“Get Busy Negotiating, or Get Busy Fighting…”

Lessons from Shawshank Prison on Preparing for a More Productive Mediated Settlement Conference

The initial 2-3 hours of a mediated settlement conference can sometimes feel a bit like a protracted siege in wartime:  each side may be locked in to its position, unwilling to blink or to give even an inch until it sees some sign of capitulation from the other side.  Frequently, well over half the battle for the mediator can be bringing one or more of the parties (and sometimes one or more of the attorneys) around to adopting a negotiation-oriented mindset, just for the purposes of the conference.  Might there be a better way? What if we could change the way we prepare our clients for mediation, so as to render the process more efficient, less stressful (for all involved), and perhaps even more likely to result in a workable settlement agreement?

We use film clips from The Shawshank Redemption (and a few other classic films depicting negotiations) to demonstrate how a few simple but profound adjustments to the mediation preparation process can lead to more effective and productive negotiations and settlement conferences. Drawing upon Chris’ experience as a certified Superior Court Mediator and teaching mediation and negotiation at the Charlotte School of Law, and Michael’s 25+ years of experience as an attorney, therapist, and executive coach, this seminar equips participants to understand—and leverage the value of--emotional intelligence training and other insights gleaned from the social sciences to become more effective conflict resolution coaches for their clients.

Workshop participants will learn about and have opportunities to practice effective strategies and techniques for:

  • Helping clients prepare for the mediation process by educating them regarding the latest insights in negotiation theory, and the need for a different type of advocacy than what they may be used to or be expecting.
  • Recognizing when a dispute may be more complex than the legal claims and defenses asserted can quite capture, and helping clients to identify and prepare for any emotional or psychological challenges (including, e.g.,  feelings of grief, betrayal, or animosity) that may be complicating any efforts at compromise or amicable resolution.
  • Assisting clients with the clarification of and realistic prioritization among their myriad goals for the litigation, as well as for the mediation process specifically, well before the settlement conference begins.
  • Identifying the different types of approaches to resolving conflict, and learning how to leverage the strengths (and compensate for the weaknesses) of each approach.
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