Monday, February 27, 2012

ENE - Early Neutral Evaluation

Perhaps because of the still struggling economy or the realization during the recession that the cost of litigation is not trivial, Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) as a form of ADR has returned. This process, popular out West, is an offshoot of mediation that puts the neutral in the role enhancing direct communication between the parties about their claims and supporting evidence. ENE can provide an assessment of the merits of the case by a neutral expert in an early "reality check" for clients and lawyers. This helps to identify and clarify the central issues in dispute, assist with discovery (including E-discovery) and can streamline case management planning. A confidential exchange of factual information can help facilitate settlement discussions, once requested by the parties. A neutral with expertise in the subject matter typically hosts an informal meeting of clients and counsel. Following presentations, the evaluator identifies areas of agreement, clarifies and focuses the issues and encourages the parties to enter into any stipulation or agreement that is feasible, including settlement. The neutral case evaluator has no power to impose settlement and may not force a party to accept any proposed terms. The parties' formal discovery, disclosure and motion practice rights are fully preserved. The confidential evaluation is non-binding and is not shared with the trial court. If no settlement is reached, the case remains in litigation, but hopefully with the litigants better informed as to the risks, work still necessary and the monetary aspects of continuing on a track toward trial. A new publication from the ABA this year on ENE outlines the process -

Thursday, February 23, 2012

There's an App for that-- Mediation

According to its developer, the PictureItSettled App helps negotiators map successful negotiation strategies, calculate moves, and graph paths to optimum settlements. The app-based software, just launched this year, is designed so litigants analyze their positions. This may not necessarily help the neutral facilitator (who may make actually better use of this as a quick reference record of negotiations). Midpoints are over-emphasized by litigants in my experience, as is bracketing as a tool, though admittedly there are times when looking at these are appropriate. By entering moves, users plot successful negotiation strategies using proprietary algorithms in the app. Currently available on the Apple iOS and Android market in a free application, the "Lite" version tracks the dollar moves in negotiations and time intervals between offers. The app then analyzes the offer history and graphs the effects of such moves on the likelihood of reaching a settlement by testing the patterns on each side. It apparently projects the expected results in measures of dollars and time commitment, which it is claimed assists parties in negotiation visualize if and when they should settle for "optimum outcome." See site:

Friday, February 17, 2012

Six Month Mediation?

A friend of mine flies for Air Canada. He has been posting about the intense labor dispute between pilots and the airline this past week. Apparently, the airline will continue operating while a six month mediation ensues. Air Canada and its pilots' union agreed to submit to a an extended mediation process while they negotiate so there will be no disruptions in service. The positions of the parties have been characterized publicly as "really far apart." While acquiescing to a lengthy mediation, it does not mean either side is surrendering its right to give notice of a strike or lockout during the six months. But the sides state that prospect is highly unlikely in the short term as the mediation process gets underway. Typical issues of pay, pensions and a new low-cost carrier plan, will be discussed. Reportedly, Air Canada has dedicated about 60 staff and nearly 30 consultants and lawyers to devise a plan for a low-cost airline and is seeking a foreign airline as a minority partner. It just seems like an awful long time (without typical external pressures like losing the season such as in the recent sports league mediations) to get a deal struck. See article -

Thursday, February 9, 2012

$25B Settlement on Foreclosure Abuses

Today, federal officials announced a $25 billion settlement with the five largest mortgage lenders over foreclosure abuses. The deal requires the banks to reduce some loans, send out small checks to foreclosed folks, and refinance mortgages for underwater borrowers. Its being billed as the largest settlement involving a single industry since big tobacco in the late '90s. Under the agreement, which was reportedly negotiated for 16 months, B of A, Chase, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Ally will reduce loans for nearly a million households. They will also send checks for two grand to about 750,000 Americans who were improperly foreclosed upon. All but one state agreed to the deal-- Oklahoma, whose AG opposed the deal. Lenders that violate the deal could face $1 million penalties per violation and up to $5 million for repeat violators. Interestingly, homeowners can still sue lenders in civil court on their own, and federal and state authorities can pursue criminal charges. The settlement only applies to privately held mortgages issued from 2008 through 2011. Loans owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac are not impacted by this settlement. See news item from Fox here-- and website for the public here--