Miles Mediation & Arbitration Services

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March 24, 2015 No Comments
image of family law mediator Chris Annunziata

by Chris Annunziata

Someone needs to make a first offer in every negotiation. Old-school negotiators have typically let the other side make the first move, believing that the party who first put out a number tipped its hand, or ended up overpaying or leaving money on the table.

Modern negotiation theory holds the contrary opinion. Studies have shown that the party making the first offer positively influences the outcome of the negotiation; and that the benefits of making the first offer are powerful – even between knowledgeable, experienced parties. This is due to a cognitive bias known as “anchoring,” i.e., the tendency to give a greater significance to the first offer in a negotiation.

One meta-analysis conducted by Dean Chris Guthrie of Vanderbilt Law and attorney Dan Orr of several anchoring studies concluded that anchoring “has a powerful influence on outcomes . . . [with a] correlation of 0.497 between the initial anchor and the outcome.”* As they put it, “In lay terms, the 0.497 correlation means that every one dollar increase in the opening number is associated with an approximate fifty cent increase in the final sale price.”

And yes, this strong correlation exists whether the study participants were novices or experienced negotiators. When adjusted for negotiation experience, however, Guthrie and Orr’s study found a slightly lower 0.37 correlation between the opening number and the result; or to use his lay explanation above, every additional dollar in the opening number correlated to a thirty-seven cent change in the final result.

A good anchor can also put the other side “off its game.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve brought an aggressive opening number to the other caucus room and then spent a significant amount of time debating the reasonableness of the opening number rather than discussing how best that party should proceed.

The key to making the anchoring strategy work is to make your first offer as aggressive as possible without being so unrealistic as to make the other side walk away from the table. That should give you some room to move and it allows you to define – rather than react to – the zone of potential agreement.

But what can you do if the other side has already attempted to set an anchor?

First, try not to react negatively to the other side’s initial number. Sure, the opening number may have been aggressive but remember: you’ve done your homework, you’ve spent time preparing for mediation and you know the number at which you are willing to settle.

Second, send a brief explanation of your counter-offer but be wary of editorializing too much about their first move. Send a simple message that you understand what they are trying to accomplish, you have your evaluation of the case, and you will not be swayed.

Third, be aware of – but don’t necessarily focus on – the initial midpoint. You know your top-dollar or bottom-line. It should not matter too much to you that the first few moves suggest a mid-point outside of your settlement range. What matters is the final result.

Finally, rely on your mediator. I am there to help you take stock of the situation, focus your efforts and help move you and your client toward a successful settlement.

*Guthrie, Chris and Orr, Dan, Anchoring, Information, Expertise, and Negotiation: New Insights from Meta-Analysis. Ohio State Journal on Dispute Resolution, 2006; Vanderbilt Law and Economics Research Paper No. 06-12.

To Learn More about Chris or to book him for your next mediation, check out his bio.


March 10, 2015 No Comments

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March 9, 2015 No Comments

Written by Jamie Miles

As receptionist for Miles Mediation, Keyonna Calloway is often the first face visitors see. “I make sure things are handled right. Whatever the client needs, I’m here to accommodate them.” She added with a laugh, “I’m the friendly face of Miles.” Keyonna sees her role as one that sets the tone for the rest of a client’s day. “Some people just need a smile sometimes.”

Raised in Atlanta, Keyonna will turn 21 this April 20. These days, she works weekdays at Miles until 2:30 p.m. Her afternoons spent in class at Georgia Perimeter Dunwoody Campus. After accumulating enough course credits, Keyonna plans to major in International Business at Kennesaw State with a minor in Communications.

Attending S.W. DeKalb High School, Keyonna spent her first semester in the ROTC. She enjoyed traveling with the group but soon she wanted a new challenge. Her second semester, she joined the band. S.W. DeKalb has a long tradition of excellence in music and the marching band is no exception.

Starting out on clarinet, she found the clarinet section around 60 strong. This is one huge band. The larger sections lacked the intimacy of the smaller sections. “I wasn’t getting to know my section leaders. Although I was enjoying myself, I felt like a number. “

Keyonna soon found herself recruited away from the clarinets by the baritone French horn section. She quickly mastered this new instrument. By the end of her freshman year, she was selected drum major. This was quite an honor and Keyonna was the only female of six drum majors. She said with a laugh, “Everyone was like ‘Where did this girl come from? She’s been in band less than a year. How did she become a drum major?’”

Check out this video of the S.W. Dekalb Marching band; Keyonna is the 2nd from left drum major:


Making drum major was a turning point for her. “From that moment on I started to develop myself. Taking on that leadership position, I found out a lot about myself.”

The band was quite large, as many as 350 marching Panthers her freshman year. In 2011, Keyonna and the Marching Panthers travelled to Southern California and performed on New Year’s Day in the prestigious Rose Bowl Parade.

After graduating from high school in 2012, Keyonna started college at Alabama A&M University. Unfortunately at the end of her freshman year, finances and financial aid concerns led her to come home to regroup and figure out how to proceed financially with her collegiate plans.

Once back in Atlanta in her free time, Keyonna took photographs and posted them on social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook. People had very positive reactions to the photographs on her phone. She said laughing, “I was like . . . really? It’s just a picture.”

After seeing post for a short film company looking for set photographer, Keyonna emailed the producer. After seeing some of her photographs, she was hired.

Her first day on the movie set was a little bit overwhelmed. “It was like ‘wow.’ These people are for real. They had dollies, lighting, make-up chairs. I had to step up to the plate. and do my job well.” Keyonna added with a smile, “So by the end of the day they loved me.”


As set photographer, she took photographs of action behind the scenes during filming. Two of the short films she worked on, Yield and Almost There, were entries in the recent TPN Film Festival in Atlanta. “Since then I have a lot of people who want to work with me. I’m really excited for what the future has to hold with her photography.”

Starting back to school in January, Keyonna has two classes this semester and is excited to be in the classroom. Working part time at Miles helps her stay focused. “During my down time, I have the opportunity to study – Sydney and John are so understanding.”

Keyonna and her Aunt Gwen posing for a selfie

Keyonna and her Aunt Gwenn posing for a selfie

When asked what surprises her most about her job at Miles she said, “I’m surprised by the things I’m learning. Like the importance of the small things and making sure the details are done right. “ She added, “I didn’t expect everyone to be so nice. The lawyers were kind of intimidating. But everyone has been so friendly and encouraging. It made me appreciate this job more than I was expecting too.”

An only child, her Aunt Gwen has been her guardian since eighth grade. Keyonna expressed her gratitude for such a positive work environment. And with plans to be a future business owner, Keyonna appreciates how John encourages her questions about running a business. Whether her future includes photography, international business or some yet to be discovered passion — Keyonna is focused on the positive. “I know that I am going to keep going forward. I’m very passionate about wanting better things in life.”

We all look forward to see what the future holds for this talented and inspirational young woman.