How Digital Menu Boards Offer a Notable ROI

A large number of restaurant and cafe owners are very happy with the performance of their digital menu boards. There are many reasons for this. The first one is that digital menu boards offer a not only more convenient solution to displaying menus but they are also more cost effective in most cases. As opposed to static menu boards, which require painting and can become quite expensive, digital ones can be updated either manually or automatically. This ensures that you will be able to enjoy a change in the content and thus your profits.

How Digital Menu Boards Offer a Notable ROI


There are two main components to think about when using digital menu boards in your business. The first is your hardware cost. This is actually the most significant factor affecting your ROI as hardware cost can easily exceed one hundred dollars per outlet. For instance, if you have 100 outlets in your restaurant and you are planning to use one single digital menu board, you have a total hardware cost of $1000. This is a rather large sum of money considering that you will only get around 25 percent of the total amount back from customers.

However, this doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to get a good return on your investment. Just imagine how much better your profits would be when using digital signage as opposed to static signs. This is exactly what some restaurant owners are doing these days. Instead of spending all their capital on the hardware alone, they are investing all their profits into improving the quality of their digital signage system. In other words, they are getting one time sales without necessarily incurring any recurring costs.

How digital menu boards offer a not only a notable return on investment but also recurring savings can be realized when you utilize them on a regular basis. It goes without saying that the more frequently you display specific information, the better chances of making sales. But how do you determine when to increase the frequency of your digital signage? Is it an on-premise or a service-based decision? Depending on the type of digital signage system that you have in place, it will largely depend on the capability of the service provider.

If you are using one that is provided by a third party vendor, the ability to change the information being displayed will be available to you. However, you would need to contact your vendor and request such a feature. The only downside to using third-party vendors is that the information that is relayed through them is generally pre-set. For instance, the restaurant name that you see during a break may already be pre-filled by the vendor. On the other hand, a hosted solution will allow you to make any changes that you deem appropriate based on current information.

Of course, there are various factors that you would need to consider. Would the frequency that you display to be dependent on the number of people who regularly visit your establishment? If so, then you should consider putting in boards at key points such as lunch hours and early mornings. Doing this would ensure that you are able to maximize the amount of revenue that you earn from these particular time slots.

Another thing to consider is how often you would want the boards to display. If you are a fast-food type of business where people order take-aways on a frequent basis, then putting up digital boards on strategic locations around the premise would be more beneficial compared to a coffee shop that offers a more leisurely dining experience. This is especially so if you want to ensure that your customers are able to pay attention to your promotions regularly.

How digital menu boards offer a notable ROI largely depends on how the advertising is managed and presented. If you want to ensure that your business gets maximum visibility, it is advisable for you to place them at strategic places within your premises. If you place them at obvious points or places that are frequented heavily, then you might not be able to draw in as many customers. Another tip that you could use is to consider limiting the color and shape variations. You can always change them later on if you feel that the demographic of your target audience changes.

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How to Generate QR Code for Your Restaurant Menu in Five Steps

How to Generate QR Code for Your Restaurant Menu in Five Steps

How to generate QR code for your restaurant menu in five steps? This is what most restaurant owners want to know because they’re interested in expanding their business with the use of mobile marketing. Mobile marketing involves using mobile devices such as smart phones, ipads, and even handheld computers to reach target customers. There are a lot of benefits to be gained from this type of marketing and this article will discuss some of these benefits in detail.

One of the primary goals of any restaurant should be to encourage repeat customers. With a good marketing campaign, you can increase the number of people who come to your restaurant each time you open and/or operate it. You can also make sure that potential customers keep coming back to your restaurant if you’ve properly promoted it among your community. The more people who know about your restaurant, the better.

There are several ways on how to generate QR codes for your restaurant menu in five steps or so. You may be wondering why the need to code up the front of your menu. The reason is that customers do not go to the restaurants to eat anymore; they go there to do the homework on what’s available to eat. And the fastest way to bring them back is by providing delicious food. Provide something that’s easy to digest, but with the right nutrition value so that they’ll continue to come back for more.

Another tip on how to generate QR codes for your restaurant menu in five steps is to add an interactive feature. This means that the website should not only contain the menu itself. It should also include some type of content and perhaps links to other sites that would cater to the customer’s needs. For example, if you’re selling flowers for the holiday season, then you can have some seasonal flowers displayed in your website. They can either be bought from your regular sales staff, or you can sell them through the site.

How to generate qr codes for your restaurant’s website can also include a section where reviews can be posted. Of course, this will depend on the particular restaurant’s niche. However, you can put up one of these sections where people can read their personal reviews about the place. The good thing about this is that the more reviews you have, the better. This will show other potential customers what kind of establishment you are. They will know if you’re a genuine business or just another website trying to sell them something.

To know how to generate a code for your restaurant’s website, make sure that the text is relevant and short. Longer text means that it’s more relevant to what people want to find out. You don’t want to provide too much information or too little so that they’re not interested in what you have to say in the first place. Of course, you do want to get as much as you can out of the code.

There is also another option on how to generate qr codes for your restaurant menu. This requires that you are a member of an affiliate program linked with a merchant. Through the link, customers who visit the merchant’s site will have a chance to purchase something. The merchant pays you a commission for this. Usually, this option includes tracking your traffic so that you can see which of your pages is attracting the most attention. Through this, you can modify your marketing strategy to make it more effective.

When you know how to generate a code for your restaurant menu in an effective way, you can easily update your current promotions. This will allow you to offer new incentives to your customers while at the same time increasing the amount of profit that you earn. By knowing how to do this, you can have your business on the go and expand your customer base with little effort. Just keep in mind that you need to be updated with the latest promotions before they’re released so that you’ll know what’s currently working and what isn’t.

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Should you update your restaurants website

As a restaurant owner, one question that you are probably being asked on a regular basis is “should you update your restaurant’s website?” If you own and operate a restaurant in Dallas Texas, or any other area for that matter, then you know how vital having an updated and current website can be. You need it to attract new customers. It also helps you communicate with your current customers. But did you also know that you could actually save money by updating the content of your website? Let’s look at some of the different ways that can help you do just that.

Should you update your restaurants website

One of the most important things that a good food website will have to offer is the latest menus and special offerings. This is the place where you will be able to make changes to how your business operates. For example, if you currently offer a pasta recipe book, you can easily find a similar one online to make your pasta creations easier. The internet makes it easy for you to find recipes that are both delicious and budget friendly. This way, your guests will always be able to find what they want, whether it’s a nice meal or a special treat. And the best part is, you can make these changes quickly and easily.

When a person visits your restaurant, one of their first things that they are going to do is take a look at the food and the atmosphere. If you have outdated information, or outdated pictures, your guests will not feel impressed with your restaurant. Make sure that you spend the extra time and effort to properly upload pictures of your menus, decorations and more. You want to make sure that your website is as current as possible, so that your guests know that this is the website that they are going to be visiting. You don’t want to lose potential customers because you didn’t take the time to update your website.

One of the best ways to make sure that your website is updated all of the time is to hire someone who is an expert in Internet marketing. These people are great at finding ways to bring traffic to websites and they also make sure that everything is running smoothly. It’s important that you keep up with the latest techniques, and the best way to learn about all of the newest trends is to speak with experts in the field.

If you currently offer more than one type of food on your menu, make sure that you keep your website up to date. It’s important that people understand what they are getting into when they order food online. If you have a page on your website that promises “honeymoons” with special cocktails and stuffed animals, be sure that this is clearly posted. If not, then you might be losing out on a great deal of revenue. Think about it: would you order something like that if it was clearly listed as an option? Probably not.

There are certain things to remember when updating a restaurant’s website. For instance, if you have sections of your website devoted to specific locations, make sure that these are updated accordingly. This means listing them all under one heading or using different tags for each location. Also, keep in mind that different departments at your restaurant will need to use different tags. Your customers will need to know which employees get to talk about certain areas of the restaurant, which makes it important for your tags to be accurate.

Should you update your restaurant blog? A restaurant blog offers your readers a chance to stay up to date with what is going on with your restaurant. In addition, it helps build relationships with previous customers and gives you an opportunity to interact with your guests in an even better way. If you aren’t updating your restaurant blog regularly, though, you’re missing an opportunity to really engage your guests and make them feel like part of the family.

Finally, make sure that you keep track of any changes to your restaurant through the restaurant website. You’ll want to make sure that any discounts or deals you are offering are reflected on the website, as well as any changes to hours or days of operation. The easiest way to do this is to add a calendar to your website. If you don’t have a calendar on the website already, Google is your best option for finding a template for your own. Choose a template that is simple, clean, and easy to read. You’ll also want to make sure that the calendar’s font size is large enough to be able to read comfortably on a desktop computer.

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Technology your restaurant needs

Technology your restaurant needs





Technology your restaurant has been very important. It is essential that you have the latest technology and equipment in your restaurant. If you are like most restaurants, you will have a credit card system. This system will need to be upgraded periodically. This will require that you know what you need in order to make this happen for you and your customers.

When you apply for a new credit card, there may be an upgrade program available. You may not even be aware of all the features available with your current credit cards. There may be a better rate, better rewards or maybe even additional services. When you get an upgrade, you have to know that it is going to help you and your business.

When you apply for your next credit card, they may ask you if you would like to go one step further. Do you want to get a debit card? A reloadable debit card? The possibilities are endless. However, you need to make sure that you take this into account when upgrading your credit card.

Technology is so much more than just the computers in your restaurant. Nowadays, it includes everything. For example, your system must be able to accept all major payment processors such as PayPal, WorldPay, and Neteller. In addition, your system should be able to log and track all of your customers and their orders. You also need to have a way to print out your receipts.

Let’s say you are ordering appetizers. You order a shrimp cocktail. You pay with your credit card. In order for your system to print your receipt, you need a printer. Then you will need a scanner. In addition, your system should also be able to handle sales tax automatically.

Once you have your system all set up, you will find that it will run more smoothly. You will be able to meet your customers’ needs and requests more quickly. This will allow your restaurant to run efficiently. This is very important if you want to make more money. As a result, it makes sense to upgrade your restaurant management software.

There are many companies which offer restaurant management software. Your next step is to research all of the different types of software available. After you decide on the right software, it is time to install it in your restaurant.

There is no reason for your restaurant to function without the latest technology. Now that you know what the newest technology for your restaurant has, you can begin upgrading your system. Even better, you can get free software that will help your business. Before you know it, you will be working with the latest and greatest technology to your restaurant has ever had.

You can upgrade your current computer systems. This is a great idea if you are afraid that people may be using a PC at your restaurant. The new software that you use will also work well on a PC. Of course, you can get a wireless system that can help customers use their laptops. Using a laptop is more convenient because it is always with you.

You can also choose to use new software that will allow you to handle your customer’s food orders directly from your computer. This can help you increase your revenue by letting customers order their food right away. You will also not have to deal with stocking shelves or checkbooks. You can now simply print the order and give it to the chef.

Of course, you cannot discount the need for printers. It is easy to improve your restaurant’s efficiency by making sure that your receipts are properly processed and sent out on time. When you have the proper accounting software installed, you won’t have to worry about printing errors either. Your employees will also appreciate being able to use the printers for important documents.

Hopefully, you will never need to worry about how to improve your restaurant’s efficiency. With the right technology, you can make your business run more efficiently and effectively. As long as you find the right partner to assist you with your technology needs, your restaurant will be able to offer its customers the best possible customer experience.

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Digital Menus

digital menus

Digital menus are used by many restaurants, cafes, shopping malls, fast food outlets, cruise ships, hotels, airports, hotels, and other venues. It has replaced the paper menus that have been prevalent in many organizations and public places for many years now. Digital menus eliminate the hassle of paper placements that get in the way of smooth running of business. Digital menus display content such as menus, price lists, contact information, rules and regulations, specials, testimonials, and other relevant information at strategic places. They also allow you to print content quickly and easily.

Digital menus eliminate the hassle of manual publication and printing, which might seem like a burdensome task for most business establishments. There is no need for ink and paper, and there is no wastage of resources. Digital menus also enable you to update information throughout the day using touchscreens, by scheduling the right content for the moment and the correct location to fit the customer’s needs.

When you go out to buy digital menus for restaurants, it is important to consider not only the size of the display, but the material that are used as well. For instance, LED digital menu boards are highly efficient, but they are very expensive. On the other hand, LCD digital signage is inexpensive, durable, and uses low-energy LED bulbs. Whether you are buying LCD digital menu boards or LED digital signage, it is advisable to talk to a signage designer to help you determine the best material for your business.

Another benefit of digital menus is that they can be customized easily to match the theme and branding of your business. If you are a family restaurant, for instance, you might want to display funny pictures, cartoon characters, and other kid-friendly images. You can also have digital menus that cater to the interests of senior citizens. The same goes for a bar or nightclub. There are digital displays that display graphics from around the world, or ones that integrate a virtual menu into the main display for easier shopping for alcohol, food, and other items. Many restaurant owners have digital menus that have featured a variety of music, movies, and sports, so that customers can quickly see what is available to them in the area.

Perhaps you are thinking that it is not possible to replace paper menus with digital menus. The fact is, you can. If your current cost to run your business is high, then you will find that a digital menu is an excellent way to lower costs. In addition, the cost of paper menus is constantly rising, while the cost of digital displays is very low. This means that your bottom line profits will go up.

There are many other cost savings that come from having your own digital menu board. One benefit is that you will be able to take advantage of on-brand advertising. For example, if you only display Pizza Hut coupons, you will be missing out on one of the largest untapped advertising opportunities in the industry. When you use digital menu boards, you can display coupons and advertisements for other restaurants, as well as local businesses.

Perhaps you are concerned that your new digital menus won’t look appealing on the computer screen. Digital displays are generally more aesthetically attractive than their paper counterparts. If you are going to go with a template, make sure that the template uses a consistent color scheme throughout the entire board. This will help visitors identify which restaurants they are most interested in. Another thing that you should consider doing is to download samples of the designs that you like. Not only will this give you the opportunity to see how your digital menus look on paper, but you can also make changes that you feel would enhance the look of your business.

Your customers want to have access to quick service restaurants that offer quality food at an affordable price. With digital menus, you can ensure that you are providing this within your establishment. If you have a printer that is capable of printing digital pages, then you can implement this into your business easily. The menu items that you add to the boards should be easy to read on a computer screen and print out quickly and easily.

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Zeytoonian new Director of ADR at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination

After 10 years as founder and principle of Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC, Michael Zeytoonian has accepted a newly created position as the Director of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) at the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD), joining the MCAD in June, 2019.

This new role at the MCAD is the perfect challenge for Michael, combining work in his favorite area of law—employment law, and specifically discrimination and harassment matters—with the use of non-adversarial ADR processes such as mediation and conciliation to help parties before the Commission resolve their disputes in a way that best satisfies the interests and needs of the parties. Zeytoonian’s duties include overseeing and developing the ADR Unit at the MCAD, and overseeing the Commission’s mediation and conciliation efforts in its Boston Headquarters and its Worcester, Springfield and New Bedford regional offices.

“This newly created position reflects the MCAD’s commitment to a strong and vibrant ADR unit,” said MCAD Chairwoman, Sunila Thomas George. “Our goal is to help carry out the MCAD’s mission of eradicating discrimination in the Commonwealth by offering quality mediation and conciliation processes with a team of expert mediators,” Chairwoman George added. “It is imperative that agreements that arise from MCAD mediation not only satisfy the needs of the parties in the case, but also serve the public interest by obtaining the commitment of the Respondent party to be proactive in taking appropriate measures to address and prevent discriminatory behavior in all of the arenas within MCAD’s  jurisdiction: at home, at work, in public places, school admissions, lending and credit,” the chairwoman said.

Working to prevent discrimination is both a personal and professional concern for Zeytoonian, who has spent much of his legal career on employment issues as well as educating people about non-adversarial and creative ways to resolve disputes. “Like many members of ethnic groups who suffered as victims of discrimination, my family history is one that includes the devastating losses resulting from the attempted genocide of the Armenian people by the Ottoman Turkish government,” Zeytoonian  said. “Discrimination is not only wrong and unjust, but it also robs us all of the richness of different ethnic, racial and religious cultures, traditions, arts, rituals, histories, music, language and stories of the diverse members of our country’s social fabric.”

Zeytoonian is energized about this new work and its positive impact. “Every step we take toward eradicating discrimination also contributes to restoring richness and depth to our civilization,” he notes. “We hope our work helps to heal those who have suffered discrimination or harassment, and also helps to restore the inherent goodness of the workplace, the places people live and the community as a whole. That is what makes our work at the MCAD important and satisfying for me,” he closes.

About the MCAD:

The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) was established in 1946 as the Commonwealth’s chief Civil Rights law enforcement agency charged with the authority to investigate, prosecute, adjudicate and resolve cases of discrimination. Led by three Commissioners, one who serves as chair, the MCAD enforces the Massachusetts anti-discrimination laws in these areas Employment, Housing, public places, school admission, lending and credit. The MCAD protects individuals in numerous protected categories such as their race, color, creed, national origin, age, disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

MCAD is an independent agency of the Commonwealth, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and other earned revenue.


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Re-imagining Collaborative Law, as well as dispute resolution itself

I first heard about Collaborative Law (CL) in 2002 as it began to spread around Massachusetts. It was an inspiring, rational approach to resolving disputes and it was good getting to know and learn from local people involved in teaching, promoting and using CL. It was also great to get to know like-minded lawyers nationally and beyond through joining the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council (MCLC), the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) and later the Global Collaborative Law Council (GCLC) to further train and grow in my understanding and use of CL. For a smaller minority of us lawyers who used CL in business, employment, probate and other non-divorce disputes, this was a road less traveled.

Like any new movement, there were many discussions about CL: What should its name be? Is it an area of law like employment law or a “practice” like facilitative mediation? What is CL and what is not CL? Many, like new converts, became very dogmatic about CL, insisting that the CL process needed to include certain key elements. There were debates about the essence of CL, its sine qua non, and the need to clarify CL’s “brand”; all important considerations.

As CL grew, different “models” evolved: the original “four-way meeting” model, the deluxe “interdisciplinary team” model, and other hybrids and variations that were used in the shadows of “dogmatically correct” CL. Like organized religions that sometimes lose sight of their spirit when they become larger denominations, many in the CL movement focused on following the letter of the law. Some who were more led by the spirit of CL gave it some breathing room to organically evolve further in the approaches they used, allowing it to be flexible, agile and creative. Those CL tinkerers and explorers were guided more by the essential principles and approach of CL, rather than hard and fast protocols, models and rules. Theirs was a road even less travelled.

Nearly 30 years have passed since CL was initiated by a single lawyer in Minneapolis, and CL finds itself at a critical crossroads. In recent years, some CL groups have experienced a decline in membership and in attendance at programs and meetings. Also missing are the new ideas, some luster and the vibrant spirit of setting idealistic, big, hairy audacious (“think big”) goals within the CL movement. While there are exceptions like the new hotbed of CL in North Carolina, much of the earlier energy, passion and enthusiasm have not been seen, felt or expressed as they were in the go-go years from 1990 to 2015.

Are there other reasons for the reduced numbers? Is the “honeymoon period” over? Is CL, outside of its increased use in divorce matters, a passing trend? A solution in search of a problem?

While there may be some truth to these, I don’t think the recent trend signals the demise of this worthy movement, but rather is a harbinger of a reinvention of CL. The approach to dispute resolution (DR) reflected by CL, especially in non-divorce disputes, has been ahead of its time, but certainly one for which the time is quickly coming.

Can we consider the possibility that the key to CL’s future and greater success as well as a reason for the temporary slowdown is because it may have set goals and identified a sine qua non that weren’t big, audacious and inspiring enough to energize people to act with stronger zeal?

What if the fault line CL draws between litigation and CL is in the wrong place? Imagine litigation not as an enemy or competitor of CL but rather a fellow traveler, a potential subset of the Collaborative approach. The seminal question is not which process parties choose to resolve disputes, but rather whether the approach committed to by parties in the dispute is adversarial or collaborative in nature. Is the goal to win and beat the other side (there must be a loser in order to have a winner in an adversarial contest) or to solve the problem by resolving the dispute quickly, efficiently and completely. If people take the adversarial/win-lose approach, it really doesn’t matter whether the parties use CL, arbitration, mediation or litigation. The zero-sum game goal dictates what the process must do and more importantly what its character will be. Likewise, a collaborative, non-adversarial approach will allow the goals, interests and needs of the parties to dictate what to do and how the process should be designed. A Collaborative Approach can include (baseball-style) arbitration as part of its process; it can use certain elements of litigation (injunction; declaratory action) as part of it, as long as the arbitration and litigation components serve the Collaborative Approach and are consistent with it.

The original stated mission of the IACP was “to transform the way disputes are resolved worldwide.” If CL wants to achieve success on the scale of Apple and truly transform the way all (not just divorce) disputes are resolved worldwide, it cannot limit itself or promote itself as an overly dogmatic dispute resolution process. Apple would not have succeeded if it promoted itself as a maker of great computers or dwelled on how much better their computers work. Apple didn’t limit itself by saying “we make more efficient, less expensive, less draining and more creative computers than the others (making its potential audience yawn and look elsewhere). It reached out, touched people’s emotions and attracted their attention, so that people identified with Apple’s message: Think Differently.

If CL were to follow Apple’s lead, CL’s message would not be that it is a type of “Law”, a type of “Process”, or a type of “Practice”, but that it calls on all of us – lawyers, clients and neutral professionals – to approach disputes in a way that is completely different from the others. It has to be responsive and perfectly aligned with what people in a dispute are seeking, thinking, feeling, desiring, hoping for, wanting and needing. It is an approach that achieves their goals and satisfies their needs, including their emotional needs! No one in a dispute wondering what to do or what kind of lawyer to hire cares about or is energized by CL’s stated sine qua non – the “disqualification clause” (a rule that if the CL process does not result in a resolution, the CL lawyers cannot continue to represent the parties but must withdraw from representing their clients in any future litigation or arbitration). For those people seeking to have their problem solved and their needs met – including their emotional needs – this notion is a non sequitur at best, irrelevant at first glance, a non-starter and a turnoff at worst. It doesn’t tell people anything about the approach itself, but only about what happens if things don’t work out. The potential market audience doesn’t have the attention span or interest to keep listening to understand why the disqualification clause is important. The opportunity has passed.

The saving grace here is the awesome power and creative beauty of the essential idea of the CL along with its principles and elements! If we can redefine, reimagine and recalibrate CL for its grander mission and larger scale, we make it relevant and appealing to those who seek solutions in a way that also resonates with their “Why”, as Simon Sinek suggests. Any declarations that litigation or arbitration are inherently bad processes and enemies of a collaborative approach are unnecessary judgments. Think of litigation and arbitration like nuclear energy; how we use them determines whether they will be productive or destructive, serving to connect us or divide us.

CL People often talk about the “CL paradigm shift”. Can we allow a different view of this paradigm shift to percolate in our minds a bit?  If the fault line was misplaced, the paradigm shift may have also been defined too narrowly. If the fault line is shifted to the choice between adversarial and non-adversarial approaches, then the paradigm shift goes beyond process and to include own personal, professional and hopefully internal transformation from adversarial warriors to non-adversarial, collaborative problem solvers. This shift is not limited to the way we design the process but also what is happening inside of us – in the mindset of each lawyer and CL professional. We can be trained in CL or mediation, follow the steps and use the models faithfully, but unless we feel and are open to the call to internalize the collaborative, problem solving mindset and approach, we are susceptible to defaulting back to what we were taught in law school, reinforced by the society around us – the adversarial mindset of we vs. them, and of “I’m right so you must be wrong”.

The paradigm shift suggested by CL was not idealistic or audacious enough to attract the massive following it deserves. It was devalued and on too small a scale because the default line was set in an unimportant place, instead of in a game-changing place. Very few lay people care about a shift from one legal process to another and not enough lawyers get pumped up about this. CL’s proposed paradigm shift is encouraging, interesting in theory, exciting in training workshops and discussions amongst practitioners, but not powerful enough emotionally to either move clients to demand it or inspire enough lawyers to utilize it and more so to internalize it. In the words of the great Jerry Maguire, “That is not inspiring.”

As a result, the trembling on the Richter scale of the legal profession was not powerful enough to throw lawyers out of their comfort zones and into the earnest pursuit of achieving our highest good; it only shook the ground enough to get around 8,000 practitioners to make an adjustment in their practice and add new CL tools and models to their toolboxes. What was missing was a quake seismic enough to convince us that it’s time for a different kind of legal toolbox!

The question we lawyers as well as the clients we serve need to ask ourselves at the outset of a dispute is this: Are we going to approach this dispute in an adversarial, zero-sum game way, or are we going to work together collaboratively as problem solvers to resolve this dispute? This is a challenge vital enough to get people aroused and thinking about why we do what we do and strong enough to define what the parties, their lawyers and every other professional involved in the case will do next. It is powerful enough to make us rethink who we are and what our profession is called to be. Either the goals, interests and needs (GIN) of those we serve dictate that the approach will be collaborative and problem solving and will be able to mold and shape a well-tailored solution, or the choice to use an adversarial process will render those goals, interests and needs incidental byproducts and likely collateral damage in a “take no prisoners” war.

This is the choice to be made. If we choose the Collaborative Approach (non-adversarial), we will apply the principles and elements of CL and utilize them in ways that are appropriate and responsive to the goals, interests and needs of the parties. Elements of other DR processes might also be utilized if they contribute productively to the goal of achieving the best result. The limitations of the dogmatic CL model can be removed so that the collaboration of the parties, lawyers, neutral experts and other professionals can breathe freely, adapt and respond to every interest and need and yes – change the way (all kinds of) disputes are resolved worldwide.

I believe that people, including those in the legal profession, DR community and the clients we serve, are inherently good, want to achieve our highest good and do our best work to come up with excellent solutions. I think that the spirit of the Collaborative Approach arose from this inherent quality we all have, an inner voice that told us that the approaches we were taking to resolve disputes weren’t good enough. When the fault line is reset in a more impactful and inspiring place and the paradigm shift is far more prodigious, the time for choosing the principles and applying the elements of a Collaborative DR Approach will have come. It will answer our desire to make an important choice, one that both reflects our respective “whys” and also helps us define ourselves, not only as lawyers and as a profession, but more importantly, as human beings.

People will come, Ray; people will most definitely come.”

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Green Book’s insights into a deeper diversity

Abraham Lincoln had a simple approach to achieving diversity: “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.”

Recently, my wife and I saw the movie Green Book, which has since won an Oscar for best movie of the year. The movie presents the true story of an episode in the life of Dr. Don Shirley, a talented African-American classical/jazz pianist and composer. Its focus is on a concert tour Dr. Shirley chose to do in 1962 in the southern states at a time that segregation was very much a part of the cultural ways of the Jim Crow era. Knowing he would need a strong and street tough driver and bodyguard for this eight-week tour, Shirley hires Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, a working class Italian from the Bronx whose work history includes several stints as a New York City night club bouncer.

It’s an unlikely duo for modeling how to accomplish diversity, and both characters let the audience and each other know that right away. They don’t hesitate to state and display their negative views and thoughts about each other. Their dialogues reflect the biases they have and the assumptions they have made about each other and their respective ethnic/racial backgrounds. Their starting point is one of not liking each other and not respecting each other. But they do recognize that, at least for this eight-week tour in which the two of them will be traveling in a car together, they need each other. Vallelonga needs the work, for which he will be well paid, and Shirley needs the presence and protection that someone like Tony can provide him. At the beginning of their road trip, the extent of their hopes and expectations is probably limited to doing what it takes to work together and get along.

They could have gone about their business and done their jobs, tolerating each other and they started out doing just that: Tony did his job and Shirley paid him for his work. At the end of the tour, they could have both come out and made a statement about practicing diversity, and then gone back to their very separate and distinctly different lives and environments. Shirley could have said that hiring Vallelonga was an act of racial, ethnic and socio-economic diversity. Vallelonga could have come away from the assignment making a similar claim about working with Shirley.

But Tony and Dr. Shirley don’t stop at just doing their jobs. They choose to go further. We might see this as the deeper level of diversity. It causes us to think about what the goal of diversity is; what interest(s) does this kind of effort serve? Ironically, the week before I saw the movie, a group of dispute resolution colleagues were discussing doing a presentation about the role and impact of diversity and bias on dispute resolution efforts and the question came up: What do we mean by diversity? Is it about taking steps to hire or include more members of historically disadvantaged groups into the mainstream of a profession or group? Or does it go further, urging us all to inquire further about people who are not like us; to learn about, appreciate and respect those who have been subject to recognized discrimination. Can it ignite within us the desire to explore – with a curious mind and heart – the realities of other lives that are different from our own?

To their credit, Shirley and Vallelonga went beyond just bringing one into the other man’s world. The beauty of this movie was not the minimalist goal that these two men were able to tolerate each other for eight weeks and carry out a challenging task. It was more so that they chose to embrace the next step – building a relationship with each other despite their differences and maybe because of their differences. To do that, they had to challenge each other, peel away and look behind the other’s assumptions and their own assumptions, and be willing to get to know and appreciate the other person’s reality better. They were able to break down the mental, physical and emotional barriers. While this diversity exercise may have been forced upon them by circumstances in the beginning, at some point they intentionally chose to engage and seek to understand what it was like to walk in the other person’s shoes. When they did that, they could truly feel empathy for one another, go beyond what was “required” of them and step up to caring about, respecting, appreciating and including one another.

Nelson Mandela offers this kind of roadmap for achieving diversity: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” When we go beyond the step of “working in the same company or profession” to really working at mutually getting to know each other better, appreciating the richness of another culture, we can melt away prejudices and prevent discrimination. If we can create environments that allow for these inquiries to happen organically, we help nurture the spirit of diversity, the interests behind the position. That would seem to be the deeper, transformative goal of diversity as well as dispute resolution, not only helping us resolve discrimination-based disputes, but eliminating the underlying discrimination itself.

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Before you dive into your dispute, what are your GINs and what’s the best way to satisfy them?

Recently I noticed an online request on a network’s posting system seeking lawyers with experience working on disputes within community non-profit or religious organizations. The situation described involved potentially inappropriate behavior by a member of the organization that may have adversely impacted another member. Besides these two people, the entire organization is also a stakeholder, as the incident raised the issue of what is and what is not acceptable behavior within its culture.

The initial responses to the request recommended lawyers who were familiar with this area of practice. Another early response raised a question of whether or not a state agency had to become involved. And the matter was off to the races. The likely next developments could be sides being drawn, allegations made, complaint filed, an inquiry into blame, a finding of fault, a determination as to damages to the victim and a punitive response to the wrongdoer.

This has become the typical approach and response of our society today: Something is believed  to be wrong so we look to blame someone, line up people on each side, go to battle in the sometimes blind pursuit of “justice” without giving the proper amount of thought to the direct and indirect collateral damage of this approach.

There’s something missing in this reaction that jumps right to bringing in lawyers. It seems premature. Is our goal to fixate on the past event(s), establish blame and make someone pay, with little thought of the future or of curing the situation that led to the conflict? Or do we first focus on solving the problem so that the future situation better when we are finished addressing the issue than when it first surfaced? Are we treating the symptoms or are we curing the ill? Are there larger concerns – organizational or even public interests here – beyond determining who wins and who loses?

In our haste, we may be skipping two vital initial inquiries:

  1. What are the goals, interests and needs (“GIN”) of all those involved?
  2. What is the best approach for achieving these goals, interests and needs?

A good friend of mine who is a marketing expert often suggests to her clients this starting point: In order to achieve your goal, you have to have one. That advice always stuck with me, so much so that it is one of the first questions I ask a potential client: What are your GINs (goals, interests and needs)?

As for the approach question, Stephen Covey referred to this inquiry as seeking the Third Alternative and finding the synergy shared by the parties involved. Buddhist thought would describe it as the search for the Third Way, a better way.

In today’s American society, when a difference of opinion, a dispute or conflict arises, we are programmed to immediately draw lines of division, “lawyer up”, and declare war on “the other side”.  We are quick to divide, separate and convert a problem into an adversarial contest, often on the basis of little more than a Tweet or a sound bite, before we have taken the time to think about it, dig a little deeper into the facts and put the single conclusory sentence into the bigger context from which the sentence of taken. If you are not one of “us”, you have to be one of “them”. One of the unfortunate by-products of the #MeToo era is the rush to judgment and the feeling of being compelled to take sides, sometimes on the basis of nothing more than a single stray remark, a set of incomplete facts or a picture from the past and no knowledge of when, why, how, where or for what purpose that picture was taken or the remark was made.

When something goes wrong, I think we can all agree that we want to fix it. If there’s a problem, let’s work to solve it. If we discover an illness, let’s work to cure it. If there are ways to prevent these disputes, conflicts and mistakes from happening in the future, let’s take the proactive steps to prevent them from repeating. All of us want the restoration of what is good where we see things have gone awry. We share some common ground here.

But let’s do this work of restoring things to the good by working together at it, not against each other. Let’s join our efforts in collaborations that tap into our collective talents, experience, intelligence and resourcefulness rather than pitting ourselves against each other. If we call in the professionals to help, let’s first reach out to those trained in helping people work together to solve problems – facilitators with the mindset of connecting, not dividing. When we chose the adversarial approach and fight against each other, our real GINs are replaced by the goal of beating the other side. We become “a house divided against itself [which] will not stand”.

Let’s start by agreeing on this: We are better, stronger, smarter, faster and more creative when we work together and pool our resources to satisfy our GINs in the best way possible.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

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Peacemaking: The fulfillment of the legal profession

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. – Matthew 5:9

Earlier this week my daily meditation focused on this Bible verse, spoken by Jesus as part of the Sermon on the Mount. The meditation narrative was a dialogue between the meditation author and his lawyer friend about the basic legal standard we learned in law school: “What would a reasonable man do?”

The lawyer explained that to win his case, he had to show that his client did what any reasonable person would have done in his place. The meditation asked where this “reasonable man” is these days, when it has become harder to come across reasonable people than finding a buffalo nickel. Today’s public debate has become a shouting match in which complicated issues are reduced to memorable sound bites, in which everyone is blaming the other and few people hold themselves accountable. In the political arena, our so called leaders belittle and oppose each other just because an otherwise good or reasonable idea was proposed by the other side. People are quick to anger and are driven by a desire to “demolish” their opponents, “destroy” their arguments and “win” at all costs. It is an atmosphere where a reasonable man, or one who can see both sides of the argument, is not only hard to find, but also has no role to play.

In this adversarial and partisan atmosphere, we have three choices as people. We can fight back with more anger, just pouring more fuel on the fire. We can withdraw from the world, go off the grid and distance ourselves from the fray. Or we can be peacemakers.

Jesus spoke to a society not very different from ours today: tyrants vying for power; corruption, greed and immoral behavior; terrorism; suppression of public discourse; political and religious scandals and disagreements; Jews vs. Gentiles, Romans vs. subjects, free men vs. slaves, rich vs. poor; those in power vs. the disenfranchised (women, foreigners like Samaritans, lepers, poor and homeless). His response was neither to fight fire with fire nor to withdraw – indeed he directly challenged the hypocrisies of those in power and the shortcomings of those around him. But he did so without being adversarial; indeed he admonished one of his followers for fighting back with a sword. Instead his response was what Stephen Covey would refer to as “the Third Way”, a better way, as a peacemaker with compassion and comfort for all people. Note that the notion of peace – shalom – was not a world of calm without disagreement, but the ideal of working toward one’s highest good. Likewise, the Arabic word – salaam – expresses a wish for the presence of all good things.

As mediators, settlement counsel and collaborative counsel working with people to help them resolve disputes in a non-adversarial way, holding ourselves out today as peacemakers is risky and probably bad marketing. Emotional clients seek revenge, a pound of flesh from their opponents, and want to beat the other side or at the very least get their “day in court”. They don’t often see beyond their “emotional due process” needs to recognize the value of legal counselors who advocate a reasonable, non-adversarial approach to achieving a good resolution. Our name-calling culture sometimes labels peacemakers as being weak or soft or unwilling to take up the “scorched-earth battle” to defeat an opponent who must be wrong simply because he/she is on the other side of the argument. Recently at a bar association holiday party, I suggested to a young lawyer that it would be good for her to train in Collaborative Law and mediation. Her response was that those things were for retired judges and older lawyers.

I have spent 25 years of my legal career litigating everything from child abuse, civil rights, discrimination, environmental, business, wrongful death, negligence and all kinds of employment cases to dog bite cases and disputes over $30,000 parking spots and condo rights. But in truth, the work of a peacemaker calls upon us all to be stronger, more centered, more patient, more flexible, more creative and more committed to reaching the best possible resolution than the exercise of fighting a zero-sum game, the latter of which ironically ends up getting settled 97% of the time. Dispute resolution work is more challenging, more likely to achieve the best result for all those involved, more likely to also serve the public interest, and restore that which makes for our highest good.

Peacemaking in conflict resolution is work that the world desperately needs today, to restore the notion of being “reasonable men” and to achieve our highest good. Maybe that is why peacemakers are given the nametag that matters most: the children of God.



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