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Neuro-Collaboration: How New Perspectives from the Neurosciences Can Enhance Your Collaborative Conflict Resolution Skills

Faculty: Pauline H. Tesler, M.A., J.D. and Thomas Lewis, M.D.

(Approved for 18 hours of California CFLS (Certified Family Law Specialist) credit, including 18 credit hours for psychological and counseling aspects of family law)

Intended for both beginning and experienced collaborative lawyers, this course integrates cutting-edge neuroscientific models of human emotion and behavior with the practical realities of interdisciplinary team collaborative divorce practice. We will describe, illustrate and demonstrate how a fuller understanding of the neurobiological forces that influence us and our clients can help them and their professional team participate more effectively in the collaborative process.

The course will provide participants with a detailed and practical understanding of how grief, trauma, and other strong emotional processes associated with the loss of the primary intimate pair bond can impair our clients' ability to participate effectively in conflict resolution. We will also examine how a number of powerful pro-social emotional mechanisms, including trust, empathy, and the drive toward fairness can, if properly recruited, enhance the likelihood of arriving at a resolution that is durable and fully satisfying to the parties.
The focus is on taking theoretical and research-related understandings from neurobiology, neuroeconomics, social psychology, and neuroethics, and applying them to improve the quality and effectiveness of our work as collaborative conflict resolution professionals.

What you will learn:

  • The degree to which our internalized collaborative conflict resolution model is based on an inaccurate understanding of how human beings actually make decisions, and how that misperception can contribute to sub-optimal process management in collaborative cases.
  • The impact of grief and loss on the physical and mental health of members of divorcing families, and how these processes affect client functionality in the setting of collaborative conflict resolution.
  • How collaborative professionals can build better empathic skills for enhanced awareness of the emotional states of our clients (and colleagues), while avoiding being flooded by the emotions of others, and maintaining the balance required for effective conflict resolution work.
  • The inherent power dynamics of the lawyer-client relationship, even in collaborative practice, and how this reality influences client choices in ways not readily apparent to either lawyer or client.
  • How unnoticed power dynamics on the collaborative divorce professional team can decrease positive functionality of the collaborative conflict resolution system, and how to make such systems more functional.
  • How the representation of language and metaphor in the brain influences client behavior, and how careful attention to the metaphorical processes at play can help us manage conflict and facilitate resolution.
  • What we can learn from neuroeconomics about "getting to the deal" how apparently rational decisions are influenced by emotion, "priming" and other non-rational factors, and how we can use that reality to support constructive conflict resolution.

Pauline Tesler is a leading pioneer in the international collaborative law movement. She cofounded the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and was its first president. She is also cofounder and first coeditor of The Collaborative Review. Her extensive writings include Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce Without Litigation (ABA, 2008) and Collaborative Divorce: The Revolutionary New Way to Restructure Your Family, Resolve Legal Issues, and Move on with Your Life (HarperCollins, 2006). Recipient of the first ABA Lawyer as Problem Solver award in 2002, Ms. Tesler has trained thousands of lawyers and other professionals in effective collaborative practice, in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, and is about to offer initial trainings in Israel.

Thomas Lewis is a physician, writer, and an expert on the intersection between neuroscience and human experience. An assistant clinical professor at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine and professor at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco, Dr. Lewis has written and lectured extensively on the neuroscience of human relationships, emotion, and empathy. He is one of the authors of A General Theory of Love (Random House, 2000), described by the Washington Post as "a rare example of the fusing of scientific rigor with literary eloquence." His most recent course at USF has explored the neural basis of human morality.