Mediation Killed?!?

Oh my goodness is Mediation being killed!

R.D. Benjamin’s latest article at, regarding mediation being 'killed' hooked me into reading it, partially perhaps due to my law enforcement background plus for my love of mediation and not wanting it to be ‘killed’!

While reading Mr. Benjamin’s article (read it here), I had many questions and comments which I ‘scribbled’ down on a Word Document. I realized I had many comments because the topic of specialization, professionalization and certification are arguably linked as well as they are what I think is the most pressing issue(s) our field is facing.
I am deciding to publish my comments hoping to not only engage Mr. Benjamin in dialogue but as you will see from my open-ended questions, also the greater ADR/Mediation community.

I actually think this topic would be great for a future web panel discussion similar to a previous Project BlueJay discussion on Web 2.0 at and/or the recently new podcasting series at

What does everyone think?

As a last comment before pasting my notes below, three points I would like to stress.

1) These comments are not meant to be an attack of any kind but rather an attempted reflective practitioner approach of trying to learn as well as question. I always welcome comments to my own posts and articles and look forward to any potential comments to what I write below. Laughingly, I know the limitations to my own articles, as I recently tried to tie in fried pickles to mediation! (see here:

2) I hope this adds further comments and dialogue to this important topic.
3) Below are posted notes, and if there are typos more than my usual edited posts which have their fair share of typos, I hope you understand it- Enjoy!

(Mr. Benjamin’s comments are italicized in red, my replies are in black.)

For example, looking at an issue, be it business or personal, strictly within the legal dispute management paradigm, without regard for the emotional considerations or business implications, is ineffective and quite possibly negligent.
I agree, as is the case with‘generalize’ mediation too. Are you though saying this is what happens in these cases??

As mediators increasingly specialize in particular dispute contexts or limit themselves to particular practice approaches they close off the systemic focus that is the hallmark of mediation.
How so??

That narrow view is not wrong or bad, per se; in some circumstances it may be necessary. However, to have that approach become a matter of habit---or a rut---conditioned by the context in which the dispute is presented often precludes the use of other more creative strategies and techniques.
Is there data or from your experience? Is it because of the training? What is the cause?

For their part, mediators appear to have become so pre-occupied with seeking the legitimacy brought about by having the field fit the image of the traditional professions that the original purposes of mediation have been lost.
How so? How do you believe this is the case that time is being spent on ‘professionalizing’ instead of what??
Professionalization adds legitimacy including ethics and standards, standards which are adaptable- think at least.

Overwrought professional standards and ethical requirements restrict mediator range of motion
has this essential personal connection between a mediator and conflicted parties been created or even fostered by written rules. In fact, sometimes written rules serve more to confuse the process than aid it.
Guidelines and rules do not hinder the ‘natural process’ but rather show the boundaries a mediator works within. We think outside the box but we all must work within certain parameters.

The qualifications set by the authorities in control are not necessarily people familiar with mediation practice
Spot on! In the eastern district NY Supreme Court, you have to be an attorney to be on the mediator panel and in Nevada foreclosure mediation program, one of the qualification paths is simply being an attorney! Doesn’t that call for guidelines?? Look, if people are setting qualifications, should ‘we’ try to get them right, or at least better?

The systemic view, the hallmark of mediation practice, is reverting back to an emphasis on subject matter expertise
Isn’t it up to the parties?

The Association of Conflict Resolution and many state and regional associations of mediators and conflict management practitioners, insist on separate practice sections dedicated to specialized dispute contexts.
Yes, but after basic training benchmarks passed. The sub-groups do not decide who gets to mediate cases in each particular area/industry.

Often there are special fees for belonging to individual sections that can be costly and discourages participation in multiple sections
How expensive are these fees? There should be exemptions for volunteer mediators perhaps.

“Legal mediation” is distinguished from other kinds of mediation,
Where? Negatively?
suggesting that those outside law could not understand the nature of conflicts that arise in the legal context and that conflicts that occur in he shadow of the court actions are predominantly legal.
Who suggests this? Let’s ask them about their approach. I do know some court districts (already mentioned above does this). How do you think this can be changed?

Some programs presume to endorse a particular style of mediation practice, such as “transformative mediation,” or “interest based mediation” to the exclusion of other approaches.
Can a “transformative” mediator really also be an “evaluative” mediator the next day?

The clear suggestion is that there is one approach which is suitable for all parties in all circumstances.
I see it more as I have a style, which to a degree is flexible, but my style none the less. I am adaptive to the parties needs, and can utilize each of the styles. Also, certain centers or organizations beleive in a certain approach, if as a mediator or potential client, you have the choice of choosing them or not. It all about options!

Different practice approaches, perspectives and styles contribute to a cauldron of creative thinking and should not be discouraged
What about the mediator that doesn’t believe in the “transformative" approach, should he/she have to do it? Also, some places teach certain styles that also promotes co-mediation. What would happen if two mediators co-mediating, where one was transformative while the other was facilitative?

But formalizing those differences into strict specialties, especially by the mediator is questionable at best.
Understandable as well, I think. How do you suggest a mediator get these well rounded skills? Is it by creating standards that you are against? Otherwise a free for all would occur, right? Also, mediation styles are a different topic from specialization areas- not interchangeable.

Further, each dispute context does not require a separate mediation model or structure and the imposition of such structuring is often little more than a veiled attempt to limit and constrain the mediation process.
Well, it is a process, and it is structured – flexible but still structured. It’s up to the parties to decide if the mediator’s style is what they are looking for during intake. If it is court connected, odds are the mediator will be facilitative to some degree. You don’t get to pick the judges style so should you get to pick the style of the mediator?

Mediation practice in special education, termination of parental rights, and workplace, or ADA (Americans With Disabilities Act) matters, often press the mediator into the uncomfortable and professionally compromised role of being a de facto investigator or law enforcement agent.
Very interesting, I would like to hear from mediators from these areas to gauge their thoughts to see if they agree with this assessment.

Specializing mediators by style or substantive context essentially reduces them to being agents of the hiring authority with the larger context being ruled out of bounds.
How so? Where is the correlation between style and ‘working for the man’?

In a workplace dispute where there has been an allegation of race or sex discrimination, for example, many mediators take a narrow view and limit their role strictly to the presenting issue as they might in a court case. In doing so, they can easily miss the larger more relevant issues of how rules are set and enforced.
(Bold added by me) Where is the data on this? I agree with the last sentence if that is the case, however, I am interested in seeing the data that supports this comment.

This conjures a connection between their role as a mediator and the rationalist notion of mediation as a reasoned problem solving process pursued through civil dialogue where the mediator is an objective, “above the fray,” dispassionate problem solver who is disinterested in any particular outcome.
Dispassionate and empathy can be used together I think. I would not say disinterested, but rather not attached to one outcome. I think it is fine to say something along the lines during the mediator's introduction something like this, “I am here to help you both discuss the issue or issues that brought you here and also look for possible solutions that meet each of your needs. If you find a solution suitable for both of you, we can write up an agreement if you want or if no agreement is reached, that is ok too, only each of you know what is best for each of you given the current situation…”

…only to become encrusted with so many rules that it has largely lost its’ cost effectiveness and efficacy?
How many rules are too many? Which ones do you think can be removed?

For many, mediation has already garnered a negative reputation as being ineffectual and an additional cost to be endured before a matter can be tried in a ‘real’ court.
I am interested in your perspective on why you think that is the case, and equally interested in how you think this can be worked on?

The value of studying and practicing the skill in a disciplined manner is not in question and remains more important than ever. Unfortunately, however, the competency, effectiveness and acceptance of the craft of mediation is being retarded and inhibited by the pursuit of formal professional status.
This is an incredibly powerful statement; I wish this was explained more in-depth as to how professionalization is not part of the first sentence. People offer mediation trainings and after a few hours give out certificates and tell people they are mediators (this is based on numerous stories told to me from all over the country). How do we as a field ensure those mediating are getting proper training?

As the practice continues to be specialized, professionalized and institutionalized, does it become further removed from its’ original purpose, intention and value?
Great question and I wonder if professionalization and specialization have to be combined here. Can we not have professionalization without ingrained specialization? At the same time, I wonder, can a mediator who specializes in real estate effectively mediate a case regarding special education? Looking at this comment, and your quoted one above- is studying and practicing in a discipline manner not professionalization?

Is mediation, as it becomes more formalized, to follow the path of arbitration which began as an usefully informal mode of conflict management, only to become encrusted with so many rules that it has largely lost its’ cost effectiveness and efficacy?
Again, great question but is it the many rules which caused this? How do you suggest it be prevented then for mediation?
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Latest News

Transgender Group, Restaurant Agree to Mediation

PEABODY — Members of a local transgender social club and Capone's Italian American restaurant last night agreed to attempt to resolve their differences before a mediator.
The parties have until April 26 to reach an agreement; otherwise, the group, Sisters Family, could proceed with a formal complaint against the restaurant with Peabody's Licensing Board.
Sisters Family is alleging that Capone's discriminated against eight of its members by refusing to let them in on Jan. 29.
Ashley Bottoms, 42, of Saugus, founder of Sisters Family, and a handful of others from the group submitted written complaints to the city that claim Capone's barred them from entering because their appearance did not correspond with the photographs on their identifications. Bottoms, whose legal name is Robert Knowles, asked to appear last night before the Licensing Board.
"A case like this begs for mediation," Peabody City Solicitor John Christopher said at the opening of a meeting in a small conference room in City Hall. He called it preferable to the "very frustrating," "time-consuming" and "expensive" route of litigation.

Family Mediation
When family mediator Jonathan Toussaint asked a 13-year-old boy recently what message he wanted to give his separated mother and father, the boy replied: "I have two messages. When you speak to each other, use each other's names [not insults] and don't use me as a message carrier. It's not my problem."

..."I was quite defensive before going to mediation," says Melanie, 29, of Newcastle. "But the Building Connections program really changed the way I looked at things. My two-year-old son, Riley, didn't really know his dad because I had stopped access when he was about one, after his father starting seeing another woman. After the program I realised the main person I was hurting was my son. I didn't want him to miss out but to enjoy having a father."

NPR Blog: Bring In A Healthcare Mediator?
Tomorrow is the big day for the White House's health care summit. Will it make a difference?
Democrats and
Republicans have been busy staking out their positions, with President Obama finally releasing his own proposal on Monday. Expectations are running high, but the odds seem stacked against the meeting cracking the impasse over health overhaul. Take a look at the latest dispute over who will sit where.

The situation seems to cry out for a referee. So we asked trained mediator Nancy Lesser at Pax ADR, an alternative dispute resolution firm in Washington, D.C., to size up the health overhaul dynamics.

Foreclosure Mediation Bill In Maryland
...The governor's proposal enjoys the broad support of Democratic lawmakers. But the court system, which would face an onslaught of dispute-resolution conferences with mandatory mediation, opposes it.
Among the concerns are the potential cost to courts and the legislation's failure to outline specific dispute resolution efforts that should be required before filing any court action, according to written testimony the court system will submit to lawmakers today.
Court officials also point out that it is "inherently unfair" to require borrowers but not lenders to show up in person for mediation. Banking officials can simply teleconference in, which "rarely results in a satisfactory outcome," according to the written testimony.

International Mediators Mull Sanctions
International mediators on Madagascar are threatening to increase pressure on President Andry Rajoelina's government unless he honors two previous power-sharing accords. Sanctions will be on the agenda Friday when the African Union's Peace and Security Council takes up Madagascar's case.

iUniverse Would Like to Announce the Release of Making Mediation Your Day Job by Tammy Lenski, Ed.D.
...Written by a mediator for mediators (and those who want to be) using common mediation principles as marketing fodder, Making Mediation Your Day Job (published by iUniverse) speaks to mediators in language they understand and already embrace — uncovering a market’s greatest interests, framing services to speak to those interests, and building dialogue with potential clients. By working with mediators where they are, Lenski’s street-tested approaches aim to make even the most reticent mediation marketer approach the task of practice-building with energy and excitement.

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Adaptability & Fried Pickles

Hey! My article made the front page of

Ever wonder what fried pickles has to do with conflict resolution?

Never wonder what fried pickles has to do with conflict resolution?

Everyone wins when you read the article [here].
Here's a snippet to get your appetite going for pickles... I mean reading!
Adaptability and having an open mind is something as a mediator and conflict resolver I am always reminding parties or clients to keep in mind while they negotiate or plan their next interaction with another party.

Recently I had a few reminders to practice what I preach. I have been traveling recently and have come across a few things that for a native New Yorker, seemed a bit strange. First, being the attempted reflective practitioner that I say I am, I remind myself not to fall into the trap of labeling others and falling prey to attribution biases or selective perception.
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War Game- Yes to Destruction, No to Communication!

War Game Shows How Attacking Iran Could Backfire, Oh & Communication & Dialogues Didn’t Exist

The Saban Center for Middle East Policy, part of the Washington-based Brookings Institution, “a center-left think tank”, recently conducted a war game involving what the current situation in Iran in regards to their uranium enrichment program late last year.

The ‘game’ includes Israel pre-emptive bombing Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and the United Sates all being involved in one way or another. What I found interesting (from a conflict specialist’s perspective) from the results are the following:

* Israel didn't inform Washington in advance of the strike.

* Israeli and U.S. "officials" communicated with each other, but not with the Iranians.

* One of the simulation's major findings was … how Washington and Tehran, lacking direct communication, misunderstood each other.

And finally:

* The lesson is "once you start this, it's really hard to stop it," said Kenneth Pollack, a former White House and CIA official who oversaw the simulation.

What to make of this game?

Well, from a conflict specialist viewpoint, be it the many potential roles we might currently serve in, it shows me how important communication and having those lines established prior to violent outbreak is.

During the Cold War, the US and USSR (under Kennedy and Khrushchev) establish a direct phone line for communication in case of emergency. Could something similar be established between the US and Iran? As outlandish as it sounds, why not, especially since it was done with the Russians way back then? Surely there is room for NGO's or the United Nations to increase communication and dialogue?

The last quote I think is a powerful example of how the conflict resolution definition of entrapment is manifested. In the international setting, it is usually much more impactful and devastating. Luckily, in this case it was only a ‘game’.

Read the full article:
War game shows how attacking Iran could backfire -
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NYC-DR Round Table Recap- February 2010

For those who miss the monthly NYC-DR Roundtable Breakfast meetings sponsored by ACRGNY and John Jay College due to schedules (yes, we are all very busy conflict resolvers) or due to locations (I guess everyone doesn't live in New York City!), I plan to write a recap of each gathering I attend.

You can join the listserv by clicking [here].

Note 1: this is not an official recap nor is it intended to be one but rather it is just a posting of my notes and recollection from the day.

Note #2: For this month I credit Maria Volpe for contributing to this recap as well as editing it...Thanks!I hope you enjoy and feedback is always welcome!
For February's description from the invitation, see below in italics.
[Note: There is an edit at the very bottom]
The speakers were introduced by Mediators Beyond Borders Member and Safe Horizon Mediation Center mediator, Alan Gross.
Tom spoke first and mentioned how he was the “appetizer” which made me think two things, the next speaker, Ray, would be the main entrĂ©e and the other thought being I should have grabbed another mini-danish. As an aside, if going to these monthly round tables is to meet great people in the audience, see friends (old and new) and hear a variety of interesting speakers, please note that there is free coffee, tea and bagels!
Okay, with that said, back to the recap!

Tom continued with the following comments:

He said he was speaking from the “Quaker Mode” (which he did not imply was limited to just Quakers) of reacting non-violently to violent situations.

He works with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) which is involved in “Healing and Restoring Communities”.

AVP works in prisons as well as with global projects set up in countries including Rwanda where AVP works with victims of genocide and rape. Tom mentioned light heartedly, while also compassionately, it’s “pretty serious work”. He also mentioned a project in Indonesia where they work with people caught in the midst of a 30+ year enduring civil war.

To put it mildly, AVP has grown and prospered all over the world (other countries were mentioned too).

Tom then introduced Ray who provided insights about his own experiences with AVP.
Ray began by noting that AVP workers are volunteers and how AVP work is “giving of yourself”. He stressed the importance of the work be volunteer based so they can concentrate on the work and not the “paycheck”. He did mention that he did not think it was necessarily bad for people to be doing similar work and getting paid- his point was to point out the “giving of yourself” aspect of AVP’s workers.

The workshops AVP does are very experiential. The participant’s experiences guides the workshops however there is a basic structure consistent with all the workshops.
Ray is originally from Brooklyn by the way.

There are non-Quakers involved in AVP.
They like to keep things simple; they have a modest budget yet they believe they make an impact on and benefit those they serve. Because of this view, they do have a national campaign. As Ray put it, “they are fearful of over-promotion!” Keeping it simple was explained as being effective. Their small budget has allowed them to continue to prosper during the current economic downturn which is endangering many other groups.

AVP was started in 1979 at Greenhaven Correctional Facility guided by the question: “How can programs be created in the prison system that are positive and beneficial to the people there?”
The AVP workshop is 3 days and again, simple. It is based on Affirmation, with the people participating choosing (positive) nicknames. Examples were “Radical Ray” and Bubbly Bill.” (Hmmm, perhaps I would choose “Jolly Jeff”…no, probably not.) Confidentiality and the informality of the workshop are stressed with the participants.

The workshop creates a community atmosphere for the inmates as well providing an opportunity to open dialogue.

AVP is the #1 volunteer program in the New York State Prison System.

After the first program, the prison participants stated, “we want more!”

Ray stressed how they train inmates to be facilitators which ensures that the workshops are run by peers. This is how AVP evolves.

In addition to the aforementioned information about prison connection, Ray noted that 6 board members and the current president have been formerly incarcerated. Those being served are also involved in the decision making process.

He mentioned how they also have free programs in the community for when people leave prison. One is called the “Landing Strip” which is set up in selected communities. While it is part of the inmates’ parole program, Ray also stressed one way to explain Landing Strip’s success is measured by the fact that many continue to come after their parole ends.

AVP holds an annual Family Weekend in Seneca Lake (upstate New York) as well as an international conference every other year.

We did a group exercise that is conducted during the AVP workshops. I will not describe it further other than saying it we had to stand and say “Zip”, “Zap”, and “Boing” to each other!

A graphic they include in their teachings/workshops is a mandala type design which you can see [here]. It is called a “Guide to Transforming Power.”(see above)

Johnny spoke next. He was formerly incarcerated in Sing Sing and became involved in AVP while serving time. He mentioned how he, like many other inmates, was leery at first of the workshop but embraced it. He, like many others, enjoyed it and was able to open up during the workshop.
He continues to work with AVP.

Someone asked if this is also done with women in prison and Ray stated yes.

Ray mentions how it was not easy getting the program into the prisons. What helped? “It takes time, effort, lots of meetings, and getting the right people to embrace it.”

For more info about AVP, go to
Alternatives to Violence

Our Speakers
Ray Rios and Tom Rothschild, both closely involved with the Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) will speak about the work of the organization at the February 4th ROUNDTABLE breakfast.Radames (Ray) Rios, MPS is a Housing Works Program Director, providing education, counseling and support services for individuals and their families touched by HIV/AIDS and substance abuse in inner city New York. He has conducted dozens of Conflict Resolutions Seminars for AVP and has dedicated his life to making a difference with youth, former prisoners and those touched by HIV and AIDS. He currently serves as co-president of AVP-New York.
Tom Rothschild is a Quaker in New York City who has been involved for the past several years with AVP. Tom is also a mediator, facilitator and attorney in private practice. For six years, including two and a half as clerk (chair), he was involved with the Quaker Committee for Conflict Transformation, which assisted Quakers in and around New York in resolving conflict in positive and transforming ways.
The Alternatives to Violence Project is a grassroots, volunteer program committed to reducing violence in our lives, in our homes, in our schools, in our prisons, in our streets and in our society.
Their mission is to empower people to lead nonviolent lives through building a sense of community where people affirm one another and themselves and learn the skills to transform conflicts nonviolently into win-win outcomes. The AVP program was founded and developed from the real life experiences of people inside and outside prison walls. AVP encourages every person's innate power to positively transform him or herself and, in so doing, to begin to transform the world.
[Edit Sent Via Email:
Hi Jeff
...I have one minor correction. Healing & Restoring Our Communities (HROC) is actually an offshoot of AVP; it is not part of AVP, but is, if you like, one of AVP's "children." HROCis the name for the Quaker-sponsored program in Central Africa (formal name, African Great Lakes Initiative of Friends Peace Teams) that helps people deal with the aftermath of genocide and other violent divisions within communities. (I apologize for any lack of clarity on my part that led to the inaccuracy) ....
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Body Language in Mediation

Watch CBS News Videos Online

(NOTE: Click this link to the see the video clip- the above video does not allow you to fast forward)

As a mediator, and conflict specialist, I believe it is incredibly important to be mindful of my own nonverbal communication actions as well as the non-verbal cues used by the parties present.
One thing I have taken recent interest in learning more is the different nonverbal actions and what they generally mean. I use “generally” as just like there is not a concrete set of mediation rules and steps for every case, so is the same for nonverbal actions.

With that said, I think certain cues and actions have a general meaning which could at the very least raise awareness in me that I might need to ask more questions or ask for clarification. For this post, I refer to nonverbal actions and cues related to body movements in relation to what the person is saying to see if they are not in sync.

For anyone that watches the Bill O’Reilly show on FOx News, one of my favorite segments is when he has Tonya Reiman on. She is an expert on body language and Bill has her on to breakdown what certain movements and actions mean with people in the news or people he recently interviewed. I find it enjoyable for entertainment purposes while I also I see the value of how it can relate to the work we do in mediation.

With that in mind, I was watching this past Sunday on CBS’s Face The Nation with host Bob Schieffer interviewing Vice President Joe Biden. Towards the end, Schieffer asked VP Biden if he thought Former President Bush deserved credit for some of the positive results in Iraq. All I will say is notice what he says (yes or no) while also noticing his head movements (nodding yes or no).
You can view the video above, and if you want to go straight to the segment, fast forward it by dragging the bar to the 16:30 section.

After watching that, if you find it of interest, try being mindful during your next mediation session if a person says one thing yet there body does something else. I think some contradictory or overt body language actions are easy to spot- shaking the head in agreement or disagreement, sighing, and smiling yet there are others like in the above video I think are subtle and at the very least interesting. Looking deeper (maybe with a discerning mind, then again maybe not!), as the mediator it might be cause to ask some more probing issues.


Want to find more on body language?

Visit the following:

Tonya Reiman's Site:
Reiman's book [here]
What Everybody Is Saying", a book by a ex-FBI agent [Here]
The Definitive Book of Body Language [here]

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What Do You See?

I came across the image below and found it interesting when looking at it from the "mediator's lens" because:

1) I use the image during trainings to show how people can look at the same situation and see different things. The idea behind this is to show people it is not always about right or wrong but rather understanding.

2) With that in mind, I found it amusing that the advertisment states "76% got it wrong." What exactly are they getting wrong??

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New Ombuds Book Out

For those interested in the ombudsman role and perhaps thinking of entering the field, this book surely is a must, right?

I am trying to get my hands on one to do a book review but be warned... Chuck Howard's "The Organizational Ombudsmen" is 600+ pages!
Hey, to be a (good) ombuds, you must have a full understanding of everything and anything ombuds and ADR related so get reading!

From the press release, "Since there are many different kinds of ombudsmen, there has been great confusion in the courts and among people who want to establish an ombuds program about what it is and how it works,” explains Atty. Chuck Howard about why he wrote this book. “My hope is that this comprehensive resource will provide concise, constructive information that will help businesses, organizations, universities and individuals understand what an organizational ombudsman is and what they do...

Considerable attention is given to related topics, including the imminent risk of serious harm and an expansive listing of major employment statutes and employments cases. Included is a comprehensive presentation of various legal issues that are associated with organizational ombudsman programs, and detailed actual case studies that reveal how companies used ombudsmen and mediation to manage workplace issues."


The full press release is below:


February 3, 2010 – Attorney Charles L. (Chuck) Howard, one of the few attorneys in the U.S. with extensive expertise in the legal issues of ombudsmen, and the American Bar Association are introducing the nation’s definitive resource book about ombudsmen and mediation, and their impact in the workplace. A Partner at Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford, Conn., Atty. Howard has a national practice in representing organizational ombudsmen at universities, multinational corporations, and research institutions. His new book, entitled “The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide”, was just published by the American Bar Association (ABA).

The new 642-page book is designed to help ombudsmen, as well as managers and supervisors who are responsible for human relations and compliance issues and who, therefore, may benefit from alternate dispute resolution and mediation. It is an essential resource for a wide variety of professional audiences including ombudsmen, dispute resolution professionals, in-house counsels, corporate executives, university and hospital administrators, compliance officers, and human resources personnel.

“Since there are many different kinds of ombudsmen, there has been great confusion in the courts and among people who want to establish an ombuds program about what it is and how it works,” explains Atty. Chuck Howard about why he wrote this book. “My hope is that this comprehensive resource will provide concise, constructive information that will help businesses, organizations, universities and individuals understand what an organizational ombudsman is and what they do. Having these programs will help organizations communicate more effectively, so they can establish more equitable and effective workplaces for all Americans.”

“The Organizational Ombudsman” provides a comprehensive overview and addresses common misconceptions about the function of the ombudsman. Atty. Howard first examines the history of the evolution of the role of an organizational ombudsman – from its original concept in Sweden more than 200 years ago, to its usage by American universities in the early 1960s, to its implementation by businesses and government in the 1980s, to its application and challenges in today’s world. He explains why such a function is critical for organizations in light of the demographic, technological, and globalization changes that have occurred in the past half-century, and examines the resulting pressures on organizations from developments in criminal law, employment law, and corporate governance and regulation.

Atty. Howard explores all aspects of the organizational ombudsman function to illustrate why this is an essential human resources tool for a myriad of organizational structures and situations. He provides numerous examples of how ombudsmen function to demonstrate how they are effective in addressing issues that employees and management otherwise would not raise. He thoroughly explains how businesses and organizations can establish and document their own organizational ombudsman programs and address issues that arise in litigation. And, he examines the pitfalls that companies may face and provides solutions to common concerns and problems.

Considerable attention is given to related topics, including the imminent risk of serious harm and an expansive listing of major employment statutes and employments cases. Included is a comprehensive presentation of various legal issues that are associated with organizational ombudsman programs, and detailed actual case studies that reveal how companies used ombudsmen and mediation to manage workplace issues.

Atty. Howard has extensive litigation experience in state and federal court in a wide range of matters, including more than 70 appeals. His Shipman & Goodwin LLP intellectual property litigation experience encompasses copyright, trademark, trade secret, covenant not to compete and patent litigation, including proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. His business and public sector litigation experience includes representation of the State of Connecticut, quasi-public state agencies, municipalities, and business clients in many diverse matters.

In addition to Atty. Howard’s broad litigation background and extensive experience in ombudsmen and mediation, in 2002, he was appointed by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to serve as one of 16 members to a national Advisory Group to review and recommend revisions to the federal organizational sentencing guidelines.

Atty. Howard is former Chair of Shipman & Goodwin’s Litigation Department and currently serves as Chair of the E-Discovery and Information Governance Group. He is an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. He was an Assistant Attorney General for Attorney General John C. Danforth of Missouri from 1975-1976. Atty. Howard received his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law, and an A.B., cum laude, from Princeton University. He is an Incorporator and the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Connecticut Supreme Court Historical Society, and is a Pro Bono Attorney for Lawyers for Children America.

A resident of Simsbury, Conn., Atty. Howard is the President of the Board of Trustees of the Simsbury Land Trust and is a Steering Committee member of the Connecticut Land Conservation Council.

“The Organizational Ombudsman: Origins, Roles and Operations-A Legal Guide” by Atty. Charles L. Howard was published by the American Bar Association in January 21, 2010. It can be ordered at for $89.95; ABA members pay $76.95. To order by phone, call 1-800-285-2221, Mondays through-Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. CST.

Shipman & Goodwin LLP is a full-service law firm with more than 130 attorneys with offices in Hartford, Stamford, Greenwich and Lakeville, Conn. Founded in 1919, the firm’s attorneys represent many of the leading businesses, institutions, individuals, and government entities in Connecticut and throughout the New England and the Mid-Atlantic regions. For more information, please visit # # #

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Cafe Mediate

What happens when I try to keep up with three of the top mediation experts?

You can find out by listenting in on the latest podcast at Cafe Mediate. I joined Tammy Lenski of Making Mediation Your Day Job, Diane Levin of The Mediation Channel, and London-based Amanda Bucklow of The Mediation Times.

We discussed what makes a 'great mediator' from each of our perspectives.

Listen to the the podcast and visit Cafe Mediate [here] or visiting iTunes [here].

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