Dealing with Difficult People for Lawyers


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How to effectively manage conflict in an adversarial system.

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Dealing with Difficult People for Lawyers

  1. 1. by Victoria Pynchon, J.D., LL.M A is for Asshole The Grownup’s ABCs of Conflict Resolution
  2. 2. Bullying Opposing Counsel B is for Bully copyright 2010 Reason Press <ul><li>Irrational demands </li></ul><ul><li>Belligerent refusals to cooperate </li></ul><ul><li>Last minute filings before holiday weekends </li></ul><ul><li>Obstreperous conduct in deposition </li></ul><ul><li>Name calling </li></ul><ul><li>Misleading comments </li></ul><ul><li>Delay for the sake of delay </li></ul>
  3. 3. Bullying <ul><li>Deliberate and repeated abuse of power </li></ul><ul><li>In a setting where there’s: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>a clear hierarchy; and, </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>little to no supervision </li></ul></ul>B is for Bully copyright 2010 Reason Press
  4. 4. Sources of Power <ul><li>Age </li></ul><ul><li>Experience </li></ul><ul><li>Senseless to norm violations </li></ul><ul><li>Authority </li></ul><ul><li>Threats </li></ul><ul><li>Ridicule </li></ul><ul><li>Power to build coalitions </li></ul><ul><li>Power to Withhold </li></ul><ul><ul><li>cooperation </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>benefits </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Deliberate & Repeated Abuse of Power <ul><li>Extortion </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Quid pro quo </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>threats </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Shunning </li></ul><ul><li>Gamesmanship </li></ul><ul><li>Shaming </li></ul>V is for Victim copyright 2010 Reason Press
  6. 6. Taming the opposition S is for Shakedown Artist copyright 2010 Reason Press
  7. 7. <ul><li>Two suspects </li></ul><ul><li>Insufficient evidence to convict </li></ul><ul><li>Offer </li></ul><ul><ul><li>1 confesses & implicates partner – 1 freed; partner gets 10-year sentence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Both confess and implicate the other, each receive 5-year sentence. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>both remain silent , 6-months in jail. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Optimal choice for both cooperate for six-month jail sentence. </li></ul><ul><li>The optimal choice for the individual suspect is to rat out his partner and secure his own freedom. </li></ul><ul><li>Incapable of predicting other, rational decision is mutual betrayal. </li></ul>Prisoners’ Dilemma
  8. 8. Political Scientist Robert Axelrod
  9. 9. asked game theory experts to submit computer programs designed to prevail in game providing rewards either for refusing to cooperate or for cooperating when the programs encountered other programs
  10. 10. 1 st encounter with any program, Tit for Tat cooperates 2d encounter: Tit for Tat did what the other program did on previous encounter
  11. 11. Tit for Tat is never repeatedly victimized & never gets locked into mutually costly chains of mutual betrayal
  12. 12. How Do You Play Tit for Tat? Cooperate Retaliate for Betrayal Forgive Return to Cooperation Z is for Zen Master copyright 2010 Reason Press
  13. 13. Most of Tit for Tat’s neighbors were designed to cooperate under at least some circumstances
  14. 14. K is for Kin copyright 2010 Reason Press We are hard-wired to cooperate under some circumstances
  15. 15. When volunteers playing prisoner’s dilemma cooperated the “reward circuits” of their brains were activated, the same regions that are activated when certain drugs are taken or when good fortune befalls us
  16. 16. conditional cooperation is more effective than unmitigated meanness F is for Friend copyright 2010 Reason Press
  17. 17. if tit for tat had been tossed into the game with 49 steadfast non-cooperators, there would have been a 49-way tie for first place Robert Wright, The Moral Animal
  18. 18. All negotiations are mixed motive exchanges Compete for scarce resources Collaborate for mutual gain
  19. 19. We Negotiate for . . .
  20. 20. monkey economy 50 million years
  21. 21. Difficult People D is for Drama Queen copyright 2010 Reason Press
  22. 22. <ul><li>They are not irrational ; they have hidden constraints </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Institutional </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Precedential </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Promises to others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Deadlines </li></ul></ul>P is for Paranoid copyright 2010 Reason Press
  23. 23. <ul><li>They’re not evil ; they have hidden interests </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Personal (unrelated to you or deal) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Relational (related to you but not to the deal, i.e., “face”) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Political, social, cultural </li></ul></ul>O Is for Outlaw copyright 2010 Reason Press
  24. 24. <ul><li>They’re not difficult , they are uninformed </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Educate them about their true interests, consequences of their actions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Help them understand what is in their best interest </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>May have misunderstood or ignored a crucial piece of information </li></ul></ul>I is for Idiot copyright 2010 Reason Press
  25. 25. Ask Diagnostic Questions C is for Coward copyright 2010 Reason Press
  26. 26. Remembering that email is profoundly asocial
  27. 27. <ul><li>What are my intended outcomes and interests? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Preferences, priorities, needs, desires, fears, aspirations, bottom line </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What are their possible interests and outcomes? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Put yourself in their shoes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>What are the options? </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Potential points of agreement </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Differences that might be dove-tailed </li></ul></ul>Q is for Questioner copyright 2010 Reason Press
  28. 28. <ul><li>Compatibility (issues not in conflict) </li></ul><ul><li>logrolling, or trading off concessions on low-priority issues for gains on higher priority issues </li></ul><ul><li>trading differential time preferences </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Allocating more initial outcomes to the more impatient party </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Allocating greater profits over a longer period to the more patient party </li></ul></ul>T is for Them and Us copyright 2010 Reason Press
  29. 29. <ul><li>adding issues not inherent in the initial negotiation framework </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bonuses </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Flex-time </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Best associates </li></ul></ul><ul><li>contingent contracts </li></ul><ul><ul><li>If I bring in $X this year, I’ll receive Y% of it </li></ul></ul>T is for Them and Us copyright 2010 Reason Press
  30. 30. Be a conflict hero H is for Hero copyright 2010 Reason Press