Monday, April 30, 2007

May 1 is Law Day: how will you celebrate it?

May 1 is Law Day--Celebrate!Two weeks ago I published a post explaining why I would not be observing One Day Blog Silence today, April 30, when many bloggers will be observing a collective day of silence in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings along with others who have fallen to violence throughout the world.

I have chosen not to participate. Today instead I am calling attention to another important observance. Tomorrow is Law Day. Law Day, a public education initiative of the American Bar Association, was created to celebrate democracy and the rule of law. I can think of no better way to honor those who have perished through violence than to celebrate the fundamental liberties that the rule of law protects. Before we can have peace in the world, we need justice first.

How will you celebrate Law Day? For some ideas, visit the Law Day web site.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

The art of demotivation: video captures bad boss behavior

Demotivating bossesThere is probably no greater source of workplace conflict than bad bosses. Why?

Good bosses provide leadership. Bad bosses provide what columnist Dale Dauten, author of the Corporate Curmudgeon, calls "Impedership"--which Dauten defines as "the art of demotivation"--the ability to stifle innovation, stamp out ideas, and discourage success among employees.

In today's column, Dauten points readers to a brilliant video produced by online training company ej4 that captures all the qualities common to demotivating bosses.

Looking ahead and looking back: a conversation with your future self

Futureme.orgThere comes a point in a mediation when it's time to ask the hard questions.

It often happens when negotiations are stalled. Although a decent offer is on the table, one thing stands between the parties and settlement. "Principle. It's the principle of the thing," they say, as they weigh hope at trial against certainty at the table.

At that point I may ask people to do something that is very difficult to do.

I ask them to think for a moment about the future--to imagine their future selves and to ask themselves, will that decision still be the right one for me then?

Unfortunately, the laws of physics prevent us from speaking directly to our future selves. But a web site has made it possible for anyone to send messages to the person they will be tomorrow. All you need is an email address that will hopefully still be active on the date of delivery.

Futureme.org allows visitors to send messages that will be delivered electronically to themselves at a designated future date. Visitors to the site can scroll through the public messages at random to read the dispatches from the past that await delivery--some hopeful, some filled with profanity, some bearing advice, others poignant. Here are two:

Because you were working on your thesis and went through that Roman Stoicism phase and tend to forget who said what and where all the ideas come from:

"Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present."

Marcus Aurelius

p.s. Finish the book and jog more


. . . . . .


Dear FutureMe,

First off, what the hell are you doing still using gmail?

Second, I'm really surprised that I'm still alive. I'd have expected the stress of working 100 hours a week would have killed me by now. I mean, seriously, what are the odds of a human being actually surviving for 30 years on Ramen noodles and day old pizza?

Oh well, I hope things have turned out well for me.

You can send yourself a message at Futureme.org.

So, what would you say to your future self?

What's your learning style? An online test lets you find out

What's your learning style?As a trainer, I'm keenly aware that adult learners all have different learning styles. The trick is to find ways to engage them all.

Interested in finding out what your own learning style is? You can find out at the Vark Guide to Learning Styles by taking this online questionnaire.

A Periodic Table of Visualization Elements

periodic_table of visualization elementsFacilitators, mediators, and other group process mavens, take note: here's an interactive Periodic Table of Visualization Elements. Take a ride down the Argument Slide, cross the Negotiation Bridge, or marvel at the Heaven 'n Hell Chart.

This fun tool comes courtesy of Visual-Literacy.org, an e-learning site educating visitors about "a critical, but often neglected skill for business, communication, and engineering students, namely visual literacy, or the ability to evaluate, apply, or create conceptual visual representations."

(Hat tip to Cool Tools.)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Verdict on American Lawyers": ADR and collaborative law missing from one-sided depiction of lawyers and justice

Negative attack on lawyers overlooks changing legal professionAmerican lawyers by now may be inured to media attacks on the legal profession. We expect it from Fox News. But this week lawyers drew fire from an unexpected source: a National Public Radio broadcast.

On Point, a week-day radio news magazine produced by NPR member station WBUR in Boston, broadcast a show this week titled "Verdict on American Lawyers". From the show's description:

America's legal profession is based on ideals: on standards of education and admission to the practice, ethics regulation, a disregard for commercialism and on working on behalf of the public good. The legal system is rooted in the belief that all should have access to justice. But Yale Law Professor and legal historian, [sic] says it's not so. The profession is hardly professional anymore. He says lawyers today are out for their own economic self-interest...
Instead of providing what could have been a rich discussion about the present and future of the legal profession, with points and counterpoints from a spectrum of voices, On Point succeeded in reinforcing for its listeners virtually every negative stereotype that exists about American lawyers today. It perpetuated the myth that all lawyers work for large firms on behalf of shady corporate interests and are members of an Ivy-educated elite motivated solely by self-interest and greed.

The show's greatest defect was its failure to accurately and fully depict today's legal profession in all its diversity. This one-sided portrayal of a legal profession in moral decline ignored the numerous efforts that have contributed to the improvement of law and the institutions that serve it. And it disregarded the movements within the profession that seek to deliver justice better and provide effective mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.

There are plenty of attorneys today who are trailblazers, breaking new ground through movements like collaborative law and restorative justice. These attorneys are bold architects of new ways of serving the public and justice better.

And how can a show that purported to examine the legal profession and access to justice fail to discuss one of the most important revolutions in the courts and in the practice of law: the widespread availability and institutionalization of alternative dispute resolution?

As an attorney who no longer practices traditional law but has spent the past decade as a mediator helping people resolve disputes both within and outside of the legal system, I have many colleagues in the bar who are committed to these kind of innovations in the practice of law and the resolution of disputes. Many are outspoken advocates of these new ways of thinking and work to transform and reinvigorate the practice of law.

Many of them strive to illuminate for the legal profession as well as the public the art and creativity within the practice of law and to help attorneys reclaim the dignity and meaning in what is still an honorable profession.

You may hear "Verdict on American Lawyers" in a number of formats at the On Point web site and judge for yourself.

Why I will not be observing One Day Blog Silence

No day of silence on April 30 at this blogBy now many of you, including those living outside the U.S., have heard of the murder this week of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech by a lone gunman, a Virginia Tech student who turned the gun on himself and died also. It was the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

Some of you as well may have heard also of the One Day Blog Silence, the blogosphere's latest meme, which calls on bloggers everywhere to be silent on April 30 to honor the Virginia Tech victims:
All you have to do is spread the word about it and post the graphic on your blog on 30th April 2007. No words and no comments. Just respect, reflect and empathy.
The day of blog silence has been extended to include "all the victims of our world"--which I assume to mean all those who have also perished by violence.

What I am about to say intends no disrespect to the many good-intentioned bloggers--including those who are my friends and colleagues--who are participating in the April 30 event. It certainly in no way is meant to diminish the heart-breaking tragedy of these senseless deaths.

But I have to ask, why? Why be silent? What is the point? Why not use this as an opportunity to speak out? To rage against the machine? To stand up for whatever cause you believe in that will reduce human suffering or end violence? Provide better treatment and interventions for the mentally ill? Increase safety on college campuses? Take action against handgun violence? End the war in Iraq? The crisis in Darfur? Any one of the thousand conflagrations that burn around the world?

Or, better yet, get away from the keyboard and actually do something?

It will be business as usual at this blog on Monday, April 30. I won't be silent.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Dispute management biggest cost control opportunity companies have, in experience of one in-house counsel

Early dispute resolution saves moneyOne of the biggest--and costliest--mistakes that businesses make is the failure to properly address disputes early in their life cycle. More and more though in-house counsel recognize the virtues of alternative dispute resolution as a cost- and time-saving device for the organizations they advise.

Case in point: in a Law.com interview, Mark LeHocky, general counsel at Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, advocates the use of early dispute resolution to keep costs down and prevent disputes from, in his words, "metastasizing". As LeHocky explains,

...Litigation costs typically account for the biggest portion of expenditures that companies spend on outside counsel. And the proper management of disputes is in turn the biggest cost control opportunity most companies have before them...

... I actively pursue a package of early dispute resolution tools -- starting with a disciplined internal review process and the use of mediation and other ADR devices regardless of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of the positions of each dispute matter. I have served as a mediator for the federal courts for 10 years -- one of my few pro bono activities now that my kids are grown up enough that I can stop coaching soccer teams. That experience, together with my background in private practice, has transformed my thinking about how disputes arise and, more importantly, how they grow and metastasize unnecessarily.

More often than not, disputes go on longer than they should and become bigger than they need to be due to misunderstandings as to facts as much as legal issues. Sorting those items out as soon as possible is the best for everyone concerned and helps to avoid the unnecessary buildup of litigation fees and other costs. That doesn't mean we don't litigate. We do so when the situation warrants and we use the best and the brightest lawyers. But that happens only after we have pursued the early dispute resolution path in rigorous fashion.

With thanks to Stephanie West Allen who pointed me to the post on the excellent blog Law Department Management linking to the interview.)

Chicken peacekeepers mediate bunny turf war

Chickens mediate bunny turf warHere in Massachusetts, although technically it's Tuesday, today is our work week Monday. How come? Yesterday was Patriots' Day, a state holiday which commemorates the battles of Lexington and Concord in the American Revolutionary War (and not New England's favorite football franchise).

Therefore, here's a Monday-style work-day distraction for mediators: a video of two chickens breaking up a fight between two rabbits.

(Hat tip to Kottke.org.)

Blawg Review #104 is no shaggy dog story

Rosemary the dog blogs at this week's Blawg ReviewThis week's Blawg Review, the weekly review of the best in law blogging, is hosted this week by Rosemary the dog, filling in for her human, attorney Sheryl Schelin who blogs at the SC Employment Law Blog.

As usual, Blawg Review #104 links to some interesting posts, including Stephanie West Allen's interview with Mohammadreza Hojat on the empathy of service professionals as part of her series of interviews with thinkers and practitioners with ideas to inspire the work of both lawyers and mediators.

Good dog, Rosemary--here's a cookie!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Mapping the crisis in Darfur with Google Earth

Mapping the HolocaustIn an effort to raise public awareness of one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has partnered with Google as part of an extraordinary project using Google Earth technology to map the atrocities in Darfur. From the USHMM web site:
Crisis in Darfur enables more than 200 million Google Earth users worldwide to visualize and better understand the genocide currently unfolding in Darfur, Sudan. The Museum has assembled content—photographs, data, and eyewitness testimony—from a number of sources that are brought together for the first time in Google Earth.

Crisis in Darfur is the first project of the Museum's Genocide Prevention Mapping Initiative that will over time include information on potential genocides allowing citizens, governments, and institutions to access information on atrocities in their nascent stages and respond.
You can download Google Earth along with the Crisis in Darfur layers at USHMM.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The answer is still no to "Getting to Yes": what one conservative commentator says about the anti-bullying movement

no thanks to getting to yesRecently I looked at why the world--or least America--has not yet gotten to yes. I described the cultural forces that resist mightily the logic and common sense of principled negotiation and are deeply distrustful of peacebuilding, collaboration, and dialogue.

I offer you yet one more example: a transcript of right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments on a recently released study on workplace bullying.

Here's a sample--and it's classic Limbaugh all the way:
There's nothing new in any of this and all of these are obstacles that countless gazillions of people have overcome throughout life in the history of human civilization. Study Reveals Widespread Office Bullying! I know exactly what this is. I know exactly. It's a bunch of liberals behind this, a bunch of pantywaist, limp-wristed, linguini-spined liberals who are out there trying to work their magic and reorder the basic tenets of human nature, which is largely what a lot of liberalism attempts to do.
I'd add more, but these limp wrists make it awfully hard to type.

A visual metaphor for argument

Locked antlersFrom the storage vaults at the Smithsonian Institute: two pairs of elk horns locked together tell a tragic tale. Two elks, butting heads, entangled their horns.

Unable to free themselves, they both perished.

(Thanks to Boing Boing.)

Monday, April 09, 2007

It's not really a code, they're more like guidelines: Will bloggers accept a code of conduct?

Proposed Blogger Code of ConductThe blogosphere's buzzing over a proposed code of conduct for bloggers that seeks to strike a balance between frank conversation and civility.

This is a collaborative exercise of course in the best spirit of Web 2.0, and bloggers are invited to submit their comments or otherwise to participate in developing this proposed code.

Bloggers have already raised some fair criticisms with the proposed code, including A-listers Jason Kottke and Cory Doctorow, and no doubt others will be weighing in.

In the meantime, we'll just have to wait to see whether the blogging world is ready for its own "No Asshole Rule".

Batter up at Blawg Review #103

Rounding the bases at Blawg Review #103Grab yourself some peanuts and Cracker Jack: Baseball is the theme at this week's Blawg Review, the weekly review of legal blogging hosted each week at a different law blog. Calling balls and strikes at Blawg Review #103 is Jonathan Frieden at E-Commerce Law.

Among the posts linked to are two that particularly caught my attention: one story about jurors compromising and another one about a first-year property law class creatively using Second Life to learn real-world lessons.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Are mediators hindering a civil right to counsel? One scholar says yes

Are mediators hindering a civil right to counsel?It behooves all of us who serve in a profession to pay attention to the way our work is perceived or our profession characterized. In particular we should heed the criticisms, whether just or not, that are raised about our work, so we can learn from or counter them.

Mediators may then wish to know how we are viewed by one scholar in a movement afoot here in the U.S. This movement would expand the right to counsel in criminal cases to civil litigation. It comes in response to a challenge that many in the legal community recognize but do not always agree how best to address: the rising number of pro se litigants in civil and family court cases.

This civil right to counsel is known as "Civil Gideon", after the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Gideon v. Wainwright, which affirmed the right of an indigent person to have the assistance of counsel in a criminal trial. (Retired mediator and attorney David Giacalone introduced me and other readers of the blog shlep to this movement.)

Acceptance for the notion of a civil right to counsel will come about only through cultural change in the halls of justice and among the players there, according to one of its proponents, Russell Engler, a Professor at New England School of Law. In his 2006 article, "Shaping a Context-Based Civil Gideon from the Dynamics of Social Change" (downloadable in PDF from SSRN), Professor Engler describes the actions of those standing in the way of progress thus:

In the courtroom, court personnel, including the judges, will likely encourage the unrepresented litigant to settle the case. That, in turn, may require the litigant to go to the hallway to negotiate with the lawyer, or to resort to some form of court-based mediation. The hallway negotiations are rife with instances of overreaching and unethical behavior by lawyers, unmonitored and unpunished by a legal system that depends on a high settlement rate. Where the litigants resist settlement, strong words from the judges, mediators or lawyers eventually induce litigants to settle. Few civil cases are tried, and most settlements involving the unrepresented poor occur with a minimum of judicial involvement. [Id. at 2.]

Even acknowledging variations in behavior and changes over time, it is difficult to overstate the extent to which judges, court-connected mediators, clerks, court administrators, and the bar's rank and file are hindering the expansion of a right to counsel in transacting their daily business. While many in those ranks are focused on the "problem" of unrepresented litigants, it would be a mistake to assume that those players are natural allies in Civil Gideon initiatives. [Id. at 3.]
(Emphasis mine.)

My first reaction was to feel outraged by this portrayal of our profession as intentional actors in an assault on justice. In my view such sweeping generalizations smear those whose support is most needed and ignore the efforts that many in our profession make to advance justice. (And never mind the insult to the many judges, clerk magistrates, and lawyers I have seen over the years who bend over backward to accommodate pro se litigants and treat them with fairness and respect.)

This is particularly true when so many mediators, particularly those in the nonprofit community mediation programs serving courts where the indigent pro se seem so overrepresented, know all too well the dangers such litigants face. Many mediators care passionately about justice and take such concerns seriously. Here in Massachusetts, our Supreme Judicial Court promulgated rules that prohibit exactly the sort of conduct on the part of mediators that Engler criticizes--rules which mediators helped create incidentally. The Uniform Rules of Dispute Resolution, Rule 9(c)(iii), provides:

Where a party is unrepresented by counsel and where the neutral believes that independent legal counsel and/or independent expert information or advice is needed to reach an informed agreement or to protect the rights of one or more of the parties, the neutral shall so inform the party or parties.
Other sections of Rule 9(c) emphasize the voluntary nature of mediation and prohibit coercion by the mediator:

(v) The neutral shall inform the parties of their right to withdraw from the process at any time and for any reason, except as is provided by law or court rule.

(vi) In mediation, case evaluation, and other processes whose outcome depends upon the agreement of the parties, the neutral shall not coerce the parties in any manner to reach agreement.
Similar safeguards exist in other states as well.

As I said, though, that was my first reaction. My second reaction was different.

I thought to myself, Engler has a point.

You and I both know that not every mediator heeds these ethical rules. I have known of mediators (yes, community mediators among them) who routinely browbeat pro se parties into settling. I have met mediators who care more about settlement rates than trivialities like informed consent or the satisfaction of the parties in the outcome. And in a recent conversation with another mediator about informed consent, I was surprised to hear that mediator express horror at the thought of encouraging a party confused by a legal issue to seek advice from a lawyer. (Encouraging them to go to an accountant for advice on a tax issue would be okay, however.) "It's against the spirit of mediation to involve lawyers!" they argued. This view incidentally is not an uncommon one.

I am not arguing here in favor of Civil Gideon. I don't know yet whether I support it or not. I am concerned that it focuses only on the indigent, when so many of the middle class cannot afford legal services either. I also don't think that being represented by counsel is any guarantee that you'll negotiate more effectively at the mediation table or even fare better in court--I have seen my share of unrepresented people outbargain a supposedly more sophisticated opponent with counsel, as well as people whose best interests were ignored by their lawyers. And the problem may also not be that pro se litigants are pressured to accept settlements they should not. On the contrary, I have seen pro se litigants walk away from fair settlements to defeat in court later, simply because they lacked legal advice to recognize that settlement as a fair one. And I personally would rather see this energy channeled against tort reform, before the case for a civil right to counsel becomes moot. But these are concerns well beyond the scope of this post.

I share Engler's viewpoint with you, my colleagues, to invite us all to reflect on our role at the table. He raises questions we should stop and face.

Is our goal to settle cases? Or is it to advance justice? Perhaps we can achieve both.

But let us be careful--very careful--not to mistake the first for the second.

Building peace through citizen media: a blogger's call for action

Peace through citizen journalismI am sorry that my schedule won't allow me to attend the upcoming Fifth International Forum on Online Dispute Resolution which will be held in Liverpool, England, on April 19-20, 2007. I would have liked the opportunity to meet innovative thinker and agent for progressive change, Sanjana Hattotuwa, who will be among the speakers.

Fortunately for us, Sanjana does some of his best thinking out loud at his blog, ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT stands for information communications technology).

While much of Sanjana's efforts focus on Sri Lanka, his words and work have universal application. His writing speaks global truths. His most recent post exemplifies this: it is an impassioned and eloquent call for citizen journalism.

Anyone who cares about participatory democracy and a responsible media should listen closely.

Communication breakdown: a graphic representation of dialogue

05opart-largeAppearing on the op-ed page of the April 4 New York Times was this illustration by Paula Scher depicting the life cycle of a blog post. It actually resembles many efforts at public discourse, particularly those of a political nature.

Familiar points include "present factoids that counter thesis", "impugn the character of thesis author", "impugn character of anyone who even considered agreeing," "criticize the character of those who repudiated the character of those who agreed," and "denounce all dissenters of thesis".

Yup, that sounds about right.

(Hat tip to Kottke.org.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Getting directions: what maps show us about ourselves and our world

The geography of conflictAn ongoing fascination for me is the way in which maps reflect our understanding of the world around us, reveal our cultural biases, record human history, or chart the geography of conflict.

If you share my fascination, then allow me to recommend to you strange maps, a blog which collects unusual maps portraying places that are real or exist only in the cartographer's imagination. A recent posting included this one depicting a "culture wars" battleground: where and how evolution is taught in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Bill Warters at Campus ADR Tech Blog links to "Baghdad: Mapping the Violence," a BBC News animated map depicting the violence in Baghdad since May 2003 when the U.S. declared the end to major combat operations.

World Directory of ADR Blogs adds its first Belgian mediation blog

First Belgian mediation blog!Important correction! Online Guide to Mediation and the World Directory of ADR Blogs nearly caused an international incident! I had originally reported that the World Directory had added its first French blog. In fact, it is it's first Belgian blog. Mon dieu! Une erreur très embarrassante! Fortunately the blogger, mediator Dominique Foucart, charmingly and most graciously pointed out this regretful faux pas. I appreciate his understanding and hasten to correct my error here.

It's exciting in any event to announce now not just one but two firsts for the Directory: its first French language blog and its first Belgian blog. Even better! Merci beaucoup, Dominique!



I am delighted to announce that the World Directory of Alternative Dispute Resolution Blogs, my ongoing global blog project, has added its first Belgian blog.

Le journal d'un démarieur is published by Dominique Foucart, a mediator in family, civil, and commercial disputes. The goal of this blog, whose tag line is "Divorcer n'est jamais simple… la médiation peut vous aider," is to share experiences in and reflections on family mediation practice, as well as to spread awareness of the benefits of mediation as a meaningful alternative to court.

Bienvenue to the ADR blogosphere to Dominique.

If you wish to add your blog or someone else's to the World Directory of ADR Blogs, please let me know. It's a commercial-free site, and there is no cost to be listed. I am especially interested in leads on ADR blogs outside the U.S. and Canada. If you know of any, I hope you'll get in touch. The Directory has information on submitting your blog and submission guidelines.

Many thanks to to my friend Christoph Stroyer, a mediator, attorney, and blogger in Germany, for letting me know about this new blog.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

ABA establishes Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance

Committee on ethics provides direction for mediatorsThe American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution has announced the establishment of a Committee on Mediator Ethical Guidance.

Mediators are invited to submit to the Committee inquiries regarding ethical issues arising out of the practice of mediation, which will provide advisory responses.

According to Section Chair John Bickerman:
There is no greater way for consumers to have confidence in the services that mediators provide them then to know that mediators are following the ethical duties of their profession. As the leader in policy and practice in the field of dispute resolution, the DR Section is pleased to be able to provide guidance to mediators, the parties and lawyers who use their services.
Full details are available at the ABA web site.

(A big hat tip to Geoff Sharp.)

Crossing the line: When do we stop being bystanders?

When do we stop standing by?Having written about bystander nonintervention just last week, I have my own bystander experience to describe to you.



I was counting myself lucky to get a seat in the crush of the rush hour subway train out of Government Center. I was about to bury my head in a book when I saw her.

She swayed unsteadily on her feet, leaning hard against the door to the subway car. In swollen red hands, she clutched a bottle of Dr. Pepper and a plastic shopping bag. Her fingers fumbled clumsily at the handles of the plastic bag, try to shift its weight off her wrist. She tried to lift a stubbed-out cigarette butt to her lips, but there was something wrong with her aim--she kept missing her mouth until finally she gave up.

A row of nickel-plated rivets marched up the sides of her bellbottom jeans. She was about the age of my 20-year-old son.

And that's when I realized that she was high.

As the train sped along, her eyes closed as she leaned back against the door, rocking with the motion of the car. Slowly, slowly, her head nodded and then fell far forward. Just as the rest of her was about to follow, she snapped her head up, waking in time to pull herself up. Her mouth hung open.

All the way past Maverick and Airport she swayed, her head falling forward, eyes shut tight, nodding off and losing balance, then jerking upright. Just when I thought she'd collapse in a heap on the subway car floor, some internal force would shake her and pull her up. The other passengers either ignored her or pointed at her, laughing quietly among themselves. The woman next to me met my eyes and shook her head in disapproval.

I was about to stand to offer her my seat at least, insist she sit down, when some homing instinct alerted her that her stop was next. The train stopped, the doors slid open, and she stumbled outside onto the platform. As the doors closed, and the train pulled away, she stood looking dazed as if uncertain where she was and thinking was too great an effort. She leaned against a metal fence and sank to the platform, her eyes closed. That was the last I saw of her.

I was the only one who watched her leave.

For the rest of the ride home and well into the evening, and even now, days later, I asked myself what I should have done. I had sat there, watching as this woman, this girl really, my son's age, placed herself in harm's way. I had sat there, wondering what to do, paralyzed by indecision. A thousand things went through my mind. Did she need medical attention? How would she get home? Did she even have a home? Despite the rough-looking hands, her nails bore signs of a recent manicure and her eyebrows were painstakingly plucked. She must have had a home. But would she get there safely? In that state she was vulnerable--to sexual assault, physical abuse, worse. I wanted to do something, but I didn't know what.

And to tell you the truth, I was afraid. If I'd offered to help somehow, would she have turned angry, violent even? What if somehow I made things worse?

But this was someone's daughter, someone's sister. There but for the grace of God go any of us or anyone we love.

At what point should we cease being bystanders? At what point do we take responsibility for others? At what point do we get involved?

And why do I feel the need to assert my own anti-bystander credentials in telling you this story? I am the kind of person who stops at accident scenes on highways to render aid and give the homeless along Park Street money, coffee, and food. I have come to the rescue of lost toddlers in shopping malls and runaway dogs in the street.

So why was this different? Why did I do nothing this time? And what will I do next time?

What about you? What will you do?

Will you stand by? Or will you stand up?

Idealawg, celebrating the art and life in law, turns one

Idealawg turns oneIdealawg, published by Renaissance soul Stephanie West Allen and celebrating a year of blogging, brings fresh revelations and insights into the practice of law. Through her writing, Stephanie reveals its artistry and celebrates all that is good and noble in it.

I had this to say about this remarkable blog last October, and I repeat it now to convey to you the alchemy that Stephanie works through her writing:
The Internet is a place of continuous discovery. At once marketplace, library, and public square, its wealth of voices, viewpoints, and ideas never ceases to delight and enlighten me.

Although the pleasures of new discoveries are great, there are places on the web that I find myself returning to often, just as any of us do in the real world we inhabit. One of these for me is the blog
Idealawg, published by Stephanie West Allen. With an original voice, this blog explores and reveals the art within the practice of law. It skillfully traverses ground as well that mediators will feel at home in--idea productivity, restorative justice, conflict resolution, client relations, and, of course, mediation.
Congratulations, Stephanie. I am fortunate to count on you as friend.

Keeping focus on people and doing one thing well keeps a local small business going

A tribute to a small local businessIt looks shabby and neglected, the street the little store stands on. So narrow, it could easily be mistaken for an alleyway, the street runs perpendicular between two bustling roads, Tremont Street above and Washington Street below. Boarded up store fronts, trash the wind wraps around your ankles, and pedestrians hurrying through with their collars turned up against the chill, make it seem unwelcoming and a little sad.

It's the kind of street you might understandably avoid or easily miss. Which would be a shame, because you'd miss out on an other-century treasure--the Bromfield Pen Shop, a store that remains devoted to analog in a digital age.

There are still enough people who appreciate the feel of a pen in their hands, who take pleasure in watching ink flow across creamy paper, to keep the doors of this extraordinary little store open. And pen lovers are drawn there not only by its old-world charm but also by its tradition of excellent customer service. Those of you who shun the big-box stores and patronize your town's corner bookshop or the locally owned hardware store will understand.

Unlike its closest competitors Staples and OfficeMax, the store is on a human scale. Everything is within reach. It is quiet, too, in the way in which libraries and museums are quiet. There is a sense of reverence for both the goods on sale and for the people who will use them. I used to go there between classes at law school for its contemplative silence and for the beauty of the pens gleaming softly in the glass cases.

I was therefore pleased to see that Sam Allis, columnist for the Boston Globe, has published "The Write Stuff", a delightful little valentine to this old-fashioned store where people still count. And if you're ever in Boston, you'll have to be sure to drop in.

Fooling around at this week's Blawg Review

Blawg Review salutes April Fool's DayIn honor of April Fool's Day, the weekly review of the best in law blogging, Blawg Review, comes to us courtesy of host George M. Wallace in a special double album set: Blawg Review #102 at Declarations and Exclusions and a special Blawg Review prequel at Wallace's personal and cultural web journal, a fool in the forest.

Engaging Conflict marks full year of blogging

Engaging ConflictCongratulations and best wishes to my friend Gini Nelson on the first anniversary of her blog, Engaging Conflicts, which explores themes of "Science, Ethics, and Spirit In A High Conflict Practice".

It seems like only yesterday that I welcomed Gini to the ADR blogosphere. Gini is a wise, warm, welcoming soul who makes this corner of the internet the friendly neighborhood it is.

Many happy returns, Gini!