Pepperdine's Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution was selected to host a strategic negotiation skills training session by the Legal Aid Association of California (LAAC). LAAC is coordinating the work of several pilot projects for innovative service under the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act.
The Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act Selection Committee chose nine pilot projects from around the state in the spring of 2011. With a focus on low-income individuals and families, the five housing projects were designed to fund legal projects within low-income communities to address homelessness and other housing issues. The other four projects focused on child custody and other family law matters.
With the selection of the pilot projects came LAAC's need to provide training in dispute resolution for the cohort of 40 attorneys from throughout California. In researching dispute resolution programs from across the United States, LAAC selected the Straus Institute based on strong recommendations from legal professionals.
"As we were working with the executive directors and managing attorneys of the Shriver Housing Pilot Projects, they identified that the attorneys would need negotiation training," said Salena Copeland, directing attorney for LAAC. "Many of the pilot projects include settlement negotiations as part of the process, yet some of the attorneys had not previously negotiated cases. We asked our friends in the community where we should go to get the kind of expert training that the housing attorneys demanded. We heard the Straus Institute was the place to go."
The two-day March training session focused primarily on responding to various argument tactics.
"When teaching students and professionals alike, we always look at the classic tactics in disputes," said Peter Robinson, managing director of the Straus Institute and associate professor of law. "We look at lack of authority, and the good cop, bad cop aspects. Instead of talking about the tactic itself, we talk about the ways to respond to each tactic in an effective way."
According to Copeland, the training proved to be successful.
"The glowing evaluations show that the attorneys were impressed with the experts and benefited from hands-on training," she said.
The Straus Institute also benefitted from the training.
"We were delighted to do the training and are inspired by the sacrifice and service provided by the Legal Aid community," Robinson said. "These Legal Aid attorneys provide advocacy for people who don't usually have a voice in our society. Providing access to justice for powerless people is what these lawyers do, and it is an honor to have been chosen to help guide them in their work."
Founded in 1984, the Legal Aid Association of California is a non-profit organization created for the purpose of ensuring the effective delivery of legal services to low-income and underserved people and families throughout California. LAAC is the statewide membership organization of 85 non-profit legal services organizations in the state. Our members provide high-quality legal services to our state's most vulnerable populations. These services to low-income and other underrepresented individuals form an essential safety net in California and often ensure that the programs' clients have access to life's basic necessities, such as food, safe and affordable housing, freedom from violence, health care, employment, economic self-sufficiency, and equal access to justice through the legal system.