Dwight Golann is professor of law at Suffolk University in Boston and a CPR panelist. This article is adapted from his book, “Mediating Legal Disputes: Effective Strategies for Lawyers and Mediators” (Aspen Law and Business/Little Brown & Co. 1996).
Before he confronted then-North Carolina Republican Sen. Jesse Helms over his nomination as ambassador to Mexico in 1997, William Weld was Massachusetts’ governor. As he implemented his conservative/libertarian philosophy, Weld clashed with a wide range of people, from state unions and social activists outraged by budget cuts to environmentalists unhappy with his highway projects. Such cases almost always involved claims of high moral principle, often accompanied by vows to fight to the death – or at least the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the same time Gov. Weld took office – which he resigned in pursuit of the ambassadorship, which Helms blocked – I became civil litigation director for the state attorney general’s office, a role that made me one of Weld’s courtroom lawyers. The attorney general, a liberal, wanted me to introduce alternative dispute resolution to the office while at the same time keeping up the morale of a group of lawyers who were notorious for their technical, aggressive style of defense.
This setting allowed me to test the popular wisdom that cases involving issues of principle cannot be mediated. It also allowed me to experiment with techniques to attempt to mediate such cases.