12 posts categorized "Lawyers"

February 7, 2019

To Caucus or Not To Caucus in Mediation?

Caucus-only mediation has become increasingly popular in many mediations for business, insurance, even more personal situations such as estate and workplace disputes. Recent research shows that the caucus-only mediation approach has negative consequences.  As an experienced mediator, that research conclusion was not a surprise to me.

During a caucus, the disputing parties are in separate rooms, and the mediator moves back and forth between the rooms, communicating their negotiation messages.  When caucus is used for most or all of the mediation, the disputing parties are rarely in the same room, hardly talk with each other or may not even see each other.

Caucus is contrasted with joint session where everyone meets in the same room. Sometimes the mediation starts with a joint session where the mediator explains the guidelines of the mediation. After that the representative for each party may have an opportunity to briefly outline their party’s perspective in an opening statement. Sometimes the opening statements and even the beginning joint session are omitted and the parties spend the whole mediation in separate rooms.

Caucus-only mediation shifts power away from the people in the dispute to the mediator. This has negative consequences which wipe out much of the value that mediation can provide for the participants.

My experience over more than 22 years has shown me that mediation is more likely to resolve the conflict and more likely to result in a durable resolution, if the parties spend a high proportion of the mediation in joint session. It turns out that researchers have reached conclusions along these lines.

The report I read recently is a study of the court- connected mediation process in Maryland, published in January 2016. The study considered the effectiveness of various mediation strategies in reaching agreement. The study also measured attitudinal shifts of the participants toward each other and their belief in their ability to work together, over the short term (immediately after mediation) and longer term (3 to 6 months later).

The study found that in the short-term the greater the percentage of time participants spend in caucus, the more likely the participants are to report:

  • the mediator controlled the outcome,
  • the mediator pressured them into solutions,
  • the mediator prevented issues from coming out,
  • less satisfaction with the mediation process and outcome,
  • less satisfaction that the issues were resolved with a fair and implementable outcome,
  • increased sense of powerlessness,
  • increased belief that conflict is negative, and
  • increased desire to better understand the other participant “presumably because they did not better understand the other party as a result” of the mediation.

In the long-term, the study found that the greater the percentage of time participants spent in caucus the more the researchers observed:

  • a decrease in participants’ consideration of the other person,
  • decreased self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to talk and make a difference),
  • decreased sense that the court cares about resolving conflict from the time before the mediation to several months later, and
  • greater likelihood of the participants returning to court in the 12 months after mediation for an enforcement action.

Another finding was that the percentage of time spent in caucus had “no statistically significant impact (positive or negative) on reaching an agreement”.

Recommendations for more effective mediation:

The recommendations from the researchers were:

  • Encourage mediation “practices that focus on eliciting participants’ solutions and reflecting back to participants”.
  • Discourage mediation “strategies that are heavily focused on caucus and [mediators] offering their own solutions and opinions”.

When selecting a mediator, my recommendation is to:

  • Choose a mediator who is able to proceed with the mediation mainly in joint session using an approach which invites the participants to express their interests and ideas for solution.

My recommendations for lawyers and representatives:

  • Help your clients understand the benefits of joint sessions.
  • Help your clients accept that conflict, though uncomfortable, is better managed than avoided.
  • Help your clients develop strategies to listen  and express themselves effectively in the mediation.

My recommendation for using mostly joint sessions changes if there are special circumstances such as a safety risk which can be managed by using only caucus.

Although participants may feel more uncomfortable in joint sessions, my experience and this research confirms that avoiding the discomfort of conflict does not work as well for the participants.

While they may be able to reach an agreement using caucus, it is likely less effective for the participants in the short and long term. Mediation creates an opportunity to have the difficult conversation that is most effective for the resolution needed by the participants.

Nothing will lower your credibility faster than avoiding conflict.

–Morris Shechtman, 2003

Read the full report here.

 

Build your conflict resolution skills this spring.

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this spring in beautiful London, Ontario.

Early Registration Discount ends Monday, Feb 11!

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation this spring.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 20, 21, 22, 25, & 26 – 5 days – 40 hours.

    • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
    • Early registration discount ends Monday, February 11 !

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – May 6, 7, & 8, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – June 3, 4, & 5, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

 

January 13, 2019

How Not to Be Stupid

How not to be stupid is a subject that is smart to think about. Stupidity is not lack of intelligence but a symptom of intelligence being overridden in a complex environment.

A recent post by Shane Parrish in the Farnam Street Blog describes an interview with Adam Robinson (@IAmAdamRobinson) who developed a definition of stupidity as “overlooking or dismissing conspicuously crucial information”.

In other words, if something is crucial, it’s very important. If it’s conspicuous, it’s easily available and probably I already know it. Therefore it is stupid if I overlook or dismiss very important and easily available information which I already know. That stupidity can cause errors. If I am driving and make an error in changing lanes, it could lead to death or injury of me or someone else.

In his research Adam Robinson identified 7 factors which cause errors. These are

  1. being outside of your circle of competence, or outside your normal environment,
  2. physical or emotional stress, or fatigue,
  3. rushing or a sense of urgency,
  4. fixation on an outcome, or doing a task that requires intense focus,
  5. information overload,
  6. being in the presence of a group, where social cohesion comes into play, and
  7. being in the presence of an authority or expert, even if you are the expert.

Alone, each of these factors influence us powerfully to make mistakes. When the factors are piled together there is a dramatic increase in the odds that “you are unaware that you’ve been cognitively compromised,” according to Adam Robinson.

For example when I am driving, if I am in a hurry to get where I’m going and I am talking on the phone through the car’s bluetooth, I am much more likely to make a driving error.

Sometimes the stupidity is engineered purposely to defraud or manipulate. Sometimes it’s used for a more benign purpose, such as a magician providing entertainment.

Not being stupid is important. The third leading cause of death in the U.S., behind cancer and heart disease, is automobile accidents. Another chilling statistic is that “210,000 to 440,000 people die every year in the United States from hospital error.” I think the statistics for Canada are similar.

How can we avoid being stupid?

For me, I am going to try not to be stupid by being particularly aware of the risk of error when one or more of those 7 factors are happening.

For example, that means deferring decisions until I am rested, and not rushed. When I’m mediating, it means using the meeting time efficiently and avoiding a last-minute temptation to rush the details into a written agreement.  It means hanging up the phone when driving, if the traffic is unusual or I don’t know the area.

But often minimizing or eliminating the 7 factors isn’t possible.

When I am working – or driving - in circumstances where unavoidably one or more one of the 7 factors are occurring, it comes down to being alert to my tendency for errors and trying to make sure I do not overlook or dismiss information that is crucial and right there in front of me.

How will you avoid being stupid?

Read the full article by Shane Parrish here.

 

Would you like to develop your conflict resolution skills?

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this spring in beautiful London, Ontario.

If you are considering becoming a professional mediator, our schedule gives you the opportunity to complete sufficient training to apply for the Q. Med. designation this spring.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – March 20, 21, 22, 25, & 26 – 5 days – 40 hours.

  • Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Ontario.
  • Early registration discount ends February 11 !

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – May 6, 7, & 8, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – June 3, 4, & 5, 2019 – 3 days – 21 hours

 

July 20, 2018

The Cost of Refusing to Mediate

We have seen lots of information about using mediation to reduce the costs of resolving disputes.  Now in Ontario if you do not use mediation, it could cost you money. 

According to a recent decision by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice when a party in a lawsuit is “unreasonable “ in its refusal to participate in mediation, the Court can reduce the award of costs to that party.

This decision is very significant for all types of disputes.  Prudent lawyers and parties involved in disputes need to bear this  in mind when deciding about the use of mediation.

This case concerned a plaintiff who was injured when stepping or jumping out of the way after a stock race car left the track and was making its way to the open pit area. The race car did not make contact with the injured plaintiff.  The racetrack’s insurer defended the lawsuit. The circumstances did not require mandatory mediation. The case is Canfield v. Brockville Ontario Speedway, 2018 ONSC 3288 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/hs7v0

In the words of Mr Justice Graeme Mew at paragraphs 56 and 57,

The present case is not one of those circumstances where a plaintiff was trying to shake down an insurer by demanding mediation of a wholly unmeritorious case.  To the contrary, it is a case where the insurer took a tough and uncompromising stance. That, of course, is a defendant’s prerogative.  Defendants do not have to settle.  But if reasonable opportunities to mediate are spurned, that can be a relevant factor when fixing costs.

 It was, in my view, unreasonable for the insurer to decline mediation in this case.  That should be reflected in the disposition of costs.  Had a mediation occurred in 2015 or even in 2017, substantial costs would have been avoided.

As you can see in this excerpt, reasonable circumstances to refuse mediation seem to be limited to the extreme and unusual.

Only 3 jurisdictions in Ontario - Toronto, Ottawa, and Windsor - have a requirement for mandatory mediation in civil lawsuits.  In other parts of the province and in other kinds of disputes where mediation is not mandatory, this decision is another boost from the Court to encourage the use of mediation.

 

Join us for Fundamentals of Mediation, a 40 hour, 5 day intensive mediation course.

The next course dates are September 26, 27, 28, October 1 & 2, 2018 in London, Ontario, Canada.

Early registration discount ends August 22!

 

March 4, 2018

Let’s Get Serious about Stopping Sexual Harassment

It is essential for all of us to have basic knowledge of human rights law, how it applies in our workplace, and what to do if there is a complaint.   In January 2018, the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario granted a female retail worker one of its largest-ever damage awards. The facts of the case illustrate how much remains to be done in educating everyone in the workplace; individuals, people leaders, those with complaints, and those who observe harassment.

The award of $200,000 was “compensation for injury to dignity, feelings and self-respect” in the case B v. Joe Singer Shoes Limited.  The Tribunal found that the complainant was subjected to sexual harassment, sexual assault, racial discrimination, and a poisoned work environment.

The tribunal found that the male boss of the female complainant made fun of the complainant’s accent when speaking English, her skin colour, body, and country of origin. The boss described this as “jokes’’. The complainant was a single parent of a child with medical challenges who rented an apartment from her boss and lived above the retail store where she worked. In addition to the racist comments, the boss was found to have sexually assaulted and harassed the complainant in the workplace and in her apartment many times over the long years of her employment.

The complainant’s identity was not made public by the Tribunal and in the hearing, she was permitted to provide her evidence by video link from a separate room.

Factors considered by the Tribunal in deciding the amount of the award included the seriousness of the abuse, and that it was repeated for so many years. The complainant was vulnerable as a single parent, the sole support for her family, and as an immigrant. There was also a serious impact on the mental health of the complainant, including a diagnosis of PTSD.

In the past, the Tribunal’s general damage awards have been in the range of $20,000 to $30,000. The Tribunal has issued one other decision awarding comparable damage amounts to a complainant. In 2015 PT v Presteve Foods Ltd involved two immigrant women who experienced serious, repeated sexual harassment and were awarded $150,000 and $50,000 in damages.

Workplace sexual harassment persists in Ontario. In these recent cases, women, single parents, and people new to Canada were demonstrated to be at risk.

It remains to be seen whether these two decisions are the beginning of a new trend of higher awards by the Tribunal intended to discourage workplace sexual harassment. Is this another ripple from #MeToo?

Human rights laws are for the benefit of the whole community. From my point of view, the starting point is that everyone in the workplace needs to have basic knowledge of human rights, how to do their work within the law, and what to do if there is a complaint.

Then the next challenge is appropriate training to handle difficult conversations and manage workplace conflict to produce the work environment we want for everyone, including alignment with the values of human rights.

LAST CHANCE this spring to join us for Fundamentals of Mediation, our 40 hour, 5 day intensive mediation course. The next course dates are March 21, 22, 23, 26 and 27, 2018 in London, Ontario, Canada.

October 30, 2016

Toronto Speaks Out in the World of Commercial Dispute Resolution

The Global Pound Conference event was held in Toronto on October 15, 2016, the only Canadian venue.

In 2016 participants with an interest in the legal system are invited to join a world-wide, 15-month-long conversation being convened by the International Mediation Institute. There are currently 40 events planned in 31 countries starting in Singapore in March 2016 and ending in London, U.K. in July, 2017.

Forty years ago modern mediation began after the Roscoe Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in 1976, a historic gathering to discuss ways to address then-current dissatisfaction with the American legal system and to reform the administration and delivery of justice.  The Global Pound Conference is the much-expanded update of that event.

At all Global Pound Conference events core questions are posed and then voted on by participants with the goal of collecting information to develop future initiatives for better access to justice, locally and globally.

In Toronto several panels of local experts responded to the voting results that day on each series of core questions. This was added to the engaging day-long discussion of better, more appropriate dispute resolution for commercial matters and how to get there. 

The Global Pound Conference participants/ stakeholders are categorized and comparisons are made in the responses between the categories. The stakeholder categories are Party/User, Advisor (lawyer, consultant), Adjudicative Provider (arbitrator, judge), Non-Adjudicative Provider (mediator, conciliator), and Influencer (educator, researcher, government).

The Toronto data identified some thought-provoking comparisons.

For example, Parties, Advisors, Adjudicative Providers, and Influencers rated financial outcomes, such as damages as the most important before starting a process in commercial dispute resolution. In contrast only Non-Adjudicative Providers rated financial outcomes slightly lower than and about equal to action-focused outcomes (prevent or require an action from a party). 

Another interesting comparison between the stakeholder groups in Toronto was that Parties, Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative Providers ranked the combination of adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes (such as arbitration or litigation with mediation or conciliation) as the most effective dispute resolution process. In contrast Advisors and Influencers ranked preventative, pre-dispute or pre-escalation processes as most effective.

All stakeholder groups in Toronto ranked Advisors as being most likely to be resistant to change in commercial dispute resolution practice.

Another interesting comparison was the stakeholder group perceptions of the role parties want lawyers to take in the dispute resolution process. Parties said they want lawyers to work collaboratively with them to navigate the process. Advisors, Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative Providers all said that the parties want lawyers to speak for them or advocate on their behalf. 

For those of us working in commercial dispute resolution despite the disappointingly small sample size in Toronto, there is lots to learn already from the local data, and there is much more to discover as the global data is collected.

For full information and the app to see the voting results check out the Global Pound Conference.

October 2, 2016

Eliminate Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination- October 18 in London, Ontario

Munn Conflict Resolution Services supports healthy, peaceful workplaces

Please join us for an event in London, Ontario sponsored by Munn Conflict Resolution Services.

The topic is:  Workplace Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Violence

Elizabeth Hewitt, LLB of E. Hewitt Law will be the keynote speaker hosted by  London Business and Professional Women.

Date:   October 18, 2016. 

 Ms Hewitt will discuss the best practices and common pitfalls of workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination and how these issues cost both employer and employees.

Resister now. The deadline is October 11.

Click here for details and registration.

Eliminate Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination- October 18 in London, Ontario

Munn Conflict Resolution Services supports healthy, peaceful workplaces

Please join us for an event in London, Ontario sponsored by Munn Conflict Resolution Services.

The topic is:  Workplace Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Violence

Elizabeth Hewitt, LLB of E. Hewitt Law will be the keynote speaker hosted by  London Business and Professional Women.

Date:   October 18, 2016. 

 Ms Hewitt will discuss the best practices and common pitfalls of workplace harassment, bullying and discrimination and how these issues cost both employer and employees.

Resister now. The deadline is October 11.

Click here for details and registration.

September 8, 2016

Build your conflict resolution skills this fall ! Still space in Fundamentals of Mediation starting September 28.

According to a survey by the American Management Association, managers typically spend at least 24% of their time managing conflict. Based on my own experience this estimate seems low.

What was not included were the statistics about how many managers fear conflict or struggle to manage conflict. And then there is the impact of mismanaged conflict on other employees, on workteams and on the business itself, whatever the mission of the organization is.

Build your skills and confidence to resolve conflict whether you are a manager, a team member, or an advisor, a professional or consultant providing advice to organizations.

Register for the Mediator Education Program at Munn Conflict Resolution Services this fall.

Course # 1 – Fundamentals of Mediation – Sept 28 to Oct 4, 2016 – 5 days – 40 hours - Early registration discount ends August 26 - Recognized by the ADR Institute of Ontario and the Law Society of Upper Canada – Click here for details.  

Course # 2 – Mediation Beyond the Basics – November 2, 3, & 4, 2016 – 3 days – 21 hours

Course # 3 - Advanced Mediation – November 30, December 1 & 2, 2016 – 3 days – 21 hours

You might even decide to add Mediator to your career path!

June 27, 2016

Join the Global Conversation about Conflict Management

What if you could tell the legal system and its professionals what you want and need to manage conflict - in your business, in your community, or in your life?  In 2016 you have an opportunity to do just that.

Modern mediation began after the Roscoe Pound Conference in St Paul, Minnesota in 1976, a historic gathering to discuss ways to address then-current dissatisfaction with the American legal system and to reform the administration and delivery of justice.

Forty years later, in 2016 we are all invited to join a much expanded world-wide, 15-month-long conversation being convened by the International Mediation Institute.

The first Global Pound Conference event was held in Singapore on March 17-18, 2016.   Singapore Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon opened the whole conference series by outlining the shift to “appropriate” dispute resolution from “alternative” dispute resolution; secondly, greater international collaboration between courts and governments and through this the development of countries’ best practices whether common law or civil law; and thirdly, recognition of the need for international delivery of legal services.  

The last stop on the tour is July 6, 2017 in London, U.K. The only Canadian event is Saturday, October 15, 2016 in Toronto, in conjunction with the annual conference of the ADR Institute of Canada. 

Core questions will be posed at all of the events with the goal of collecting information to develop future initiatives. The participants/ stakeholders are categorized and comparisons are made in the responses between the categories.  The stakeholder categories are Party/User, Advisor (lawyer, consultant), Adjudicative Provider (arbitrator, judge), Non-Adjudicative Provider (mediator, conciliator), and Influencer (educator, researcher, government).

The data is already identifying thought-provoking comparisons.

For example, at the Singapore event, in response to a core question about what is the greatest influence on parties when deciding which type of dispute resolution process to use, Advisors ranked legal advice top. Users, as well as both Adjudicative and Non-Adjudicative providers all ranked efficiency first and then legal advice much lower.

Another interesting contrast between the stakeholder groups was that Advisors were the only stakeholder category to rank purely adjudicative dispute resolution processes highly.

All stakeholder groups in Singapore ranked the combination of adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes (such as arbitration or litigation with mediation or conciliation) as the most effective dispute resolution process, despite the fact that this combination is much less available in practice. All stakeholders were in agreement that combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes should be prioritized in order to improve the future of dispute resolution.

Join the conversation. For full information check out the Global Pound Conference.

February 19, 2016

Why do I Need to Know the Fundamentals of Mediation?

I need to help my team members resolve conflict between them.  I learned mediation so that I could be more effective. -  Supervisor 

An excellent course. Must be taken by managers, problem solvers and those that have responsible jobs!  - Business owner

As manager of a team that provides services to the whole organization I end up mediating conflict between other departments and my staff.   I learned the mediation skills to do this better. - Manager

An excellent opportunity to build on existing skills and interests. Encourages alternative negotiation and mediation processes which are very useful.  - Lawyer

With my mediation training, I am positioned for promotion. This was a worthwhile investment in my career.  - Administrator

Looking forward to using my new mediation skills to build a retirement business mediating in my field. - Recently retired professional

Whatever your reason is

Fundamentals of Mediation is an opportunity to build your practical skills to manage and resolve conflict.

Next course dates April 6, 7, 8, 11, and 12, 2016. Early registration discount until March 4, 2016.

Click here to register.

Don`t miss this opportunity.