Attorney Charlie Pillsbury has spent much of the past 20 years helping people in the New Haven, Conn., area work out their differences. Consider his first case, in 1990, when he mediated a truce between a group of black Yale University students and an Italian pizza maker who had them arrested for rowdy behavior.

The dispute escalated when the students organized a campus-wide boycott of the restaurant. “We provided a way for everybody to apologize and go back to business as normal,” said Pillsbury, who at the time had just launched Community Mediation Inc. in New Haven. “Everybody regretted what happened. They were able to shake hands, walk away and put it behind them.”

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