WSU professor authored 'idea' book for negotiators

By Sheila Pursglove

Legal News

Mediation is very rewarding work, and a field that appeals to many people--but an extremely tough area to break into, according to Barry Goldman, who teaches Negotiation, Alternative Dispute Resolution and Labor Arbitration at Wayne Law.

"Labor arbitration is worse," he says. "I certainly think young lawyers should learn something about ADR, but despite the spiel they get from the people who want to sell them training programs they shouldn't have any illusions about making a living at it."

There are two major problems in ADR, he says.

"One is lawyers; the other is non-lawyers. The lawyers have gummed it up with 'legaldegook,' made it into a revenue generator and tried to turn it into just another legal specialty. Non-lawyers seem to be trying to turn it into some kind of flakey new age healing ritual. Neither one is helping."

Goldman started teaching undergraduate philosophy courses as an adjunct professor at Wayne while still in law school. Since then he has taught in the Peace and Conflict Studies program, the business school, the Master's in Industrial Relations program, the Master's in Dispute Resolution program, and one or two other places.

"The law school is the best," he says.

His students also get the benefit of Goldman's expertise in his 2008 book, "The Science of Settlement: Ideas for Negotiators."

"The book was fun to write, and when it first came out I was invited to give talks in about a dozen places around the country," he says. "The idea is that the practice of dispute settlement could be made into a legitimate area of study and a real profession if we go about it scientifically. I still think that's true, but the idea hasn't caught on."

Goldman earned his bachelor's degree from Monteith College, a small liberal arts college that existed inside of Wayne State University - "until it was assassinated by bureaucrats and bean counters," he says. He holds a master's degree in comparative philosophy from the University of Hawaii.

"I read ancient Buddhist and Hindu texts. It's hard to believe it now, but we did things like that back then."

He returned to Detroit to earn his J.D. from Wayne Law.

An "indifferent" law student, Goldman was first drawn to ADR after stumbling into a guest lecture, where he was captivated by a talk by anthropologist Laura Nader, sister of Ralph Nader and an expert on dispute resolution.

"She said the justice system in America didn't work for most people or most problems," he says. "She said we needed something called alternative dispute resolution. This was 1978 and not many people had heard of it."

After law school, Goldman went to work for the City of Detroit. In 1986 Mayor Coleman Young appointed him as Deputy Director of the Human Rights Department, responsible for city compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and in charge of a mediation program for disputes involving race, gender, age and the other protected categories in the City's Human Rights Ordinance. Goldman took a lot of ADR training, joined ADR organizations, and took every opportunity to serve as a mediator or arbitrator - not only valuable experience for his job, but for launching his own practice after Young left office in 1994.

"Coleman Young may have been both the smartest and the most charming person I ever met," he says. "He had other character traits that were not so endearing, but working for him was an invaluable experience. I learned from a master. He never walked into a meeting wondering how the vote was going to turn out, for example. All the work was done in advance. But the most important thing I learned from him was that I didn't want to have anything to do with politics."

Goldman's practice has plenty of variety.

"Sometimes I mediate, sometimes I arbitrate," he says. :Sometimes I sit alone, sometimes on a panel of three. I sit for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the EEOC and the Postal Service, and I hear whistleblower cases for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. I go to coal mines and nursing homes, prisons and universities. I've been extremely lucky."

Goldman and his wife, a clinical psychologist, live in Bloomfield Township.

"We have a dog, a cat, two horses and an enormous garden," he says. "My wife likes to ride the horses and walk the dog and dig things up and move them around in the garden. I like to lie in the hammock and smoke cigars."

Published: Mon, Apr 30, 2012