In a forum sponsored by the State Bar of Michigan, President Thomas Rombach discussed a list of issues that are facing the future of legal service. He included items such as attorney licensing reforms, pro se litigation, and electronic filing, among others.
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At times one of the parties involved in mediation may be unwilling to play nicely. They may hold on to their positional bargaining or use unfair tactics to gain an advantage in negotiating. When the other party chooses to hold on to their position, the authors of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In suggest there are three options for changing the tone of the mediation.
In section three “Yes, But…” of Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, authors Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton offer suggestions for what to do in mediation when the other side has a distinct advantage. The first strategy they suggest is “BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement”. This is useful when the other side is more powerful.
After separating the people involved in mediation from the problem at hand and discerning the interests, rather than positions, of each party the constructive portion of mediation can begin. Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton suggest the next step is to create options that allow for mutual gain.
“Focus on interests, not positions.” This is the second point Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton make in Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In. In other words, when entering mediation, regardless of type, it is important for each party to focus on their overarching interests without getting locked into a “position”. Fisher, Ury and Patton use the term position to refer to an inflexible list of stipulations one party is holding to.
The biggest part of any negotiation is the people involved. In Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, authors Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton suggest some important ideas to keep in mind during negotiations. When entering a negotiation, it is important to separate the people involved from the problem at hand. Personal feelings about the other people involved or attempts to save one’s pride can cloud the path to solution.
Elizabeth Giddings, the Executive Director of Mediation Services, gave me a book to read. This particular book was her introduction into mediation as a law student. Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton is a discussion of a research project conducted at Harvard University called The Harvard Negotiation Project.
This week I had the opportunity to observe a divorce mediation session. The two parties nervously entered the office. Jacquelyn guided each of them into separate conference room while the mediators prepared for the case. In divorce cases, Mediation Services prefers to have one male and one female mediator to make the parties feel more comfortable.
This week I spent a majority of my time this week on clerical matters in order to prepare for the upcoming annual board meeting. I have compiled data for the annual report, such as mediator training information and participant evaluations, as well as reorganized files to make room for this year’s cases. As a result, I looked up more information about mediation. I am especially curious, as a psych major, what professionals in the psychology field think about mediation as an alternative to litigation, especially in domestic matters such as divorce and custody.
I have just completed my second full week as an intern at Mediation Services. This week I had two opportunities to explore participants’ feedback about their mediation experience. After each mediation, participants can fill out an evaluation survey about their session. This survey asks about the mediator, the success of the mediation, and overall feelings about the experience.