Tunisian mediators awarded Nobel Peace Prize

Tunisia’s National Dialogue Quartet has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in helping the country transition to democracy. The Nobel Committee said the quartet helped establish a political process when the country “was on the brink of civil war.” While countries like Syria, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen went back to authoritarian rule or descended into war, Tunisia managed a successful conversion.

The quartet is made up of mediators from four Tunisian organizations. These are the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers. It was created two years ago when the assassination of two important politicians and clashes between Islamists and secular parts of society threatened the country’s security.

Houcine Abassi, head of Tunisia’s General Labor Union, said the award was a “tribute to martyrs of a democratic Tunisia. This effort by our youth has allowed the country to turn the page on dictatorship.”  Abdessattar Ben Moussa of the Human Right League said the award “fills us with joy” at a time when Tunisia “is going through a period marked by political tensions and terrorist threats.” Tunisia’s president Beji Caid Esebbsi said the award recognized the country’s decision to choose the “path of consensus”.

The quartet was established to calm the tension between the Islam and secular side. There was a rise of political Islam in the country that disagreed with the traditional secular politics the country had been accustomed to for decades. Tunisia is still facing border problems, but many are celebrating the win today.

Article via BBC Click October 9, 2015

Photo: Night Tunis via Angelfire & me [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Lawyers and the future of the legal profession

Speakers at Avvo’s sixth annual Lawyernomics conference discussed how the legal profession will function in the next five to ten years. Avvo CEO Mark Britton noted that lawyers are leaving opportunities on the table by not addressing commoditized work. Attorneys aren’t providing certain services to their clients yet look negatively upon nonlawyers who try to do it themselves. Automating work through “freemium” models such as Rocket Matter can help attorneys create strong relationships with potential and current clients while allowing lawyers to avoid the work they don’t want to do, according to Britton.

F. Daniel Siciliano, a professor at Stanford Law School, asserted that, as law becomes readily available to the public and more open-sourced, clients will no longer need lawyers. He had done research that ultimately indicated that, when a targeted immigration law office relied less on human employees and more on technology, it was 10 times more profitable than offices with traditional revenue models. According to Dave Schappell, startup business development manager at Amazon Web Services, a lawyers should be investing in is the Cloud, an option that has been ignored by many attorneys. Plenty of major companies and government agencies already run on the Cloud, increasing agility and encouraging innovation by lowering risk, Schappell says. While the legal profession may be going through chaotic changes, it is important that they create a strong culture of client service and remain true to their values.

Article via ABA Journal, 18 May 2015

Photo: Law Books via Mr.TinDC [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Meditate to Mediate?

A study in which hundreds of Georgia neutrals participated by the Daily Report this year has found that an increasing number of them are incorporating neuroscience into their mediation practice to “reframe the conversations and promote reflection.”

Studying the ways in which chemical and neurological processes influence thought and behavior can, many neutrals say, help re-frame the conversation between disputants from ‘position’ to ‘interests.’  When disputants are stuck in the ‘positions’ stage of a conflict, each views the relationship in terms of what they and the other party want or need.  Often positions are opposing and there seems little overlap in which an agreement can be made.  Staking positions also triggers the “fight or flight” drive, governed by the brain stem.  What mediators desire is to move disputing parties into a “kinder, gentler, more evolved thinking,” governed by the rational part of the brain – the pre-frontal cortex.

The methods? The more mediators embrace psychological (and perhaps chemical – e.g. by spraying lavender in the mediation room) tactics to move their clients from a fight-or-flight state of mind to a calm and rational one, the more likely they are to be able to facilitate a satisfactory agreement for all parties concerned.

While spraying lavender in a virtual or online mediation environment is not the easiest task, perhaps some pre-mediation meditation is not such a crazy idea after all.  Other tactics that are as effective in online mediation as offline include shifting the focus of parties from their ‘claims’ or ‘wants’ to explaining the why behind these wants so that parties might be able to brainstorm other zones of agreement (perhaps non-monetary, or ‘intangible’ compensation for harm).

A potential benefit of online mediation over in-person mediation is also that many of the body language cues that trigger the fight-or-flight response from parties are missing, or can be excluded from an online environment if necessary (by the mediator eliminating video from a mediation in which parties are particularly hurt or angry at each other, for example).  In a text or voice-based mediation, a scoffing glance or the roll of the eyes can thankfully go unnoticed, and the parties might be more likely to enter a conciliatory phase than if had synchronous visual feedback from each other.