M a r k K. A m e l i
Attorney at Law
Mediator / Arbitrator
A Primer on Cross Cultural Dispute Resolution
Why is it so difficult for a litigator to bring matters to a resolution? Even very successful litigators
may not be able to resolve their cases amicably while a mediator can do so in a short time. As a
litigator for many years and after discussions with other litigators regarding alternative dispute
resolution I have been able to discover certain truths.
1. As an advocate, it is difficult to consider the other side of the case and understand the
position that the other side is adopting. In fact, an attorney must forcefully promote his
client’s position and consider the other side only if it is beneficial to his client’s cause.
2. Litigators become so involved in the legal and factual issues of the case that they forget to
consider the human parties involved. There may be opportunities to resolve a case
amicably which would be overlooked because of the focus on legal and factual issues.
3. At times, when members of different cultures are involved in a dispute, a litigator would
not look beyond the legal issues in the case to discover whether there were any cultural
issues which may have caused or contributed to the dispute. If an attorney did so, he or she
may have been able to resolve the dispute earlier and may have been able to perform a real
service to his or her client.
These truths caused me to conduct a study on the effects of culture on disputes and the possibility of
resolving disputes through an understanding of such cultural effects.
A search of the literature reveals that during the past several years, there has been a growing
understanding that cultural differences could be a cause of or a contributing factor to conflicts and
therefore, resolution of such conflicts would depend upon the ability of the mediator to understand the
culture and be able to use that understanding to resolve the conflict. However, there are those who
attach less significance to the effects of culture on negotiations and therefore mediation than others.
In an article published in 2005 by Harvard Business School Publishing (1), entitled “What’s Lost in
Translation,” Lawrence Susskind, a prominent professor on negotiations, puts forth the argument that
“Cultural Norms may be less significant than we think.” As a basis for this argument, he states that
“According to the prevailing view in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Americans seeking to make deals
overseas should negotiate in their usual style and let others adapt. “It soon became clear that holding
fast to one's traditional approach to negotiation in cross-cultural contexts would not help parties
Read more at: http://ddrllc.org/Newsletter/A%20Primer%20on%20Cross%20Cultural%20Dispute%20Resolution.pdf