Kaplan Lecture features understanding-based, non-caucus mediation model By Tracy Carbasho Legal professionals who attended the Seventh Annual Lawrence W. Kaplan Lecture in Conflict Resolution were introduced to a special understanding-based model of mediation. The May 18 lecture featured guest speaker Jack Himmelstein, who presented "Challenging Conflict: Mediation through Understanding." He is co-founder and co-director of the Center for Understanding in Conflict, a New York City-based non-profit institute that trains lawyers and other professionals in the understanding-based approach to resolving conflict. "He was a good choice for this year's Kaplan Lecture because local mediators often use a caucus model of mediation which involves the mediator meeting with both parties separately," said Mary Kate Coleman, who chairs the Allegheny County Bar Association's Alternate Dispute Resolution Committee. "Mr. Himmelstein's model of mediation is a non-caucus model in which the mediator works with the parties and their attorneys together without separate caucuses. I think there are benefits to his model which are good to consider for future use in the appropriate case." Himmelstein has spent 25 years conducting introductory and advanced training sessions throughout the United States, Europe, and Israel to help lawyers, judges, psychologists, social workers, and others understand the non-caucus approach. "Mediators often assume that the parties and their counsel do not want to work together, and therefore, keep the parties apart," he said. "Many parties and their counsel simply accept that they will not work together and that the mediator will be responsible for crafting the solution. However, once educated about how staying in the same room might be valuable, many are motivated to try it. If the parties and the mediator are willing, working together can be as rewarding as it is demanding." Coleman, an attorney, mediator, and arbitrator with Riley, Hewitt, White & Romano, said she has received positive feedback from many of the individuals who attended the lecture. Himmelstein's use of a video excerpt and interactive exercises captured the attention of the more than 60 people who attended. "We participated in a looping exercise to demonstrate the technique that he uses. This exercise involved having the audience members select a partner, listen to what the partner was saying, and repeat it back to the partner, demonstrating that the listener heard what the partner was saying," explained Coleman. "The partner then indicated whether or not what was said was correct. The program was very interactive in that Mr. Himmelstein answered many questions from the audience." The video excerpt showed Gary Friedman, who co-authored the book Challenging Conflict: Mediation through Understanding with Himmelstein, conducting a mediation session using the non-caucus model. In particular, it demonstrated how the model could be used in a commercial dispute. "I also liked Mr. Himmelstein's depiction of an iceberg to illustrate the point that the mediator should not rush the parties to a solution," added Coleman. "His slide showed the tip of the iceberg coming out of the ocean, but also a huge mass of ice under the ocean that was hidden from the eye's view. The slide was used to illustrate the point that there are often things beneath the surface of the disagreement that have to be talked about or resolved before the matter is truly resolved." Coleman stressed that obtaining the appropriate buy-in from all parties and their attorneys is vital to the success of this type of mediation. Himmelstein said there are four core principles upon which the non-caucus mediation model is built. They include the following:  The parties rely heavily on the power of understanding rather than coercion or persuasion to drive the process;  The parties assume the primary responsibility for whether and how the dispute is resolved;  The parties are best served by working together and making decisions together; and  Conflicts are best resolved by uncovering facts beneath the level at which the parties experience the problem. "This approach builds upon the motivations of both the mediator and the parties to work in this different way. That motivation is often there once the parties see the possibility," said Himmelstein. "But they will only be open to seeing it, if mediators create a context where the possibility of working in this different way can be evoked." n