Skip to content

Fall 2021 Seminar

Designing Dispute Systems for Justice

Prerequisites: None

Exam Type: No Exam

Lawyers are often called upon to help design systems for managing and/or resolving conflicts that support or supplant existing legal structures. Implicitly or explicitly, every institution and organization has a system for managing disputes. In some cases, the system may be formal, with administrative hearings, courts, tribunals, and complex appeal and review processes. In other cases, organizations may have few if any formal means for managing conflict. In these instances, conflicts may either be handled through informal negotiation and mediation or by ignoring it altogether. As individuals, institutions, organizations, and nations become more aware of the ever-rising cost of conflict (in economic, relational, and human terms), many are seeking to design and implement systems to manage disputes with greater effectiveness and efficiency. Though lawyers have traditionally been viewed primarily as advocates who resolve already-ripened disputes through litigation and negotiation, a growing interest in more efficient and tailored approaches to conflict management has highlighted the special opportunity for lawyers to serve as creative “dispute process architects.” This seminar will introduce students to the theory and promise of dispute systems design with an aim to train students to play this new and more creative professional role. After an overview of various dispute resolution processes and a thorough introduction to the basics of dispute systems design, the course will offer for analysis several domestic and international case studies of dispute systems design in practice. These may include an examination of cross-border e-commerce, university harassment policies, transitional justice programs and truth commissions in the aftermath of atrocities, and institutional integrated conflict management systems in U.S. organizations.