The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law November 2010
ADR @ Moritz

Lawrence Negotiation Lecture Speaker Encourages Students to Be Collaborative

Pauline Tessler

"As lawyers, we spend 99% of our time preparing for something – litigation – that we don’t want to happen." With these words, Pauline Tesler, the speaker for the 2010 Lawrence Negotiation Lecture, challenged the assembled students and faculty to consider a different approach to client’s legal problems – one that is known as collaborative lawyering.

The hallmark of collaborative law, according to Tesler, is the upfront commitment by the lawyer that they "will not pass through the courthouse doors." This commitment changes the way that lawyers practice, claims Tesler, forcing both the lawyers and the clients to work together more closely, and towards a solution that better meets the clients’ interests. Long practiced in the family law arena, particularly with divorcing couples, idea is now spreading to other areas of the law, including corporate and business issues.

Ms. Tesler is very familiar with the collaborative law setting, having been a pioneer in the collaborative law movement for many years. Since 1996 she has solely practiced in collaborative representation and consultation. In addition to speaking widely and writing about collaborative law, Ms. Tesler provides mentoring, coaching, and case consultation to lawyers across North America and in Europe who are learning how to practice collaboratively. She co-founded the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and served as its first President and chair of its Standards Committee. In August, 2002, Ms. Tesler was co-recipient of the first American Bar Association, "Lawyer as Problem Solver" award.

In addition to a focus on the legal issues involved, Ms. Tesler augmented her talk with the latest neurobiological research, such as the fact that when clients are in a crisis situation, like a divorce, their ability to reason actually drops, putting them in a “temporarily impaired state.” To combat this, collaborative lawyers often work with a team of other professionals, including psychologists, to help solve the client’s problems in a holistic manner.

"Having Pauline Tesler as our speaker was a special treat. Her knowledge and depth of experience in the collaborative law field is unparalleled. She was able to provide the students with a unique perspective on a field of law that is growing, and that they will encounter in their practice," said Professor Sarah Cole, Director of the Alternative Dispute Resolution program at Moritz.

Student reaction was also positive. “I really liked hearing Ms. Tesler speak. I had not heard of collaborative law before, and it was great to see an innovative way that dispute resolution skills can be used to help clients. It made me want to look in to it further,” remarked Maureen Fulton, ’12.

The annual Lawrence Negotiation Lecture was held this year on September 30th at Moritz. The Lecture is associated with the Lawrence Negotiation Competition, and each year features a speaker with a distinguished career as a negotiator. The Lecture and Competition are made possible through the generosity of James K.L. Lawrence, ’65.

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The Caucus, the newsletter published by the Moritz Program on Dispute Resolution, is designed to share ADR news with the Moritz community and beyond, as well as provide Moritz students with information regarding externship and employment opportunities. Questions regarding this publication should be directed to Erin Archerd, Langdon Fellow in Dispute Resolution.