Dwight Golann's Book on "Mediating Legal Disputes"

In 1999, CPR Institute published Kathleen Scanlon’s volume Mediator’s Deskbook.  It was (and still is) a terrific book, subsequently translated into Japanese and Chinese, but alas out of print after 11 years.  James Henry, CPR’s founder and president, thought of it as “the well-thumbed paperback that every mediator leafs through on the way to the mediation.”

In the decade since Mediator’s Handbook was published, the mediation library has grown to a scale Jim Henry could not have imagined.  These include not only excellent books, like Richard Shell’s Bargaining for Advantage and Ben Picker’s Mediation Practice Guide, but casebooks like Carrie Menkel-Meadow’s Mediation, practical innovations like Steve Brams’ The Win-Win Solution, compilations like Russ Bleemer’s Mediation Approaches and Insights, periodicals like the ABA Dispute Resolution Section’s Dispute Resolution Magazine, web sites like, and blogs like… well, modesty forbids!

It is therefore with awareness of its implications that I propose Dwight Golann’s book, Mediating Legal Disputes, to be as good a single volume for mediators as any, and far better than nearly all.

Much of the scope of the book is as one would imagine:  structuring a mediation, conducting general sessions and caucuses, proper administrative attention, dealing with radical first offers, psychological obstacles to bargaining, and so on.  But there are very few writers who are as gifted as Prof. Golann in making sure that nothing is missed out, yet all is cleanly and simply presented.  Moreover, what is particularly cool about this volume is the inclusion of a DVD in the back, showing Prof. Golann and Marjorie Corman Aaron handling various stages of a commercial mediation by way of illustrating points made in the book.  So, for example, you read a section of the text on seeking out parties’ hidden agendas, and then read: “For examples of exploring non-legal issues, see Chapters 5 and 9 of the DVD.” 

And scrumptious those DVD chapters are!  This could have been a risk, had the DVD been unprofessionally produced or amateurishly acted.  But…


Prof. Aaron co-authored Chapter 8 of the book, titled “Merits Barriers: Evaluation and Decision Analysis,” and I believe that the 15-page discussion of decision analysis (“decision trees”) is the most cogent, plain, and easy to understand of anything I’ve read on the subject.  Risk analysis is a skill that is grossly underused by advocates, neutrals, judges and clients.  Here it’s set forth so well that even Dartmouth English majors like me can get it.


About 18 months ago I read an article by Prof. Golann on tools for breaking impasse, and it so impressed me that I summarized its ideas on a single sheet of paper and carry that summary with me to every mediation I conduct.  The main ideas in that article appear in Chapter 9 of this book.  That Chapter alone is worth the price of admission.

My advice of neutrals and advocates;  Run, don’t walk.

Dwight Golann


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