The trend – now and in the future – in how people, lawyers, mediators and arbitrators are approaching dispute resolution was the focus of a panel at UMASS Boston on May 19, 2017. The panel was part of an all-day Dispute Resolution Symposium presented by the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA) Dispute Resolution Section and sponsored and hosted by the UMASS graduate Program on Dispute Resolution.
Michael Zeytoonian, lawyer, mediator (Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC), moderated the presentation called “The Future of Fitting the Forum to the Fuss”. The panel featured presentations by Jessica Block (Block & Roos, Boston), Jeffrey Fink (Wellesley), William Coyne (Boston Legacy Planning, Needham) and Zeytoonian (Wellesley). All panelists are experienced Collaborative lawyers and mediators in several different practice areas including business, employment, probate, estate and business succession planning.
This glimpse into cutting edge ways disputes are being resolved also introduced the use of hybrid processes closely tailored to the specific circumstances of each dispute. Michael Zeytoonian, long-time employment and business law litigator, focused on the importance to parties of starting with a process assessment and educational session on the various options for resolving their dispute before they choose a lawyer and a process. Bill Coyne explained the value of effectively using dispute resolution clauses in family business contracts and trust documents, urging the need to be proactive about how people want to handle their disputes. He also discussed the use of Settlement Counsel and Collaborative Counsel in resolving disputes as alternatives to litigation.
Jeffrey Fink described some situational factors considered before a person decides which process to use and the advantages of some of these processes. Coming from a corporate and transactional law background, Fink discussed how being trained in Collaborative Law and mediation have added value to his areas of practice. Jessica Block, an employment and professional responsibility lawyer, mediator and arbitrator, delved into the need to adapt the process to the situation each dispute presents, rather than automatically picking an “off the rack” dispute resolution process. She described how the flexibility to adjust helps be more responsive to the circumstances, even after a process is underway and a lawyer or mediator recognizes a need to adjust and borrow from another process.
The Symposium was the inaugural initiative of this kind of program of the MBA’s Dispute Resolution Section. It will now become an annual event. This year’s Symposium featured eight presentations and included some of the top mediators, arbitrators and collaborative lawyers in Massachusetts as presenters. The opening keynote address was by Jeff Thompson, PhD., a law enforcement detective and hostage negotiator, focusing on effective negotiations and the importance of recognizing non-verbal communications in the negotiation process.