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<xTITLE> In Praise Of Joint Sessions: Mediator Geoff Sharp Pays Tribute To Face-To-Face Negotiations</xTITLE>

In Praise Of Joint Sessions: Mediator Geoff Sharp Pays Tribute To Face-To-Face Negotiations

by Diane J. Levin
June 2009

From Mediation Channel

Diane J. Levin

in praise of the joint sessionRing the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in

- Leonard Cohen

The past couple of years have brought energetic debate within the mediation profession, pushing mediators to confront questions about practice, professional identity, and the nature of mediation itself. One of the most controversial questions concerns the use of the caucus, the private meetings behind closed doors with each side to a dispute separately. Some consumers of mediation services, particularly attorneys, insist upon it, as I learned while attending one of the break-out sessions at the annual spring meeting of the ABA Section on Dispute Resolution.  Some mediators rely on it heavily. Meanwhile, others, like Gary Friedman and Jack Himmelstein, authors of Challenging Conflict: Mediation Through Understanding, reject the use of the caucus entirely, arguing that the caucus distorts the flow of information between parties and negates the principles of dialogue and rapprochement that lie at the very heart of mediation practice.

Wading into the debate is experienced international commercial mediator Geoff Sharp with a working paper entitled, “In Praise of Joint Sessions” (PDF). Geoff pulls no punches in his criticism of devotees of the caucus, observing that “shuttle mediation has arisen, in part, out of a laziness by mediators.”  On the basis of his substantial experience mediating difficult commercial disputes, Geoff explains why he believes the joint session is so essential to their resolution:

The heart stopping success or failure of a large commercial mediation often occurs in joint in those pivotal moments where the mediation sets its course, north or south. In my 10 years of mediation, I have never seen a party make the kind of movement, whether emotionally or financially, in private as they do in joint. Sure, movement may manifest itself away from the public glare but it is usually as a result of insight gained in the fire of a joint session.

Of great importance to Geoff as well is the capacity for mediation to bring transparency to people whose differences have largely kept them in the dark, as well as revelations that light their understanding. To bring his point home, he shares the quote from Leonard Cohen with which I began this post. The joint session illuminates the shadows and brings the sun to the dark places in the disputes that divide us. Go read this working paper - it truly shines.

Biography


Diane Levin, J.D., is a mediator, dispute resolution trainer, negotiation coach, writer, and lawyer based in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who has instructed people from around the world in the art of talking it out. Since 1995 she has helped clients resolve disputes involving tort, employment, business, estate, family, and real property issues, and serves on numerous mediation panels, including the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Training and coaching are an enduring passion -- she has taught thousands of people to resolve conflict, negotiate better, or become mediators -- from Croatian judges to Fortune 500 executives.

 

A geek at heart, Levin consults on web design and social media to professionals.  She blogs about ADR at the intersection of law, science, and popular culture at the award-winning MediationChannel.com, regarded as one of the world's top ADR blogs.  She also tracks and catalogues ADR blogs world-wide at ADRblogs.com, where she has created a community for bloggers writing about constructive ways to resolve disputes.

 

web site: http://dianelevin.com



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