It is not hard to identify the problems with existing environmental dispute resolution mechanisms. Litigation is time-consuming and expensive and quite often does not produce victory even for the successful litigant. Even when the parties to a dispute voluntarily try to work out their differences, stalemate is common. Lack of communication skills, early posturing and hardening of positions, inadequate information on technical matters, unreasonable expectations, and unwillingness to accept less than full victory sometimes prevent agreement.
Our firm has a stake in finding innovative ways for people to agree. We use litigation but also admit its limitations. We like using our communication skills and knowledge of technical matters to reduce polarization and foster settlement. We are successful in large part due to our willingness to sue, familiarity with litigation procedures, fluency with technical issues, and access to expert witnesses. We can paint a realistic picture for the parties.
Skilled negotiation and mediation requires building trust to be believable, presenting positions based on the facts, finding hard scientific data to supplement legal standards, being fluent in the range of alternatives open to the parties, appreciating the real interests of the parties, having realistic expectations about the success of negotiation, getting the key players to the table in multiparty disputes, finding the shared values on which to base solutions, and drafting agreements which are fair, clear, and enforceable.
We have experience in negotiation in traditional disputes, such as environmental permit conditions and money damage claims, and in nontraditional areas such as regulatory standard-setting, Superfund remedial actions, formation and funding of citizen advisory groups, the scopes of environmental impact fees and other contributions for new public projects or industrial plants.