Tag: Mediation

Transcript of “Work It” Richmond Article/ Profile with Donita King

Tell us the basics: Who are you, what’s your company’s name, and how long have you been at this company?

I am an attorney, arbitrator and Virginia Supreme Court-certified mediator in the family and civil areas. I’m also an authorized mediator, mentor and alternative dispute-resolution trainer. I am a partner of CMG Collaborative Law Offices, PLC, and licensed in Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. The law firm was established in 2005.

How did you come to specialize in cross-border or international law?

We added this area of concentration as a natural development in our family practice. The large military presence and growing population from other countries in Virginia has resulted in the increasing number of diverse families where there are ties to other countries.

When the relationship breaks down, the person with foreign ties often wants to go back to their support system from their own country. As collaborative attorneys and mediators, we began to acquire specific training in the area of cross border and international parental abduction prevention, and practicing under the Hague convention. That’s an international agreement among signatory countries regarding custody, visitation and support of children where the parties have ties to two or more countries. My partner, Mora P. Ellis, established ACCORD, a sister company whose focus is parental abduction prevention mediation.

What’s a lesson you’ve learned during the recessionary environment of the past few years?

It is critical to constantly re-assess the way you are meeting the client’s needs so as to develop more economical ways for yourself and the client. Listening to the clients’ views and keeping their concerns in mind is a good way to develop new ideas and methods. Also, communicating with the client or potential client as to what you are doing in this respect can go a long way to securing and increasing your client base.

Is there a secret to your personal success? Perhaps a piece of advice you’ve always remembered?

Never stop looking for new ways to grow and improve, and consider all sources. You never know from where a good idea will come.

What’s coming up in the next year for you and your company? What about in the next five years?

(1) Continuing to educate the public and professionals on the benefits of the collaborative process in family and civil matters as viable, alternative dispute resolution option.

(2) Increasing our work in cross-border and international parental abduction prevention.

What, at your business, is the most effective way to connect with customers?

Internet, face-to-face and networking. Educating the public on things that are of benefit to them is also an effective way to connect with potential clients.

What’s the part of your job you dread the most?

When I was a corporate lawyer I could have easily provided a specific answer to this question. Now that I have my own firm and am doing something I enjoy and feel good about, there is nothing I dread.

What’s the part of your job that excites you the most, the thing that makes you want to hurry to work?

There is a great deal of variety in what I do. I do everything from arbitrating financial, real estate and contract matters to mediating civil and domestic relations matters (sometimes in Spanish). I’m also assisting clients in collaborative divorce and potential collaborative civil cases, cross border and international parental abduction prevention mediation and Hague case work, and training in alternative dispute resolution.

Reframing in Mediation and Negotiation

“Reframing” is taught in all the basic mediator training courses, and mediator mentors and instructors evaluate and coach novices and students in mediation on their development of this acquired skill.”Framing” refers to the manner in which a client describes the way he or she sees a conflict situation, goal, concern (interest) or issue. Clients often describe their conflict in a negative manner (from the perspective of others), usually accompanied by emotional content or designed for emotional impact.  Reframing is a technique to re-word or re-state what the client has said more constructively.  This assists the client in re-evaluating their perspective, or clarifying what is important to them in the conflict situation.  Not only does reframing help the client better understand their own thoughts, it also assists in clarifying and de-escalating the conflict for the other client(s) and lawyer(s).

At this point, no doubt, advocates will think or say that it is not in their or their client’s best interests to use words that are not designed for attack or presenting their position in a less favorable or powerful light. That is true in litigation, but if the intent at the moment is to negotiate in good faith or to take full advantage of a negotiation opportunity, at least minimal or limited reframing should be considered. Good lawyers already do this when they think their client has gone too far and might be sabotaging negotiation, but they often fail to use reframing as a proactive tool in negotiation. Further, an advocate skilled in reframing can use this tool effectively in negotiation or mediation with respect to statements made by the opposing party.

Reframing should be done is a way that allows the client or opposing party the opportunity to clarify or correct the reframe if it does not adequately identify their needs.  Reframing should not distort the content of what the client or opposing party is saying.

Reframing can be useful in the following ways:

  • To tone down on a blaming or critical statement and state in a positive frame.
  • To shift from negative to positive.
  • To shift from past to future.
  • To identify the needs or concerns behind a stated position, which helps the clients to analyze their own perspectives and clarify their thoughts.
  • To identify the issue that needs to be resolved. This can be the start of building an agenda.  Be careful not to suggest or imply a solution in your reframe.
  • To emphasize common concerns or common ground.
  • To acknowledge emotions but not as a central focus.

A reframe should be “acceptable” to the client or opposing party since it helps clarify perspectives and shows that there is an issue to be resolved.

Be careful, however, not to simply reframe a position just by toning it down.  This will only serve to anger the client or opposing party, and solidify that position.

Examples of Reframe Questions:

  1. So, it is important to you that…
  2. What I understand you to say is…
  3. What you are concerned with is…
  4. What you need to see here is…
  5. Your goal would be to…

Clients who seek legal advice generally have no effective communication with the other client.  Since they cannot agree themselves, they turn to their lawyers to find a way out.  They may not want a legal battle, but they don’t want to do nothing or lose either.

 

Resource:

  1. Training/Article: Listening Skills in the Collaborative Process, Prepared by Palliser Conflict Resolution, LTD, with Thanks to William Stockton

Personality and Negotiation

It is a recognized fact that everyone has a different approach to negotiation. The personalities of the parties involved significantly affect the process and outcome of the negotiations. We often hear of the generally accepted four basic personality styles, Driver, Expressive (or Extravert), Amiable and Analytic. While it is true that most people have elements of each type in their personality, one is usually dominant, particularly in the negotiation process. Knowing this about the other party as well as ourselves provides basic knowledge that can be used to develop a more tailored strategy to address the personality aspects, with a potentially more successful outcome.

Drivers are:

  • Demanding and Direct
  • Bottom-line, tidy, practical, not time wasters.
  • Evaluates on the amount of available useful information, takes charge.
  • DECISIONS made QUICKLY, based on FACTS.

Extroverts:

  • Not stimulated by details; likes to consider multiple tracks.
  • Social – like informality, warmth, friendless, openness.
  • Solution oriented; flexible; likes to persuade
  • Short attention-span, not organized.
  • DECISIONS made QUICKLY, based on EMOTIONS.

Amiables:

  • Want to reach peace and agreement – value oriented.
  • Do not like change, pressure or feeling forced into decisions.
  • Do not like to force opinions on others; indirect.
  • Need time to think matters through, long attention span.
  • DECISIONS made SLOWLY based on EMOTIONS.

Analytic:

  • Orientated towards facts and process
  • Very precise; focus on details, not the relationship.
  • Thinks options through.
  • DECISIONS made SLOWLY based on FACTS; not FEELINGS.

SUGGESTED WAYS OF DEALING WITH:

Drivers: (1) Be careful (sparing) with small talk. (2) Avoid overloading with information as Drivers will make decisions with the least amount of necessary information. (3) Avoid being overly enthusiastic, as Driver’s might suspect your motives. (4) Use quid-pro-quo approach and be prepared for fast decisions based on the facts.

Extroverts: (1) Personalize the process and paint a good picture of what the benefits of the proposal would be for them. (2) Work in their hobbies and interests outside of the work environment if possible. (3) Recognize that there may be fast decisions based on emotions and level of excitement generated. On the other hand, recognize that the process may be stalled if no excitement or enthusiasm for the proposal can be generated.

Amiables: (1) Go slowly, develop trust and demonstrate that you really care about them and the “fairness” of the process. (2) Be careful not to offend. (3) Don’t use high pressure tactics or positional bargaining. (4) Decisions will most likely be slow, based on comfort level

Analytics: (1) Endeavor to be accurate at all costs. (2) Give information and go into as much detail as you can. (3) Expect slow decisions based on thoroughness in accumulating and analyzing of all data.

 

Things to Keep in Mind:  Enthusiasm works well with the Extrovert and Amiable, but the Driver and the Analytic will not respond well if there is too much of it. It will cause them to become suspicious and pull back.  Ask probing questions of the Analytic and the Amiable to make certain their interests and concerns are addressed and to establish a comfort level for them – giving them the time they need for the process to work. However, the Driver and the Extrovert will want answers not just questions, and may feel that you are not ready to bring about resolution if you have too many questions.

Extroverts and Amiable are moved by and respond well to emotions, enthusiasm, and energy, but Drivers and Analytics do not decide based on emotions and too much energy will make them feel that you are moving too fast.

 

Resources:

  1. Psychological Types & Negotiations: Conflicts and Solutions
    Suggested by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
    ; Prof. John Barkai William S. Richardson School of Law, University of Hawaii.
  1. Negotiate Your Way to Success, by Michelle LaBrosse, Founder , Cheetah Learning, WomensMedia.com.