Thursday, July 3

The problem with conference calls

I do a lot of conference calls. They are often tense, being the first time counsel have met outside the litigation arena.

Most of the time I meet counsel ahead of time on a 10 minute call and nail down the logistics of the mediation ('let's meet in this city/this law firm - city/my firm is nicer/closer/easier to get to...') and iron out any wrinkles ('if you bring X, that's a problem for my people...').

Because I have a dial-in facility, participants can call in from anywhere - and do.

Like the time one attorney made a point of saying he was calling in from his office, but when the ironing board on which he had placed the phone at his batch (holiday house) collapsed and the dog started barking, he had no where to go.


Anonymous said...


I also hold calls before a mediation to ensure proper info exchange (I like to allow people time to digest info so that they can make non-rushed/forced decisions at the mediation) and to arrange the logistics. I also use a dial-in facility.

The funniest call I can remember was one attorney who called in was on his way to his gun club for target practice. I told him he was not allowed to bring any guns to the mediation.

Anonymous said...

Geoff, Marvin's story reminds me of one of my own. A while back I was asked to mediate a long festering dispute - a power struggle really - between two groups in a security / law enforcement organization (that shall remain nameless). I held preliminary caucuses with each group and, among other things, talked about the importance of high expectations at the outset of the mediation process. At the end of the caucus session, mindful of the context, the high emotional content of the dispute and certain horror stories I'd heard of mediations gone badly wrong, I said, "I'm assuming no one here is armed, right?". One of the group immediately responded, "So much for high expectations."

No, we didn't settle that day.

Anonymous said...

I have stopped having conference calls as the first ocassion for contact among the parties prior to a commercial mediation. I prefer to first have a confidential phone call with each attorney so I can begin to learn the real dynamics of the dispute. You seldom learn about that in a public conference call. I may use a conference call with all the attorneys if there are complicated scheduling issues. However, scheduling is often done better by e-mail.

Paul Lurie