -- about 10% -- fall within the purview of the law. The rest of them and the remainder of the potential solutions have nothing whatsoever to do with the law. What do they have to do with? Ask the parties. They're the only ones who know. Never think you already know what they are.]
Push a good point too far.
Of course I have more to say about all of these, but I've gotta run pick up burgers and buns to host N.Z. mediator Geoff Sharp and family to a true L.A. late October bar-b-q this evening.
FAVORITE BUMPER STICKER SIGHTING THIS WEEK: You don't have to believe everything you think.
Michael provided a link to his solution to the "Shubik" Dollar Auction Game that most of us have played in mediation seminars. Because the game itself demonstrates just how irrational bargaining can be, and Michael's solution demonstrates how everyone can "win" when cooler heads prevail, I am quoting part of his post here and commending to my readers' attention the full post here.
Shubik reported [of the Dollar Auction Game described in Michael's post]:
"Experience with the game has shown that it is possible to 'sell' a dollar bill for considerably more than a dollar. A total of payments between three and five dollars is not uncommon." Possibly W. C. Fields said it best: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it."
Without at all diminishing my respect for W.C. Fields, I venture to suggest that there is a more reasonable way to play this game as opposed to quiting. What is it?
First, lets update the game to the 21st century and restrict it to two players. Replace the $1 with $20 and each bid must be a multiple of $1. Each person must bid at least once, or they can agree not to play at all. What should they do? Suppose first bidder bids $1, and second bidder pays $2, what is the first bidder's reasonable response? Right now, as a collective they are paying $3 to get $20, or netting $17. He should demand that the second bidder pay his $9.50 not to bid! Alternatively, second bidder can offer first bidder $9.50 not to bid again.
Then the second bidder will the $20, paying $2 to the auctioneer, $9.50 to first bidder and so he nets $8.50. First bidder gets $9.50, pays $1 to auctioneer and nets $8.50, jointly getting $17.00. As I see it, $8.50 is better than nothing, giving lie to the claim that you cannot get something for nothing.
This is why I usually defer to Michael's greater wisdom. He can do the math.
My fellow panelists (Superior Court Judges Chaney and Williams; former Federal Magistrate John Leo Wagner; Patent Infringement and Competition Arbitrator and Mediator Les J. Weinstein; and, Complex Commercial Arbitrator and Mediator Jay McCauley) have all been working hard in preparation for our November 13, 2007 Winning Settlement Strategies Seminar (.pdf flyer here and complete program description here).
CALL IN NUMBER: The Highspeed audio bridge conference room number is 5650382 and is available by phone at **New Access Numbers (10/16/07) 1-605-475-8590 and by Skype at +990008275650382. The audio conference is required for participation.
QUESTIONS TO BE CONSIDERED: Some of questions to be considered: "Why aren't people beating down the doors of peacemakers, whether mediators, facilitators or negotiators? and, "How can the internet engage people online in ways that facilitate and promote peacemaking?"
Anyone who can green- or red-light the final agreement.
Why Can't They Simply Be Available By Telephone?
For the same reason you don't want your jury to "call in." A settlement negotiation is part process, part presentation, part drama, and, part human interaction.
Those who don't participate will never understand the principled reasons for the settlement achieved by day's end. I cannot tell you how distressed many (particularly young) attorneys are when the "partner in charge" or client questions their wisdom (or sanity!) for recommending a settlement that no one but those in the room could possibly understand in all of its texture and dimensionality.
Leave stakeholders home at your risk. Not only might you blow a significant chunk of change on the mediator's fee, you risk losing a day's worth of time for yourself and your client "representative." Perhaps more importantly, this particular settlement opportunity may never present itself again.
2. Leaving too soon
"Americans" (and I use the term loosely for anyone, citizen or not, who buys retail) become uncomfortable after two or three bargaining "moves," i.e., offer, counter-offer, counter-counter, "I'm outta here."
Unfortunately, lawyers have readily at hand the legal version of a weapon of mass destruction -- the threat of which is usually phrased as "see you in court, buster."
Until the mediator or settlement judge tells you that she/he is convinced the parties' aren't already secretly in agreement, i.e., willing to accept a settlement within the other's "bottom line," you risk losing the best deal you're likely going to get by leaving the negotiation too early.
3. Failing to take clues from the mediator/settlement conference judge
Just as you will always know more about your bargaining position and the business interests underlying it than the mediator does, the mediator will always know more about your opponent's bargaining position and ability to settle the lawsuit than you do.
Remember, the mediator is honor bound not to disclose information that is highly beneficial to your bargaining position. Unless you've hired a disreputable or simply unreliable mediator (and you know who they are after you've hired them once) don't ignore the mediator's suggestions that a little patience with the process might result in a big reward for your client.
4. Failing to strategically use joint and separate caucuses
To everything there is a season . . . .
Rigidly adhering to any negotiation or settlement conference format reduces your ability to strategically use whispered confidences in the hallway; candid conversations between counsel without their clients; meetings between the mediator and a difficult client without his/her/ attorney; discussions between the mediator and one or more of the attorneys without their clients; and, meetings between the disputants without anyone else's presence.
There are dozens of different permutations and combinations of attorney-client-mediator dyads, triads and the like.
Think about it. Each different relationship draws out of us someone slightly different. We're more or less comfortable, deferential, authoritative, subject to persuasion or persuasive depending upon our "audience."
During the course of the mediation, the mediator learns about these dynamics and is able to use them toward what should be the mediator's goal -- to serve as many of the parties' interests as possible in an agreed upon settlement by day's end.
Not only should you listen to the mediator about these dynamics, you should hip the mediator to those you likely understand better than she/he ever will.
The mediator is your team mate. Don't miss the opportunity to call as many game "plays" during the day as possible.
5. Letting the Judge or Mediator Act the Bully
It's always easier to get what you want by talking about the reasons you desire or need it than by bullying the other side into accepting what you want.
A judge or mediator who is bullying you or your client to settle simply hasn't gotten the knack of asking questions and creating opportunities. He/she is still too used to wielding power. If it's important enough to spend your day mediating, it's important enough to tell the Judge or mediator that you or your client are feeling bullied and would prefer to explain your interests and positions than to be pressured to accept a deal you're not comfortable with.
If the Judge/mediator is unable to shift from power to collaboration, try to get as much out of the negotiation as possible and find yourself a new mediator for the next settlement conference.
6. Believing that any competent judge or mediator can help you achieve the best settlement.
Face it, you wouldn't hire a personal injury lawyer to try your complex insurance coverage action. Nor would you hire a Skadden Arps attorney to handle a motion to increase your spousal or child support.
Mediators are not all-purpose "peace-makers" or negotiators. As Colin Powell has said, the most important factor in an international diplomatic negotiation is to "be inside the other guy's decision cycle."
What does that mean? In a personal injury case, it means understanding the claims adjusters' levels of authority and pressures to bring back to the office a settlement that is in line with similar cases -- better than those of his or her colleagues if at all possible. In a commercial case, it often means satisfying not only General Counsel, but the CEO or CFO or even the shareholders.
It's not so much the law the mediator needs to know, as it is the culture in which the law is being applied.
Listen. I've been retained for the sole reason that I'm a woman. I'm not wild about this because I bring 25+ years of high-level commercial corporate legal experience to a mediation and am much much more valuable as a commercial mediator than I am as any random woman with a little skill in law or mediation. But it's ok because I am a woman and there are times when that's important to the settlement of the matter. There are some things that you just need a woman for. And some you need a man or an African-American or a Korean or an expert on the construction of toilet seats for. You should be thinking about all of these variables.
Most of all, you should choose a mediator or settlement judge who you believe is most "inside the other guy's decision cycle." Would Colin Powell steer you wrong? Well . . . . about something other than the War in Iraq?
7. Sidelining Your Client on the Day of Mediation
If you've been practicing for more than, say, five years, you know that your client never tells you everything that is important to its case. If you had the luxury of trying cases to a jury early in your career like I did, you learn this most quickly at trial. Usually when you receive a copy of a subpoena of someone you've never heard of.
"Harold," I said as a first year associate second-chairing the third trial day, "who is Jean McCarthy at the Sutter Mill Nursing Home?"
Harold, the Plaintiff, who was retired because of his injuries, hadn't worked at all for the last five years and had already given moving testimony to the jury about how difficult his life had been.
"Uh," Harold responded, "she's my . . . . uh . . . boss."
"Well, I've been doing odd jobs for the Nursing Home for the last several years."
Don't miss the opportunity to let the mediator have a little chat with your client and learn both the good and the bad of your case -- some of which you may well not yet (or ever) be privy to.
8. Failing to use the Mediator to Help You Bring Reality to Your Client.
This differs from Trap No. 7 but has some of the same causes. When your client explains his/her case to you, he/she presents it in the very best light. Your side of the case rarely gets better over time. Your client, however, has not had the same opportunity to see the "dark side" of the case as you have during discovery. Your clients often feel as if you're betraying them if you point out the differences between your view of the case on Day 1 and your view of the case on Day 632. Let the mediator help you out with that.
9. Failing to Maximize the Mediator's Strategic Skills
The mediator is your partner. And you are his/hers. Take the time to learn and maximize your unique skill-sets and knowledge to the highest advantage.
10. Negotiating in the Nano- and strato- spheres.
Spending a significant amount of time negotiating numbers that are far out of the range of potential agreement is not only a waste of everyone's valuable time, it strains the parties' patience and often results in impasse even when the parties' "zones of potential agreement" overlap.
One of the parties has to have the courage to step up to the line of potential impasse at some point in the mediation. The person who does so first will always gain the bargaining advantage as a result.
I spent a great deal of time yesterday editing a video (my abysmal webcam and video editing skills live at Geoff Sharp's Mediation vBlog this morning do not beging to do justice to the intelligence and insight of Milan Slama, a community and business mediator who is the subject of the interview).
In the process, I "grazed" around YouTube (see my YouTube page here) to see what kinds of mediation and litigation videos people have uploaded.
I'm sorry to report that most of them are in these varieties:
the "mediate because you really don't have access to justice" variety here and here -- delay; expense; "out of control nightmare";
the angry "mediation (or litigation) doesn't work" genre -- here and here.
the crazed litigant gunman here and here (the "adversarial process -- or even a patent application -- can kill you" narrative)'
the "we're Italian; we don't believe in divorce" Tony Soprano-style here.
At Geoff Sharp's MediationvBlog however, you'll see some pretty high level discussions about both the benefits and the challenges of both mediation and litigation for attorneys, mediators, judges and, lest we forget, clients.
There are a few words on negotiation tactics and strategy there as well.
THE invitation was too good to refuse — an August weekend at the august home of a friend on a little New England island.
Yet, from the moment I pulled up to the ferry dock, there was dread in my soul. Two years ago, I had offended an entire family of friends likely to be there. Would one of them be on the boat, where avoidance is impossible?
Checking a reservations list, I was relieved to find myself in the clear. But later, getting an ice cream on the island’s small village green felt like being in highly exclusive enemy terrain, and I walked with head down and turned in fear from each passing station wagon.
In the church thrift store where space is tight (and the clothes irresistible) I hid behind racks with my heart pounding as each shopper entered.
Why, he asks, are we afraid of the meeting (or confrontation) with the guy whose call we didn't return or manuscript we didn't read? Whose invitation we didn't accept, whose feelings we offended, or who stole our client?
It was through my communnity mediation experience, however, that I finally learned it was better to address than to avoid conflict. I have also learned that people will, given the right conditions, spontaneously reconcile. Those conditions? Having hope that reconciliation can be achieved without fear of sustaining psychological or physical harm, opening and maintaining channels of communication, and the assistance of a third party who is willing to patiently and lovingly sit with those in conflict like a parent with children recovering from a fever or bad dreams.
Listen, I have seen an elderly mother reconciled to a child who sued her and then served her with an eviction notice after two years of estrangement. I have seen (in a documentary film on restorative justice) a woman whose brother raped her at knife point, collapse sobbing into his embrace at a prison where he'd already been incarcerated for this crime for years. I have seen a man who refused to speak to his gay neighbors for five years stand up at the end of a community mediation and say, "may I hug the two of you?"
These events are not the rare occasion or the exception to the rule. Nor are they the result of anyone's brilliant mediation or conflict resolution skills.
They are the norm, the product of the process rather than the result of the technique.
A mediator can probably prevent these spontaneous acts of reconciliation, but s/he does not create them. At best, s/he presides over them, serves as their sponsor or appreciative audience, and counts herself privileged to have participated in them from the sidelines.
The answer to the question is shame, the most powerful constellation of emotions we are capable of experiencing. The lengths to which we will go to avoid these feelings was hilariously depicted just last night on Curb Your Enthusiasm, an episode you're just going to have to see.
The word shame is derived from the Indo-European skem which means "to hide." Shame makes us want to hide - from ourselves, our God and our peers - making shame an existentially isolating state of mind. Feeling shame makes a person "dejection-based, passive, or helpless," causing the "ashamed person [to focus] more on devaluing or condemning his entire self" than upon his behavior. He sees himself "as fundamentally flawed, feels self-conscious about the visibility of his actions, fears scorn, and thus avoids or hides from others."
The shamed individual wants "to undo aspects of the self" whereas the guilt-ridden one wishes to undo aspects of his behavior. It is therefore not surprising that guilt tends to motivate restitution, confession, and apology, whereas shame tends to result in avoidance or anger.
The psycho-biology of the constellation of emotions we call "shame" is innate. It produces a sudden loss of muscle tone in the neck and upper body; increases skin temperature on the face, frequently resulting in a blush and causes a brief period of incoordination and apparent disorganization. No matter what behavior is in progress when shame affect is triggered, it will be made momentarily impossible. Shame interrupts, halts, takes over, inconveniences, trips up, makes incompetent anything that had previously been interesting or enjoyable.
A state of cognitive shame follows this initial cluster of feelings. After the painful jolt of shame, we begin to search our "life scripts" for some way to integrate the shameful experience with our prior experiences, to make sense of the pain and disorientation caused by the sudden upset of a positive emotional state.
There you have it. Though it may seem more outrageous than comic for wildly successful adults to feign compliance with a social obligation by showing up a day late for a party pretending to have gotten the date wrong (the Larry David episode) it is no more or less absurd than the ordinary daily ways we all have of avoiding someone who might make us feel ashamed.
Tomorrow we will discuss ways to positively engage yourself with those who you may have inadvertenly offended.
Why am I reading Deepak Malhotra's and Max H. Bazerman'sNegotiation Genius in my comfy funky beach shack ON THE SAND on the windward side of Oahu at 8:45 a.m. (local time) listening to the waves gently slap the shore and occasionally looking up to see if the fisherman at water's edge has caught anything besides happiness this morning?
Am I insane? No, it's because:
no one taught me to negotiate in law school and despite being an B+ to A+ litigator for twenty-five years, until I met Peter Robinson at the Straus Institute, I was a C- negotiator. So learning these skills reminds me learning how to read in kindergarten (yes I do remember, running home at full speed, bursting through the front door and chortling to my mother, "I can spell 'red' Mommy, RED! It's R-E-D red!")
Bazerman and Malhotra have been my "distance learning" zen negotiation masters through the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge Newsletter for the past year and I would read with high expectation and rapt attention anything they scribbled on a napkin in a bar after a couple of drinks.
who could resist any negotiation book with chapters entitled: Negotiating from a Position of Weakness and Confronting Lies and Deception, both of which I avidly and happily consumed this morning after watching the sun rise over the Pacific around about 6 a.m.
That's it. I will be providing the executive summaries of these and other dynamite chapters for you attorneys who are billing 2000-2300 hours/year and any business manager or executive who drops by. Most of my mediator friends will be consuming it whole.
Right now, I'm putting Bazerman and Malhotra aside to follow Mr. Thrifty to the beach, clutching the new (and fabulous) new biography of Einstein in hand -- a man whose childlike wonder at the mysterious workings of the universe never faded.
This post brought to you by the letter "A" for awe.
Chistine's commercial litigation specialties include insurance coverage and professional liability, fields in which I labored for many years
MAJOR ASIDE ON INSURANCE COVERAGE
If you're litigating a commercial case, are not a coverage specialist and have decided -- from reading the policy language -- that there's no coverage -- run to someone like Christine, or if it's a really really really big liability, my husband, Steve Goldberg over at Heller -- who litigated the World Trade Center coverage litigation on behalf of Silverstein's lender -- for counsel and advice. It's not difficult -- it just requires specialized knowledge, knowledge many commercial litigators lack. See the sad tale of Guess v. Jordache here.
END OF ASIDE
Christine says she's new to the blawgosphere so I wanted to thank her for the mention of our blog by showing her how the whole machinery of the thing works == like a giant internet barter circle of the kind described by author-lawyer Patricia Williams in her groundbreaking work, An Alchemy of Race and Rights. See also the Benefits of Barter here.
Queen Latifa from Chicago on the seemier Tit for Tat side.
So, what do you say, Christine? Get your law firm to take the blogging plunge by talking to my good friend Kevin O'Keefe over at LexBlog. Online networking and practice development is geometric, as is LinkedIn, both of which I highly recommend, whether you're building your own business or just expanding your "book."
About one-third of teenagers on the Internet report that they have been targets of "menacing" online activities, such as receiving threatening messages, having their private e-mails or instant and text messages forwarded without consent, having an embarrassing photo posted without permission, or having rumors spread about them online. On top of this, girls are more likely than boys to be targets.
In terms of raw numbers, 15 percent of teenagers state that they have had private e-mail, instant messages or text messages forwarded or posted without permission; 13 percent claim that they have had rumors spread about them online; 13 percent have received a threatening or aggressive e-mail, instant message or text message; 6 percent have had embarrassing photos of them posted online without consent; and 32 percent fall within in at least one of the four foregoing categories.
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. Teenage boys bully with their fists. Teenage girls bully with their emotional wits. No one, no one, is more skilled than a teenage girl with the stilleto to the softest part of her girl-target. I know this from research and from silly movies (my favorite of which is Heathers with Winona Ryder and Christian Slater -- put it on your Netflix list ).
The technology may have changed, but not the malice. When I was in highschool, my older sister became the target of a group of particularly malicious girls who called her on the telephone to sling at her every possible insult they could. I remember, I fielded the call for her.
As a general practitioner, I help “real people with real problems,” and I have adopted that slogan as my professional credo. And it is a great answer to the inquiry “What kind of law do you practice?”
Grappling with the client, and not the chicken, enables the attorney to deal with the divorcing mother of three, the debt-ridden restaurateur and the juvenile offender. Another lawyer once told me, “We all know what the law is—the hard part is finding out what the client is.”
The public does understand this: but they just prefer to be entertained by that old razzle-dazzle (like the lawyer in the musical Chicago) and ignore the realities of the profession. It is said that people hate lawyers as a group but love their own lawyers.
For me and my practice, the proof of that is in the telephone. It rings. People want advice. People send money for that advice. It’s a nice system.
I have learned that the system is geared for the lawyer to assist the client, salve their wounds, remediate the problem and to obtain a goal. It’s almost spiritual.
Conflict is . . . is simply the sound made by the cracks in a system, a boundary condition that can best be resolved by communicating across the many internal and external borders we have erected to keep ourselves safe, or exclude others. --- Ken Cloke, President, Mediators without Borders, Committing Personally, Acting Globally.
In the absence of a feeling that makes us desire one outcome more than another, we are at a total loss.
How does impasse feel? If you'd been a WTO negotiator, your
emotions rang[ed] from anger to confusion [as they] left Potsdam on Friday knowing they had failed to break a six-year logjam between rich and poor countries over eliminating barriers to trade in farm produce and manufactured goods.
And the angry and confused government officials? Do they think their own bargaining position is to blame or do they believe that their negotiating partners are acting in bad faith? Let's see.
European and American officials questioned Brazil's intentions and wondered if it intentionally blocked progress to curry favor with developing countries, many of whom were unhappy with the private negotiations among the four powers.
Brazilians accused Washington and Brussels of agreeing beforehand to protect their agricultural interests.
Many officials criticized Indian Trade Minister Kamal Nath for arriving late on Tuesday after missing a flight and having a return scheduled ahead of the summit's end.
All sides said they negotiated in good faith.
The reasons for impasse and ways to break it will be the subject of a lengthy weekend post.
Why mediators? Because WORLD 3.0 will require that we supercharge our natural cooperative and altruistic natures while dampening our competitive drive without thereby discarding our ambition.
What will it take? A shift from competition to collaboration.
Can we do it? "Yes we can," says Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth at the moment when his audience begins to move from denial to despair.
At least one way to get the global cooperation ball rolling will be to school ourselves in empathy, a necessary prerequisite to tackling the problem of collaborative solutions to worldwide problems.
We Don't Have the Luxury to Cling to "Hot Button" Issues
I was talking to a young attorney in my husband's law firm last night at a fund-raiser for Public Counsel. When I suggested Obama '08, he demurred on the ground that Barack's church-state separation position wasn't sufficiently clear and it was one of his "hot button" issues.
I said, "we can't afford any hot button issues in the coming election. There's too much at stake." I didn't need to say more.
There's more, but that should be enough for denial and despair to set in.
Hope: What Mediators Can Do
Last week, I had the great pleasure of shaking Barack Obama's hand and asking him what an ordinary citizen like myself could do to help his campaign.
"Talk," he said. "Talk to your freinds and your family. Talk to those who support me and those who don't. Talk to Democrats and talk to Republicans. Talk to those who agree with you and those who don't. But first listen."
The challenge of winning a presidential election in the most technologically advanced, economically strong, militarily mighty nation in the world pales in comparison with the work we must do to survive the twenty-first century with our freedoms intact.
We cannot do it alone. We cannot continue to avoid difficult conversations with our friends, families, and those who we perceive to be the enemies to good governance and thoughtful environmental stewardship.
I am voting for Barack because he is a conciliator. I believe he has the heart to do the right thing and the intelligence to surround himself with the people necessary to accomplish it. He is not a utopian nor an ideologue. He is practical and progressive.
But my hopes are not really pinned on Barack. My hopes are pinned on the American people to awake from our long post-9/11 slumber.
My hope is that no matter who we put in charge of the White House in '08, we will begin working together, talking together, reaching consensus on those issues on which we can agree, forgiving one another for our inability to solve those we cannot; and, building coalitions of those willing to put aside their personal grievances so that we can rise to the unprecedented global challenges that face us.
What is the first step in a mediation? The creation of hope and safety. And after that? Communication, reality-testing, and problem solving conducted by locating our mutual interests and finding ways to satisfy them. Reconciliation, forgiveness. Dare I say justice.
This is not work for the weak-willed. It is not work for those with stars in their eyes. It is not work for ideologues or utopians. It is work for those, as Ken Cloke says, who are hopeful at heart and pessimistic of mind. For those who combine a fine skepticism with the courage (and humility) to reach across the aisle, cross the political divide, listen to those with whom we most violently disagree and seek solutions.
In all of this, we must realize that we are not creating a world without borders. We are simply recognizing it. We are one, united, inseparable, inter-dependent, fragile and worthwhile. Every one of us.
As James Agee wrote of our responsibilities in depression era America:
In every child who is born under no matter what circumstances and of no matter what parents, the potentiality of the human race is born again, and in him, too, once more, and each of us, our terrific responsibility toward human life: toward the utmost idea of goodness, of the horror of terrorism, and of God.
We first mentioned the brain's do-good-feel-good circuitry in our post Unhappy Lawyers and the Cooperative Hard Wire. Since that time, we've created an entire category for collaboration, showing that it not only makes us feel good and perpetuates the species, but that it also makes us better problem solvers than we could ever be acting on our own (remember law school study groups?) See e.g. Collaboration Creates Better Science.
The researchers continue to pursue this line of inquiry and today New York Times Writer and Blogger John Tierney (Tierney Lab) tells us that it feels good to pay taxes -- at least those with a charitable purpose.
Each student was given $100 and told that nobody would know how much of it she chose to keep or give away, not even the researchers who enlisted her in the experiment and scanned her brain. Payoffs were recorded on a portable memory drive that the students took to a lab assistant, who then paid the students in cash and mailed donations to charity without knowing who had given what.
The brain responses were measured by a functional M.R.I. machine as a series of transactions occurred. Sometimes the student had to choose whether to donate some of her cash to a local food bank. Sometimes a tax was levied that sent her money to the food bank without her approval. Sometimes she received extra money, and sometimes the food bank received money without any of it coming from her.
Sure enough, when the typical student chose to donate to the food bank, she was rewarded with that warm glow: increased activity in the same ancient areas of the brain — the caudate, nucleus accumbens and insula — that respond when you eat a sweet dessert or receive money. But these pleasure centers were also activated, albeit not as much, when she was forced to pay a tax to the food bank.
This doesn’t mean that the student, or anyone else, would necessarily enjoy writing a check to the Internal Revenue Service that would be spent on plenty of programs less appealing than a food bank. It is more like the tax collected by a state lottery that dedicates its profits to schools.
The refinement on prior research here is that charitable giving makes some of us feel better than others (see Altruist's Paradox, Should It Hurt to Be Nice) and that at least some of those whose pleasure centers aren't stimulated by altruism, give as much as those whose are.
My guess is that those who give without the brain "rush" also say "please" and "thank you," let motorists into the jammed traffic in front of them and help little old ladies across the street. We used to simply call them "good citizens." Their parents raised them that way.
plants grown alongside unrelated neighbours are more competitive than those growing with their siblings — ploughing more energy into growing roots when their neighbours don't share their genetic stock.
Plants 'know' more about their environment than they are often given credit for: they can sense the presence of neighbouring plants through changes in water or nutrients available to them or through chemical cues in the soil, and can adjust their own growth accordingly. "That plants have a secret social life is something well known to plant ecologists," says Dudley.
But the ability to recognize kin has not been demonstrated before.
I suspect that just as we humans are hard-wired to both compete and cooperate (see Unhappy Lawyers and the Cooperative Hard-Wire) so are plants. Because I don't know that, I ask any botanists within shouting distance to weigh in.
(left: my first 2-wheeler on which my grandfather, the sign-painter, inscribed my name)
Exploring Different but Compatible Interests
Lax and Sebenius suggest that many negotiators "simply assume their interests to be the opposite of yours -- rather than different and potentially compatible."
You cannot, however, simply instruct the parties to search for different but compatible interests. The mediator needs to listen long and carefully for the needs and concerns that are driving the parties' legal positions.
You'll recall that the parties to my hypothetical patent infringement action had already made lists of extremely valuable non-economic benefits that they might exchange with one another to resolve the dispute. They soon pushed those bargaining chips aside, however, quickly reverting to purely monetary issues.
Why do litigants abandon business opportunities more valuable than their total monetary demand? "Reactive devaluation." **
Non-quantifiable benefits are greeted with the suspicion one reserves for the street vendor hawking Louis Vuitton handbags. This apprehension is probably expressed by litigators more often than any other professionals -- "if he wants it, it can't possibly be good for me."
** I learned everything I know about the social psychology of conflict from University of Missouri Law SchoolProfessor Richard Reuben. This is one of his best and most comprehensive Power Point Presentations. Take a look when you have a moment. Learning social psychology is is like hitting the "reveal codes" key in WordPerfect or seeing the matrix: your entire conflict-life is mapped, graphed and revealed. Thanks again Richard!
Everyone who knows the difference between distributive and integrative bargaining and the iconic story of the ONE ORANGE should go directly this morning to Geoff's blog, Mediator Blah Blah. First, a snippet to encourage you:
Today I found myself inducted into the Mediators' Mile High Club at 23,000ft when two young, remarkably similar looking girls seated in 16E and 16F needed my help.
(yes, they look sweet and compliant now, but just wait until the plane takes off!)
As a follow-up to yesterday's post on collaboration and cooperation, we recommend a recent article in the Harvard Business School's invaluable online resource "Working Knowledge" -- The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving, by Karim R. Lakhani, Lars Bo Jeppesen, Peter A. Lohse, and Jill A. Panetta.
The HBS Executive Summary below; link to full article above.
Scientists are generally rewarded for discoveries they make as individuals or in small teams. While the sharing of information in science is an ideal, it is seldom practiced. In this research, Lakhani et al. used an approach common to open source software communities—which rely intensely on collaboration—and opened up a set of 166 scientific problems from the research laboratories of twenty-six firms to over 80,000 independent scientists. The outside scientists were able to solve one-third of the problems that the research laboratories were unable to solve internally.
Key concepts include:
Opening up problem information to a large group of outsiders can yield innovative technical solutions, increase the probability of success in science programs, and ultimately boost research productivity.
Open source software communities provide a model for improving the process of solving scientific problems.
Outsiders can see problems with fresh eyes; in this study, problems were solved by independent scientists with expertise at the boundary of or even outside their field.
Achieving true openness and collaboration will require change in the mindsets of both scientists and lab leadership.
A timely post for solving the problems of WORLD 3.0.
I took an urban hike with my good friend the composer, lyricist and novelist Kathleen Wakefield yesterday. I live at the base of the Santa Monica mountain range, making for a good hour's hike from the Los Angeles Basin to the range's crest on Mulholland Drive and back (even if we only made it to Fountain) (yes, the Fountain of Bette Davis' famous response to the question "how do you get to Hollywood?" - "take Fountain") .
Because Kathleen makes her living selling her intellectual property, we were talking about the challenges raised by and opportunities presented to artists as their work becomes more and more their own property and less and less the business of those who "discover" it (A&R), produce it (Viacom, MGM,Capitol Records, etc.), sell it (Madison Avenue) and protect it (ASCAP, entertainment lawyers).
Why mediators? Because WORLD 3.0 will require that we supercharge our natural cooperative and altruistic natures while dampening our competitive drive without thereby discarding our ambition.
What will it take? A shift from competition to collaboration.
Can we do it? "Yes we can," says Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth when his audience begins to move from denial to despair.
How? At least one way to get the global cooperation ball rolling will be to school ourselves in empathy, a necessary prerequisite to tackling the problem of collaborative solutions to worldwide problems.
All of which leads us to an old but timely article Empathy, Morality and Otherness by Dr. Douglas Chismar. Before proceeding to suggest art as one of the ways we can increase our ability to identify the injustices done to and suffering endured by "foreign" others, Dr. Chismar identifies three types of empathy triggers: (1) empathizer specificity; (2) situation specificity; and, (3) recipient specificity. He writes:
Empathizer specificity refers to the manner in which individual empathizers vary in their general level of empathic responsiveness as a personality trait. Some people empathize quite often and intensively, others rarely and only weakly.
Situation specificity refers to how empathizers respond selectively to a variety of different empathy opportunity situations. Certain circumstances, for example the Challenger disaster, have evoked widespread empathy, while others, such as the civil war in Rwanda, evoked little response.
Recipient specificity speaks of how empathizers respond differently to particular kinds of individuals. A neighboring family left homeless by fire may evoke considerable empathy while a wino on a street corner may stimulate little concern.
After discussing the many reasons why we understandably misread the injustices visited upon and fail to respond to the suffering of distant and foreign "others," Dr. Chrismar suggests that we nourish our natural empathy impulses with art. "We need to find a way to take the initial impulse to empathize and nourish it," he argues,
rather than letting it slide, as it is prone to do, into the rut of selectivity. Humans have discovered at least two strategies for increasing the frequency and intensity of empathy, and overcoming its partiality.
The first strategy is the largely cognitive operation of what is commonly referred to as “universalizability.” This consists of abstracting from one’s particular situation and viewing oneself as one among many. It takes various forms, including reversibility (placing oneself on the imaginary receiving end of an action) and a kind of stripping away of what makes one particular (“judging a man by the content of his character rather than the color of his skin)”.
A second strategy appeals to the arts . . . Through drama, poetry, film, and other arts, imaginative participation in others’ experience is enabled where it would otherwise fail to occur. The arts, through creating a mock reality, thrive upon the sense of fascination with the different while creating situations in which empathy is powerfully and irresistibly generated.
Human tendencies towards curiosity and exploration are harnessed to project the emotions into alien situations. The accepted suspension of cultural norms, which has tended to characterize the artworld throughout its history, permits the feeling and expression of unconventional emotions, unloosing a stream of feelings otherwise bottled up in a business-like society.
This is not do-good, crystal-reading, pentagram-worshiping kum-by-ya feel good west coast touchy-feely nonsense. This is evolutionary biology.
In this week's Sunday New York Times Natalie Angier reminds us that cooperation is not only the necessary pre-condition to the survival of the human species as a group, but is also the pre-condition to each of our individual lives. In her fascinating article, Sociable Darwinism, Ms. Angier reviews Evolution for Everyone (etc.) by Professor David Sloan Wilson at Binghamton University.
As Ms. Angier explains:
Wilson has long been interested in the evolution of cooperative and altruistic behavior, and much of the book is devoted to the premise that “goodness can evolve, at least when the appropriate conditions are met.” As he sees it, all of life is characterized by a “cosmic” struggle between good and evil, the high-strung terms we apply to behaviors that are either cooperative or selfish, civic or anomic.
The constant give-and-take between me versus we extends down to the tiniest and most primal elements of life. Short biochemical sequences may want to replicate themselves ad infinitum, their neighboring sequences be damned; yet genes get together under the aegis of cells and reproduce in orderly fashion as genomes, as collectives of sequences, setting aside some of their immediate selfish urges for the sake of long-term genomic survival.
Cells further collude as organs, and organs pool their talents and become bodies. The conflict between being well behaved, being good, not gulping down more than your share, and being selfish enough to get your fair share, “is eternal and encompasses virtually all species on earth,” he writes, and it likely occurs on any other planet that supports life, too, “because it is predicted at such a fundamental level by evolutionary theory.”
How do higher patterns of cooperative behavior emerge from aggregates of small, selfish units? With carrots, sticks and ceaseless surveillance. In the human body, for example, nascent tumor cells arise on a shockingly regular basis, each determined to replicate without bound; again and again, immune cells attack the malignancies, destroying the outlaw cells and themselves in the process. The larger body survives to breed, and hence spawn a legacy far sturdier than any tumor mass could manage.
I will continue to be a broken record (a broken download?) on litigation about online content.
There are an infinite number of business solutions to the business problems (opportunities) created by Web 2.0. As always, there are only a few, and frustratingly chimeral, legal solutions.
I'll urge anyone within shouting distance of BigMedia to read 3D Negotiation by Lax and Sebenius, whose "brainest guys in the universe" credentials go like this:
David Lax and James Sebenius . . . combine decades of high-level, practical experience negotiating in the corporate, financial, and diplomatic realms with academic expertise that helped develop much of the modern field of negotiation.
Professor Sebenius is the first Gordon Donaldson Professor at Harvard Business School and a member of the Executive Committee that oversees the activities of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. David Lax, described by Forbes magazine as a "new negotiation theorist" on the cutting edge of his field, served as a professor at Harvard Business School from 1981-1989.
Lax and Sebenius co-founded the Negotiation Roundtable, a working research group sponsored by Harvard Business School and the Kennedy School of Government, and Sebenius currently serves as its Director.
This isn't "win win" negotiation strategy. This is the way to outwit the entire legal system and most of your commercial competitors. Why? Because a business deal creates its own legal world -- the new one that precedent couldn't possibly have predicted.
But there's no reason to rely on me. Check out 3-D & draw your own conclusions.
I can't be the first one to ask these questions, but here goes:
why don't the media giants recognize that when I post a scene from A Few Good Men in a blog read primarily by attorneys (a damn good media market) it's free advertising to a new generation of lawyers who were in elementary school when FGM was released in 1992. This goes in spades for equally good (or better) lawyer movies like The Verdict, screenplay by the brilliant David Mamet with Paul Newman doing some of the best acting in is entire career. Today's young lawyers were in their bassinets when this one was released in 1982. And where do they learn about the old movies they may want to see? From the internet.
haven't these guys read The Long Tail? (see extended entry for a wikipedia primer on long tail or "niche" marketing).
don't they know that most young people (say, everyone under 30) believe that content should be free. That by yanking movie clips or sound bites from YouTube they are alienating huge numbers of potential viewers under 30?
wouldn't Viacom be better off spending $100,000 per month devising a way to use YouTube's media-delivery system to its own benefit rather than paying people that same sum to track down its "pirated" YouTube content and execute it there?
There's an old saying that "what you resist persists." The internet, YouTube, google, blogs, mp3 players, ripping, burning and copying are here to stay.
The means of production (and co-production) is in the hands of the people.
Still, large concentrations of capital remain (and will always remain) in the hands of corporate giants.
This is not David and Goliath because David just wants to listen to his music, man. The people who want to "monetize" David's listening (and recording) enjoyment will always find a way to do so. That's their job.
The people will continue to create and share. Mix and burn. Copy and compile.
Not that I mind Big Media wasting their money trying to stop the tide of progress.
It's just that I'd rather they use it to make better movies.
Not surprisingly, the blogosphere points to the irony of Viacom's suing YouTube while CBS is finding effective and profitable ways to work with the video sharing site. David A. Utter with WebProNews points out that the first CBS March Madness clip on YouTube prominently displays UPS advertising and indicates the potential for major profit for the network and YouTube as well. Utter says, "Why Viacom misses the potential of YouTube while their former brethren at CBS embrace it would be a question we would like to see Viacom answer if their YouTube/Google lawsuit ever comes to trial."