December 2014 Bar Bulletin
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December 2014 Bar Bulletin

Do the Right Thing - Give Peace a Chance

By Robert WM Zierman


Despite religious devotion, lack of or indifference to, the month of giving is upon us. When it's cold outside, often the best approach to warm ourselves is to have ladled before us some chicken broth with noodle letters - alphabet soup.

But that doesn't capture much of what this article pertains to. Instead, alphabet soup is a figure of speech that is generally thought to have come into being as a means to indicate the many abbreviated agencies that sprouted up during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's first 100 days in office in 1933. More commonly, it now simply is used as a metaphor for an overabundance of acronyms in our parlance.

The benefit of these acronyms is usually to more quickly indicate a modified proper noun. A notable exception to this expediency is found by realizing that "world wide web" has only three syllables as to nine when compared to "www."

The drawback of alphabet soup-style acronyms is that it can be very difficult to glean their understanding as to what all those letters actually represent. This in turn serves to separate those "in the know" from those who don't.

Out of curiosity, how many of you know the term BATNA? I have to confess until I recently took the UW Mediation Skills Training Program, I didn't know this term's meaning. But, now I do.

BATNA means "Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement." And just as implied, its idea is to identify and negotiate against a possible course of action or engagement outside the realm of mediation as a means of defining and equating what is appropriate to achieve while yet in negotiation.

So, what are BATNAs? My conjecture is that there are two main types: litigation and self-help. First and admittedly oversimplifying, it is the litigator's job to tongue-duel [not sword or gun] as a mercenary on behalf of his or her clients. While messy, at least this approach ought to not require calls for actual body bags.

Unfortunately, the cost of legal mercenaries is beyond many, if not most, people's means. The result is a crisis in the ability of many people to have an appropriately prepared day in court. This then leads to the other alternative - self-help.

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