As a young lawyer, I valued the skills that pertain to trial advocacy.  In my maturity, I have come to appreciate the nuances of negotiation.

James Britt Donovan is known for negotiating the 1962 exchange of captured American U-2 pilot, Francis Gary Powers, for Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel.

The skill and determination of Attorney Donovan is dramatized in the 2015 Steven Spielberg movie “Bridge of Spies”.1  James Donovan achieved much in his 53 years.2  Some of his accomplishments include the following:

In 1945, he became an assistant to Justice Robert H. Jackson at the Nuremburg trials in Germany.

In 1957, he defended Soviet spy, Rudolf Abel, after many lawyers refused.  Although Abel was convicted, Donovan was successful in persuading the court not to impose the death penalty.  He then appealed Abel’s case to the United States Supreme Court.  Although unsuccessful, the decision in Abel v. United States resulted in a 5-4 decision.  Chief Justice Earl Warren praised Donovan and publicly expressed “The gratitude of the entire court” for his taking the case.  It was after this event in the Supreme Court that Donovan was called upon to negotiate the prisoner exchange between his client and the American U-2 pilot.

In 1962, Donovan engaged in negotiations with Fidel Castro to exchange prisoners of the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in exchange for 53 million dollars in food and medicine.  The medicine was sourced from private donations.  At the end of the negotiations on July 3, 1963, Donovan had secured the release of 9,703 men, women, and children from Cuban detention.

In the field of marital and family law, negotiation is perhaps an under-appreciated art.  We need only to look to the example of James Donovan to appreciate an expert practitioner in the art of negotiation.

by Patrick Gaffney

by Patrick Gaffney

1 Bridge of Spies. Dir. Steven Spielberg. Perfs. Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Alan Alda, Amy Ryan, Billy Magnussen.  Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, 2015.

2 Wikipedia.  James Britt Donovan.