There is an alternative to spending every penny you have on a legal battle. Below is a classic story illustrating what occurs in a typical dispute:
On a hot summer day two people began fighting over the same orange. They kept fighting and arguing over who would get the single orange. Finally, they decided to cut the orange in half and go their separate ways. As they walked in opposite directions one of them peeled the orange, threw away the peel, and ate the tasty fruit inside. The other person peeled the orange and threw away the fruit, because she only wanted the peel in order to add it to some ice tea that was already made.
This story represents what often occurs in a legal (or any other) battle. People frequently become so attached to their “positions” that they lose sight of their “interests.” If they took a few minutes to explore their motivations, a solution that benefits both sides can usually be found.
Traditional legal fights are viewed as “zero-sum” or “win-lose” propositions because most law schools only teach attorneys how to fight and defend their positions, not how to problem solve. The end result is that two people go into court and one walks out the “winner,” one walks out the “loser.”
Interest based problem solving is a skill that attorneys must desire to have, and they must seek out that training on their own. Consequently, most attorneys are only familiar with “positional based” arguing, which most often results in additional fighting and money spent by both sides.
Interest based problem solving approaches a legal problem from a different perspective. It is often known as “Interest-Based Problem Solving,” “Best Practice or Integrative Bargaining,” or “Win-Win” bargaining. No matter what you call it, interest based problem solving offers parties more flexibility than traditional positional bargaining.
Unlike traditional legal battles, where the parties begin with predetermined positions on items and issues, interest based problem solving begins with both sides first seeking to fully understand the issue or problem. Next, they identify their underlying interests and the underlying interests of the other side. Often, parties discover that their interests are similar and that both sides are trying to achieve the same goal but just taking different approaches. After identifying interests, the parties can generate options that satisfy their needs. Options are evaluated according to the parties’ criteria, so the solutions work well for both sides.
Parties who use interest based problem solving have learned that negotiated outcomes tend to address their specific issues much better than decisions made by a Judge that they have no control over. Interest based problem solving is also much less expensive than fighting a long drawn out legal battle. Of course, if a party or their attorney refuses to consider interest based problem solving they can always move forward with their legal battle. However, they usually find out at the end that they did not come out any better but instead spent a lot more money in the process.