I don’t usually use this forum just to promote someone else’s publication, but a recent article from the  Huff Post New York, “Do the Crime, Do the Time? The Failed Policies of Permanent Punishment” April 11, 2014,  is just so well done that I must make an exception.

The article is really solid short introduction to the problem of collateral consequences. If you care about the status of criminal justice in the United States — and you should care about what is done in your name — the article is worth reading.

Thank you,  Huff Post.



A Mediator’s Toolkit: Active Listening

by Rich Cassidy on April 3, 2014

Active-listening-chartWhen I prepare a witness for a deposition, I cover certain fundamentals. Among the most basic are these: “Listen to the question. Let the questioner finish the question. Be sure you understand the question before you begin to answer it. If you don’t understand it, ask for clarification.”

Even with that instruction, and even after I practice with the witness, at most depositions, within 15 or 20 minutes of the start, I have to ask for a break and remind the witness to not to interrupt the questioner.

Why do I see this again and again? Because under stress, most people revert to habit. Typically, most of us don’t listen. Our ordinary conversational habits are terrible. In conversation, most people don’t let the speaker finish. As soon as one person thinks they know what the speaker is saying the “listener” interrupts and launches his or her own comment.

The imperfection of ordinary conversation is a real opportunity for a mediator. People ache to be heard. This is never more true than when people are locked in a bitter dispute and have spent months or even years arguing with one another — advancing their best arguments and ignoring the other side.Adi Holzer Werksverzeichnis 850 Lebenslauf

A mediator who listens to all sides of a dispute — and who demonstrates that he or she is listening — is a breath of fresh air.

Communication scholars call it “active listening,” and it is perhaps the most basic of all a mediator’s tools. “Active listening is certainly not complex. Listeners need only restate, in their own language their experience of the expression of the sender.” Thomas Gordon, Leader Effectiveness Training (New York Wyle Books 1977) at 57.

There are lots of ways to do this. One of the first mediators I ever saw repeated what he was told: verbatim!

Most couldn’t do that, but we can restate our understanding of what each participant said. That’s independently important when the mediator isn’t exactly sure what is meant. Seeking clarification on points where there is uncertainty not only improves the mediator’ s understanding, it assures the party that he (or she) has been heard.

Just providing assurance that a participant has been heard and understood is a step towards resolution.




Remembering The Honorable Franklin S. Billings, Jr.

March 29, 2014

The Honorable Franklin S. Billings, Jr. died on March 9, 2014. Bill Billings, as he was known to his friends, was a distinguished man from a distinguished family. A former Associate Justice  of the Vermont Supreme Court, and Chief Justice,  he was also a former Judge and Chief Judge of the United States District Court of […]

Read the full article →

The Impact of Collateral Consequences of Conviction Reform in Vermont — Updated

March 24, 2014

A friend asked me this question after my recent posts about the Vermont House passing the Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act (the “UCCCA”): “Rich, can you give me a specific (hypothetical) example of this Act’s impact, should it become law?” There are over 300 Vermont Statutes and regulations limiting a person’s rights based on […]

Read the full article →

The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act Passed the Vermont House of Representatives Today!

March 18, 2014

Thanks and congratulations to all who helped to make this happen! On to the Vermont Senate. Rich

Read the full article →

The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act Seems Headed for Passage in the Vermont House!

March 15, 2014

The Uniform Collateral Consequences of Conviction Act, H. 413, was read the second time and ordered read a third time on the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives on Friday, March 14, 2014. In plain language, that means that the bill is only one vote away from passing the House and being sent to […]

Read the full article →

The Charm of Travel; the Power of Positive Living

March 10, 2014

For 20 years my work with the Uniform Law Commission has taken me around the country. The charm of travel, at first so attractive, does not last long. I often find myself saying, a bit cynically, that windowless air-conditioned conference rooms are that same everywhere. It is certainly true that I feel no desire to […]

Read the full article →

Bryan Garner Says: Put Your Citations in Footnotes

March 3, 2014

I am an unabashed admirer of the work of Bryan Garner, President of Law Prose Inc., and an authority on legal writing and advocacy. Garner has done a lot to improve how lawyers write. In the February 2014 issue of the ABA Journal, and in the corresponding ABA Journal Law News “Bryan Garner on Words” column, […]

Read the full article →

A Mediator’s Toolkit: Silence as a Basic Tool

February 26, 2014
Thumbnail image for A Mediator’s Toolkit: Silence as a Basic Tool

Silence is a basic tool for a mediator.  It’s really a corollary of any mediator’s prime directive: “First, do no harm.” If things are going swimmingly, don’t mess it up. I have had a few cases where I did almost no talking. I gave my usual opening about the benefits of mediation, and explained the […]

Read the full article →

Happy Fourth Birthday, OnLawyering: Why Blogging has Proven Satisfying

February 23, 2014

This is the fourth Birthday of OnLawyering.com!  My first post, ingeniously entitled  “OnLawyering.com,” went online on February 23, 2010. It was about the idea of the blog, which was very simple: to write about what interests me about the practice of law. Most lawyer blogs are written about the subject areas in which the lawyer or […]

Read the full article →