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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2007

T C 357 • Why We Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior: Managing Differences in an Adversarial World

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
43417 M
5:00 PM-8:00 PM
CRD 007B

Course Description

People are easy to get along with until two or more of us get together. From boudoir to boardroom, from war room to courtroom, managing human differences is an omnipresent and enduring challenge. Too often, when dealing with conflicting beliefs, wants and aspirations, humans default to adversarialism in law, international relations, business, politics, and even religion. So pervasive is the aggressive mindset, according to Deborah Tannen, that American society has become "the argument culture." Because managing human differences is multifaceted, we'll delve into psychology, communication, game theory, logic, complexity and chaos for insights on the operation, costs and benefits of the strategies we pursue in dealing with our differences. To address our argument culture, its not enough to advise others on what they must do: weve all got to get better. For that reason, while it is valuable and perhaps most comfortable to engage in detached exploration, you will not be allowed to stop there. You will be challenged to not only engage your intellect but to explore your whole self as you relate to the readings and to your classmates. There is nothing more critical to managing differences than your ability to communicate, both orally and in writing. For that reason, well have two individual oral presentations and one group presentation. Youll learn how to communicate more powerfully than youve previously imagined, and, if need be, to overcome the natural anxiety that accompanies oral presentations. What better way to explore human differences than to participate in group activities in which you must take advantage of your diversity without letting it become a hindrance.

About the Professor

Mark Perlmutter is a certified civil trial lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke in Austin, Texas, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Texas School of Law. His private practice focuses on professional negligence, business disputes, class actions and serious injury cases, as well as mediation. He has lectured extensively for the State Bar of Texas, University of Houston, University of Texas, and South Texas law schools, helped write the Texas Lawyers Creed, and is a former President of the Travis County Bar and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas. He served as chair of the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee, co-produced Lifetime Television's Scared Silent, a movie based on one of his cases, and is currently serving on the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. Honored as a legal innovator by The Texas Lawyer and as a "Superlawyer" by Texas Monthly Magazine, Perlmutter continues to speak on his book, Why Lawyers (and the rest of us) Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior. His education includes a bachelors degree in communication from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Texas.

Grading Policy

This course will contain a substantial writing component.

Class participation 5%
Individual oral presentations 20%
Group oral presentation 10%
Critical reactions 15%
Midterm paper (3-5 pages) 15%
Final paper (13-17 pages) 25%


The primary course references will be Trimble, Writing with Style; Spence, How to Argue and Win Every Time; and Perlmutter, Why Lawyers (and the rest of us) Lie and Engage in Other Repugnant Behavior.

In addition, we'll read a number of short pieces and excerpts such as:

A.J. Schuler, Hardball Negotiations.
Callahan, The Cheating Culture.
Craigs List, Rant & Rave.
Feldman, Iran and the Bomb. New York Times Magazine.
Fisher and Ury, Getting to Yes.
Fukuyama, Trust.
Gleick, Chaos.
Kane, Through the Moral Maze.
Kiersey and Bates, Please Understand Me.
Tannen, Deborah, The Argument Culture.
Toulmin et. al., An Introduction to Reasoning.
Winter, A Clearing in the Forest.


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