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Legal Memo

You will assume the role of a paralegal for the attorney who represents Ruth Riot (facts follow). Draft a memorandum advising the supervisory attorney that includes the following:
1. A "Fitting the Forum to the Fuss" analysis recommending a particular dispute resolution process
2. An evaluation of whether the analysis produced a useful and appropriate recommendation
3. An application of the conflict diagnosis approach detailed in your textbook, chapter 7, to develop a strategic plan for managing the dispute
Format and Requirements:
Memorandum Header
To: Professor
From: Student Name
Subject: Authentic Assessment: Ruth Riot
PART I – due at the end of Week 7
I. Fitting the Forum to the Fuss Analysis
• A list of the most important client objectives, with weights representing the importance of each objective (see Coltri, pp. 274–275, table 7-3). Your choices of every client objective, and its weighting, must be justified using the Conflict Onion technique.
• Rank the most effective to least effective dispute resolution processes with regard to each client objectives (see Coltri pages 276–277 for an example). Include a justification for your ranking of forums. HINT: Organize the discussion by client objective, and for each objective, discuss the relative strengths of each dispute resolution process in addressing the objective. Assign a numeric value appropriate to your weightings and create a grid such as table 7-4 on page 276 to organize your results.
• A resulting recommendation

PART II – due at the end of Week 8 (11:59 on the last day of class)
II. Critique of the Forum to the Fuss
• Did the analysis adequately capture the needs of the client? Why or why not?
• Were any of the client objectives duplicative (overlapping, as the book terms it), and if so, which ones, and why?
III. Conflict Diagnosis Approach Analysis
• An analysis covering each of the eight impediments shown on page 282, figure 7-2, rating each of them in importance, and justifying your ratings. The result of this analysis will be an ordered list along with key ideas about why each impediment is important.
IV. Client Approach
• Summarize the conclusions reached in the preceding sections and make concrete suggestions to your supervisor in order to educate the client and help her to understand the merits of your recommendations.
Fact Pattern
General Information, DoRay Dispute
DoRay Corporation is a small corporation that specializes in providing information systems to midsized universities. The firm was founded 16 years ago by Nancy Lassiter and Sam Veep. Lassiter and Veep currently serve on the board of directors with three others.
Neil Larkins, the firm’s senior software engineer, has been with DoRay 13 years.
Neil was recommended by Nancy’s father, who had been close friends with Neil’s late father. Neil was hired as a graduate student in computer science after spending a summer at DoRay as an intern. At the time he was hired, DoRay was a tiny startup with two partners, Lassiter and Veep, young entrepreneurs fresh out of business school. Over the years, Neil has grown into a first-rate software engineer. He has vision, is a strong innovator, and is able to motivate and give cohesion to any working group he is associated with. Although his job title is "software engineer," he contends that the real work he does is more commensurate with a title like "systems architect" because his main work is to envision and structure new approaches to creating software systems that match university needs. Neil is known for his generous spirit and his commitment to the work—he sees his job as the visioning and creation of quality products, and does not pay a lot of attention to how many hours he puts into the work.
Neil is adored within his working group, which is working on a major project for Kringle College. Members of his group seem devoted to him. This, of course, makes his group highly motivated and productive, and communication is efficient, informal, and speedy. The group members also have an active social life. Their parties are the stuff of legend.
For many years, DoRay struggled as a small company attempting to carve a niche for itself in the business world. When the occasional disagreement arose, things seemed to work out.
Recently, two major events have taken place:
• Nancy’s father passed away.
• Six months ago, DoRay landed a (relatively) enormous contract with a state university system to entirely revamp its online learning system. Thus, DoRay has been suddenly transformed from a small struggling company of mostly friends to a small but vibrant corporation employing over 300 people.
DoRay is run by a board of directors. Originally there were three directors, including Nancy, Sam, and Nancy’s father, Bruce. In light of Bruce’s death and given the expansion of the company, the board was increased to five members. However, Nancy is perceived by most employees as its "real decider." Nancy, who now serves as president of the corporation, is also beloved within the organization, particularly by the male members of the board. Not that there is anything romantic going on, but Nancy is at once vibrant and delicate, brilliant and tough, yet vulnerable—her fragile physical attractiveness and personality brings out a protective instinct, particularly among male leadership.
Performance reviews and salary negotiations generally occur in the late fall and winter of every year. This schedule is roughly timed to coincide with the grant process: the firm must know what it will require in salary overhead before submitting grant applications. Over the past 15 years, reviews and salary negotiations were characterized by a degree of informality appropriate to a tiny company run by friends—there are no clear written policies, and policy is more or less made up as they go along in order to comply with business demands. There is no formal, published timeline.
In late February, a crisis broke—the board of directors suddenly learned that Neil is completely disenchanted with his salary and is looking for another job. Although over the years he has commented that he is not being paid what he is worth, he has never formally complained.
Steve, Ruth, and Andy comprise the grant-writing subcommittee for the Larkins working group, 15 software engineers headed by Neil Larkins. All the group members are horrified at the prospect of losing Neil, but Ruth Riot seems particularly affected, and she has written an e-mail letter demanding that he be given a raise. The subcommittee apparently got word of the salary problem three weeks after submitting its portion of this year’s grant proposals, but four weeks before the due dates for the formal grant applications being written by DoRay.
Ruth has been a software engineer in the working group for the past three years and is highly proficient in the technical side of her job. But she has a history of being somewhat hot-headed and has been known to get involved in issues where she doesn’t belong. She is also extremely generous, serving on numerous committees and frequently volunteering to handle last-minute deadlines and sudden unanticipated crises requiring extra work. Indeed, she has acted as "earth mother" to the entire firm, providing food to ill employees at home and organizing visitations to employees who find themselves in the hospital.
Following Ruth’s delivery of the letter to the board, she was fired on the spot by Sam Veep. In response, Ruth did not say a word, but immediately picked up her desk supplies and marched off, never to return.
Now the company has been threatened with a lawsuit. The lawyer Ruth has hired, Rod Ramrod, is known for manipulating the public news media as a method of pressuring the opposition to cave in. Corporate legal counsel Fred Flintstone says that the outcome of litigation would be highly uncertain. Ruth might be able to win a suit for discriminatory firing because she is morbidly obese and claims that she suffered discrimination, but DoRay has a fairly good argument that she was fired for legitimate cause.
Additional Facts
Intake Memorandum: Ruth Riot
Ruth has worked in the Larkins working group at DoRay Corp. as an associate senior software engineer for about two years. She says that she loves her job at DoRay and her colleagues within the working group.
Ruth is divorced, is 43 years old, and has two teenage children. She has an MS in information technology from State University. Her bachelor’s degree was a dual major in philosophy and Native American studies.
As someone with a lifetime obesity problem, Ruth feels she has experienced a great deal of discrimination and hatred since childhood. "Throughout my life, I’ve had supposed friends who despised me behind my back for what I am," she remarked. Thus, Ruth sees the world as consisting either of friend or foe—and she says she will defend her friends and loved ones against their foes with every fiber of her being—that is what love and caring means to her. "When I was a child, I felt completely alone and defenseless, but as an adult, I have found that by defending those I care about, I can be powerful. Nobody messes with Ruth Riot or with those I care about," she said. I suspect Ruth’s "warrior persona" helps her to feel needed and accepted.
Ruth stated that she feels Nancy Lassiter is a particularly egregious example of a morally bankrupt person: "She’s immature and disgusting. She uses her physical attractiveness to get what she wants, but I see through all that. Behind her mask of sincerity, she is more than happy to lie, cheat, or bend the rules to get what she wants. Her empty promises to Neil are particularly heinous and must stop now. Her years of ignoring his wishes make it clear that her intention is to never follow through."
Ruth is convinced that Neil’s salary would make DoRay a laughingstock in the industry if the information leaked out, and she wanted to make that fact absolutely clear to the board of directors, which is why she said she wrote the e-mail. Nancy’s reaction was to go running to the board for protection, Ruth said. "If she had any spine, she’d have offered to meet with me face-to-face. Her reaction to the letter just demonstrates her two-faced manipulative character," Ruth said. Nancy lied about Ruth to the board of directors, according to Ruth, by misrepresenting the e-mail as implying that Ruth planned to blackmail the firm by "outing" Neil’s salary to the university community. This is not what she meant, Ruth vowed.
Ruth expressed a lot of ambivalence about her goals: on the one hand, she says she can’t work with such a dishonest and two-faced board any more, but at the same time she has deep regret that she no longer has what she characterizes as a dream job, the best she has ever had.
When asked to sum up what she wanted, Ruth said she wanted to make sure that the board cannot continue to exploit and mistreat its staff, and she hopes that if she has to file a lawsuit, it will force some changes. She said, "I kind of wish the board would just disappear … my work in Neil’s group was the happiest period of my life."
My impression of Ruth is that her personal sense of self seems to be very much tied up in being a warrior who defends her friends to the metaphorical death. She sees her abrasive behavior as essential to this goal—for a number of reasons, she sees adversarial behavior as her way of defending those she loves. Her behavior seems to come of love and generosity toward those she has bonded with, but I also have a sense that she fills a need for the acceptance of others by drawing lines in the sand and identifying certain people as friends and others as bitter enemies.
Additional Facts
E-mail from Ruth to Board of Directors
February 28, 20XX
To: DoRay Board of Directors
From: Ruth Riot
Subject: Neil Larkins, Equitable Compensation
Dear Board of Directors,
I am completely appalled by the lack of basic fairness being accorded to our beloved Neil Larkins. He deserves to be paid at least four times what he is getting. If he is not given a raise immediately, I predict most of my working group will walk out on the spot.
Although you say Neil’s request came too late, I challenge you to show me where in the firm’s policies it says when and how a request for pay equity is to be made, and where it is written that there is any deadline. Your foot-dragging is just an excuse.
Our firm is not complying with its expressed and explicit salary equity guidelines, and if word of this ever gets out to the larger university community, we’ll never get any good employees or good contracts.
Ruth Riot
Associate Senior Software Engineer
Letter from Ramrod to Nancy Lassiter and Sam Veep
March 15, 20XX
Dear Board of Directors, DoRay Corporation:
I represent Ruth Riot in her action against your firm, and you, personally, for discriminatory firing practices. You are in violation of applicable law in that your firm, at your direction:
? Does not have an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy with grievance processes, as provided by law;
? Engaged in an unlawful retaliatory firing of Ms. Riot
? Engaged in unlawful discrimination of Ms. Riot on the basis of body size.
If she is not rehired and given $50,000 in damages and back wages, we will within the next 30 days (1) file suit for compensatory and punitive damages of $60 million, and (2) contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and initiate action.