heckman’s kaplan plan: an interview with the allegheny bar association.

brad crooningFolks, here’s an article written about my upcoming gig in Pittsburgh as the Kaplan Lecturer written by Tracy Carbasho for the Allegheny County Bar Association.

To The Drawing Board, Heckman to Use Humor, Pop Culture at Kaplan Lecture

By Tracy Carbasho

The 13th Annual Kaplan Lecture promises to be unlike any other with an internationally renowned speaker who uses humor, drawings and pop culture to illustrate his belief that the best mediators are willing to be silent, are curious about the parties and refrain from making assumptions.

“Bringing our opinions, ego, viewpoints and preconceptions to the table can be detrimental to the process,” said Brad Heckman, CEO of the New York Peace Institute, one of the largest mediation services in the United States. “If we approach each session with a beginner’s mind and respect our clients’ courage to have difficult conversations, we can bear witness to amazing acts of generosity, kindness and reconciliation.”

Heckman will share his sought-after, down-to-earth brand of teaching with those who attend the lecture on Wednesday, May 25, from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rivers Club. Registration for the event, which costs $45 per person, ends on May 17. Heavy hors d’oeuvres and a cocktail hour will be held from 5-6 p.m. Previous lectures have drawn between 70 and 100 attendees.

Speakers at the lecture are known for providing tools and information to help participants develop skills that could be relevant not only to any dispute-resolution process, but also to life experiences. Heckman will provide easy-to-remember, sensible techniques that attorneys can use in their practices and their everyday lives.

“I don’t want to give away too many spoilers, but we’ll discuss agendas and affect labeling,” he said. “I hope to raise awareness of a range of mediator interventions that allow parties to feel heard and to create paths to come up with their own ways of moving forward. Many of the skills we’ll cover relate to how we listen, ask questions and generate movement in disputes.”

Heckman’s penchant for peaceful dialogue began in 1989 when he was a university lecturer witnessing Poland’s transition to democracy. He went on to earn his master’s degree in international relations from the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

Since then, he has introduced mediation to Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union, Caucasus and the Baltics. He also worked in Hungary and the Czech Republic, where he oversaw a program aimed at promoting gypsy inclusion into society.

On the domestic front, he has provided training for the New York Police Department, labor unions, NASA, the United Nations and various community organizations.

“I’ve trained about 200 New York police officers to date and we’ve gotten amazing feedback about how they use their skills on the street,” Heckman said. “Working with the NYPD has reinforced how mediation skills can be used as micro-interventions in difficult, and even highly escalated, conversations.”

Heckman, who grew up near Allentown, Pa., packs a lot of punch into his presentations, but he does so in a most unusual way. He could reflect on his vast background and convey what he has learned about what works and what doesn’t work in mediation. However, he chooses to infuse his presentations with his own drawings, which are often funny, to help participants remember particular points. It’s part of his effort to address as many learning styles as possible in his training.

“The drawings can serve as mnemonic devices for learners and can appeal to visual thinkers,” he said. “Someone told me that laughing brains are more absorbent. Ridiculous clips from TV shows or movies can make training fun and interesting and can help make important ideas gel in our minds.”

The biggest piece of advice Heckman hopes to impart on lecture attendees is that mediation – and alternate dispute resolution (ADR) sessions in general – will succeed if neutrals honor the parties’ self-determination, exercise impartiality, respect confidentiality, create a safe space and facilitate a quality process. He noted that if neutrals try to rush the process or impose their views on the parties, they may reach an agreement, but it’s not likely to be a durable one that truly reflects their needs.

The first Kaplan Lecture was held in 2004 as a joint effort between the ACBA ADR Committee, the Pittsburgh Mediation Center and the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania. The lecture is named in honor of former Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Lawrence Kaplan because of his pioneering effort to introduce mediation to Western Pennsylvania in the early 1980s.

Today, the lecture is organized jointly by the ACBA ADR Committee and the ACBA Collaborative Law Committee. The Kaplan Lecture Committee chooses the speaker each year. Heckman was selected because David Breen and Lisa Standish, who chair the ADR Committee and the Collaborative Law Committee, respectively, had seen one of his presentations in 2015.

“He is a unique person in the field of conflict resolution and is quite entertaining. Whether you are just starting or are an advanced mediator, you will leave the lecture with something helpful in resolving conflict,” Breen said.

Standish has already incorporated some of the mediation techniques that she learned from Heckman into her practice and is looking forward to learning more.

“The way Brad trains incorporates so many different types of teaching that it reaches everyone in ways that people actually remember,” Standish said. “People learn by seeing, hearing and doing, and he incorporates these into his training with stories, humor and drawings. We even played a volleyball game last year using the mediation techniques he taught us.”

Standish and Breen are members of the Kaplan Lecture Committee. Richard Rogow is a founding member of the lecture and has attended all 12 of the programs so far. He has enjoyed the presentations from noteworthy speakers.

Rogow, who represents the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania, is currently working for the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations. The commission is discussing the possibility of providing access to mediation to the city for its employees and more actively involving mediation with the police force and community relations. He is proud of the longevity of the Kaplan Lecture and the growing use of ADR procedures in Pittsburgh.

“As a person who has believed in the option of mediation for a while, it’s heartening to see court acceptance of the efficacy of the process,” Rogow said. “Paraphrasing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, ‘mediation skills are a must for anyone who negotiates, which is to say all of us.”’


homeward bound (-ish)

kaplanI’m honored to be the key spieler at the 13th Annual Kaplan Lecture in beautiful Pittsburgh, PA.  I’ll deliver an (illustrated!) speech entitled From NASA to the NYPD: Embedding Mediation Skills in Unlikely Environments as well as a 3-hour advanced training in mediation Jedi mindtricks.

I’m a Pennsylvania boy, so it’s a bit of a homecoming. It’ll be nice to be somewhere where I don’t get mocked for the way I pronounce “water.” Big thanks to the Allegheny Bar Association, the Collaborative Law Association of Southern Pennsylvania, and the Mediation Council of Western Pennsylvania for putting the shindig together.

For all y’ins in the western Pennsylvania area on May 25th, you can register here.

happy mothers’ day, mediator-moms!


In every mediation training, I ask the question “who do you think makes the best mediators?” Standard answers include lawyers, social workers, teachers….and mothers.

Wishing much love to all the moms out there. Oh, above is a sketch I did of me and my mom from back in the day. It captures neither her beauty nor my brattiness.


Mark, get set, go…

mark collinsFolks, here’s my sketch of one of my mediation heroes, Mark Collins, one of the visionaries at the Unified Court System responsible for the incredible network of community mediation centers throughout New York State. Mark is retiring this month, and will devote his time to family, music (most notably Big Head Todd and the Monsters), and golf.

Below is a lovely tribute by Charlotte Carter, Executive Director of the New York State Dispute Resolution Association (NYSDRA). Charlotte’s article originally appeared in NYSDRA’s blog.

Mark Collins: Looking Back and Looking Forward

by Charlotte G. Carter

Mark Collins, Assistant Coordinator for the New York State Unified Court System’s Office of ADR Programs, worked for 34 years to build the network of Community Dispute Resolution Centers (CDRCs) in New York; he will be retiring this month. He was responsible for the supervision of the CDRCs, program funding and evaluation, mediation trainer certification, and the expansion of dispute resolution into family courts. We also honor Mark for his role in founding and partnering with NYSDRA as a professional association, administrator of statewide programs, and as an advocate for our members and the dispute resolution profession.

Mark wove the core values of mediation practice into his professional life.  He remained true to the original strands of community mediation, both of which manifested during times of national turmoil and political activism in the 1960’s. One strand flowed from the need for court reform and recognition that the judiciary system was overburdened. The second strand was a broader vision of social justice, and the belief that citizens could be empowered to take control of their own lives, resolve conflict, and preserve personal and professional relationships.  While providing oversight to the CDRC network to ensure quality of their processes, he supported their self-determination in terms of capacity building to meet emerging needs of their communities and stakeholders. Mark models transparency and accessibility:  one of the many pearls he passed on to his colleagues was the concept of managing while walking around.

Mark’s vision was grounded in practice; throughout his career he has been an ADR practitioner with a particular focus on victim-offender dialogues in serious crimes. He gained a national reputation, and served as board member and Board Co-Chair of the National Association for Community Mediation. Mark provided assistance to other state court systems in their design of community mediation networks. Over the years, Mark has been recognized by many organizations for his contributions to the field including the Lawrence Cook Peace Innovator Award from NYSDRA in 2010.