Does your behavior in conflict change sharply when you get upset? Does your normally collaborative demeanor turn suddenly aggressive when you are surprised or angered? Or, when conflict heats up, does your assertiveness quickly fade, replaced by avoidance or accommodation? What is a Storm Shift? Such patterns may reflect a strong Storm Shift in conflict, a marked change in behavior as stress rises. Stress, anger, or fear trigger a shift in brain functioning, away from rational “upper brain” management, towards control by the instinct-guided “lower brain”. This can bring drastic changes in response to conflict. A Storm Shift is not necessarily bad; it can inRead More →

We are firmly ensconced in what some call the “digital age.” CAMS has been providing ADR services on virtual platforms (our preference has been Zoom) for almost two years at the time this is being written. We have completed hundreds of mediations and arbitrations. Our experience is that when counsel, the parties, and the mediator are all prepared (which requires an emotional/intellectual acceptance of the process), virtual ADR (classically referred to as ODR or Online Dispute Resolution), for most cases the process is every bit as effective as in-person. Attorneys, and some litigants of my generation and before, are most resistant to the process. IRead More →

Previously published in The Business Journal of Sonoma/Marin. Problem-solving and decision-making. Ask anyone in the workplace if these activities are part of their day and they answer ‘Yes!’ But how many of us have had training in problem-solving? We know it’s a critical element of our work, but do we know how to do it effectively? People tend to do three things when faced with a problem: they get afraid or uncomfortable and wish it would go away; they feel that they have to come up with an answer and it has to be the right answer; and they look for someone to blame. BeingRead More →

During past eight months, due to the coronavirus pandemic, mediators, lawyers and clients have experienced something once inconceivable: Almost all mediations have been conducted remotely. What have we learned from this experience so far, and how can we improve it? What have we gained? First and foremost, during this pandemic, JAMS neutrals have settled thousands of cases on-line. Mediators, myself included, who were skeptical about our ability to connect with parties on a screen have been proved wrong. Using speaker view on a videoconferencing platform can bring us even closer to parties than when they are seated across a conference room table. Some individual participantsRead More →

Seven months after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many mediations have been conducted online. While some mediators have been mediating online since before the pandemic, many mediators have only begun their online practice in the past few months. Now that online mediation has become normalized, how have mediators handled the shift? How does in-person mediation differ from online mediation, and what have mediators done to capitalize on those differences to excel in virtual mediations? What is the future of online dispute resolution (ODR) and virtual mediation? This series of articles seeks to answer those questions and more through the results of a series ofRead More →

Almost one year ago, life for most of us changed irrevocably: we went from commuting to and from our offices and fighting traffic to commuting between our bedrooms and “home” offices and fighting over internet access. We went into “lockdown.” And with it, we all took an accelerated course on how to use video conferencing, Zoom included. Our lives suddenly began to play out almost totally on our computer screens in video conference mode whether business or social! And with it came Zoom fatigue. This year long pandemic has allowed Jeremy N. Bailenson in the Department of Communications at Stanford University to conduct research onRead More →

One of the most important things a mediator must do- if not the most important- is to build trust and rapport with the parties. In pre-Covid days, this was a bit easier; the mediator could sit face to face with each party and schmooze. Now, we are reduced to being a square highlighted in yellow/green on a computer screen. So, how do we build trust and rapport remotely? A recent blog post on Harvard’s PONS (April 5, 2021) by Katie Shonk entitled “Methods of Dispute Resolution: Building Trust in Online Mediation” discusses a chapter in a forthcoming book by Creighton University Professor Noam Ebner onRead More →

Steve Jobs famously wore the same black turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers every day. Do you know why (bonus points if you can name the designer of his turtleneck without Googling it. Hint: it wasn’t off the rack from Gap. Answer below)? It was to minimize his number of daily decisions, especially early in the day. Choices are wonderful, right? We demand choices because we want a wide variety of them – or so we think. Many successful individuals like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Albert Einstein understood that less time spent on making minor decisions meant more brainpower and time for everythingRead More →

This paper is based on a keynote speech delivered to the Nebraska Mediation Association on August 6, 2020. Nearly 18 months ago, as the pandemic brought improbable yet real terror, mediation practice faced a transitional moment. Like other professional practices—ours was gripped by uncertainty, confusion, and even panic. In the space of a few days, and in order to continue our practices, we were driven to recast our work, reshape our approach, learn new technology, educate our clients, and reconsider our techniques and strategies. Those who did not have a Zoom account quickly subscribed. Conventional face-to face sessions were transformed in an instant to onlineRead More →

In his recent book, Online Courts and The Future of Justice, author Richard Susskind posits, “…litigants do not really want courts, judges, lawyers, rules of procedure, and the rest. More likely, they want not to have a problem at all. Or to have their disputes resolved fairly and with finality. Or they might want vindication. Or someone to listen to and empathize with their grievances. Or an apology. Many lawyers and professionals baulk [sic] at this line of outcome-thinking. They insist that what a client surely needs, and will always need, is a trusted adviser—an empathetic and expert human counsellor. But this is to confuseRead More →