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Just Court ADR

The blog of Resolution Systems Institute

Considering the Role of Ongoing Relationships in Mediation

Susan M. Yates, November 18th, 2016

“Mediation is especially good for parties with an ongoing relationship.” This is axiomatic when it comes to mediation, right?

This weekend, I had an experience that shed new light on this old idea. I was at a sale of building materials. Although it was advertised as an auction, there were few attendees and so potential buyers simply haggled with the seller’s agent over the price of anything they wanted to purchase. While digging through boxes of tile, I had a front-row seat to the negotiations between the agent and a potential buyer over some marble.

The feints and parries were familiar to anyone who has mediated many cases.

“Well, I don’t know what these would cost,” said the buyer, trying to downplay her expertise and develop sympathy in the agent. But the agent responded, “Don’t try that dumb girl thing on me! I’ve dealt with you before. You are smart and you know what these would cost.”

“Look, I have other buyers who will give me what I am asking,” said the agent, trying to assert a BATNA. But the buyer responded, “Where? I don’t see any other buyers here!”

The agent also tried to make herself seem sympathetic, even powerless, with the plea, “The seller would have my head if I sold them for so little.” But the buyer replied, “You can do whatever you want!”

The potential buyer tried to make a small move look more attractive by changing the format of the offer to a total price, rather than a per piece price. But the agent turned the math back into price per piece.

They went back and forth on numbers with plenty of dramatic gestures and raised voices. Their eventual prices were $240 and $260.

And they both walked away from the deal over a $20 difference!

Why did these two experienced negotiators walk away from the deal? Read the rest of this entry »

Getting the Story Right with Data to Make the Right Decisions

Jennifer Shack, October 20th, 2016

I’m a data geek. I love poring over data and running analyses to see what story unfolds. On the national level, data can tell us the story of our rise as an industrial power and how that changed how people lived and worked. On a local level, it can tell the story of how the closing of a factory affects the fabric of a community and the institutions that bind it. For foreclosure mediation programs, the data can tell the story of how homeowners are affected by changes to the program. Thus, I was eager to find out how changes to the court rules in the 19th Judicial Circuit of Illinois at the beginning of this year would play out. What story would the data tell? Read the rest of this entry »

“Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act” Update

Susan M. Yates, October 17th, 2016

The Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act has been finalized by the Uniform Law Commission and the full version with commentary is now available. You can find the final version of the act and other information on it here.

If you want to learn more about the act, the American Bar Association Family Law Litigation Committee is sponsoring a telephonic “roundtable” about it on November 4, at 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Eastern. The roundtable is free and open to anyone, including non-ABA members, but you have to register for it using the following link: https://form.jotform.com/62504543364150.

The speakers for the roundtable have all been deeply involved in the creation of the model act. They include Barbara A. Atwood, Chair of the Family Law Arbitration Drafting Committee, Uniform Law Commission; Kaitlin A. Dohse, Legislative Counsel, Uniform Law Commission; and Linda H. Elrod, Reporter for the Family Law Arbitration Drafting Committee, Uniform Law Commission.

The Uniform Law Commission describes the need for the act and its intended results as follows: “States’ laws vary when it comes to arbitrating family law matters such as spousal support, division of property, child custody, and child support. The Uniform Family Law Arbitration Act standardizes the arbitration of family law. It is based in part on the Revised Uniform Arbitration Act, though it departs from the RUAA in areas in which family law arbitration differs from commercial arbitration, such as: standards for arbitration of child custody and child support; arbitrator qualifications and powers; protections for victims of domestic violence. This Act is intended to create a comprehensive family law arbitration system for the states.”

Designing Access Part Three: Transitions, Continuity and Communication

Hanna Kaufman, August 19th, 2016

Welcome to the final blog post in a series showcasing how RSI uses our expertise in dispute system design to improve access to justice in the three foreclosure mediation programs we administer. If you’re wondering how this series came to be, check out my introduction to the series, as well as the posts highlighting our work in the 19th and 17th Judicial Circuits of Illinois.

This last post will look a little bit different than I anticipated, in large part because it will also be my final post as RSI’s Director of ADR Programs before I take on a new position as Counsel for Innovation and Technology at the Lawyers Trust Fund of Illinois. In my upcoming role, I will continue to work to promote access to justice, this time focusing on using technology and process improvement in the legal aid context. As you might imagine, transitions and continuity have been on my mind quite a lot, especially because of how close RSI’s programs are to my heart and how passionately I feel about their ongoing success.

At RSI, we think carefully about transitions and work hard to promote continuity during times of change. Current Resource Center Director Eric Slepak will begin his tenure as Director of ADR Programs after I leave today, and the two of us have been working closely together over the past two months to minimize the impact of this transition on our programs. RSI is lucky to have Eric, and I know the programs at RSI will be in great hands.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tough Love

Eric Slepak, July 18th, 2016

A recent study out of Columbia University suggests that nice mediators finish last. Inspired by the familiar trope of bickering siblings setting aside their differences to unite against a stern parent, researcher Ting Zhang created simulations in which student participants attempted to reach resolution using text-based chatrooms. Zhang added a further twist to the experiment by introducing computerized participants and/or mediators in some of the sessions (though all participants were told they were interacting with other humans). The participating students were randomly assigned a hostile mediator, a neutral mediator or a nice mediator. Across all of these different scenarios, however, the data showed that agreement was more likely when the participants teamed up against a hostile mediator, and that the quality of the agreements reached was similar to those reached with a nice mediator. Read the rest of this entry »