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Psychology of Litigation: Practical & Ethical Implications

Not Offered this year 2015-2016
Last offered in 2010-2011

Using readings, case studies and discussion, this seminar examines why clients and lawyers turn to litigation as a means of resolving disputes, why litigation sometimes is a dysfunctional means for achieving clients' legitimate objectives, whether lawyers have an ethical obligation to understand the psychology of both litigation and alternative means of dispute resolution, and whether a broader range of counseling skills based upon such an understanding can make lawyers more effective advocates. While the conventional view is that litigation is a means of vindicating legal rights and achieving just resolution of conflicts, in fact the motivations of both clients and lawyers who engage in civil litigation are quite complex. A lack of insight into the actual reasons people choose to litigate may lead to needless expense and emotional distress for clients and make the practice of law more stressful and less satisfying for lawyers. This seminar studies some of the psychological processes that influence clients' decisions to litigate and lawyers' willingness to support those decisions. It also considers the implications of these processes in the context of alternative paradigms of dispute resolution, such as facilitative mediation. Finally, it explores the ways in which lawyers can use an understanding of litigation psychology and alternative dispute resolution to assist clients both ethically and effectively.