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Nicolás Parra-Herrera
S.J.D. Candidate

Graduate Fellow, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School.
Visiting Professor, Universidad de los Andes (Colombia).
nparra at


I study alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) in the twentieth century in the U.S. and Latin America as an intellectual movement driven by “people with projects.” I propose an embedded approach to ADR, which focuses on the “background work,” that is, the vital dimensions that led actual people to create, adopt, or discard a dispute method, negotiation strategy, or conflict-management tool. The hypothesis underlying this approach is that ideas, like ADR methods and practices, are expressions of individual and social aspirations and vulnerabilities, as well as the crystallization of political, philosophical, and economic agendas. Based on these methodological assumptions, my project chronicles an intellectual history of ADR grounded not only on legal materials, reports on legal education, and legal scholarship written by people who pushed forward the ADR field, but also in a more intimate side of their thought, such as epistolary exchanges, speeches, interviews, and biographical events that likely shaped their perspectives.

The dissertation is divided into four parts. The first part is framed in the Progressive Era (ca. 1884-1939) and narrates the story of what I call Proto-ADR – the formation of concepts, ideas, and practices of conflict management from pragmatist thinkers like Jane Addams, Roscoe Pound, Mary Parker Follett, and William James. Their strategies ranged from psychological habits, collaborative social experiments, social courts, procedural reform projects, and reengineering legal concepts.
The second part centers on the post-World War II period (ca. 1947-1971) at HLS where what I call “Modern institutional ADR” emerged from the work of Lon Fuller, Henry Hart, and Albert Sacks (The Legal Process School or “LPS”). In this strand, ADR shifted gears to institutional design, order-making, and process architecture situating the field within the domain of the law and using it to order society through procedures and “neutral principles.” Further, ADR in the form of negotiation, mediation, and collective bargaining, in this stage, was used as an instrument to formulate legal education reforms to transform lawyers’ roles from advocates to social planners and experts in human conflict.

The third part, framed in the later stages of the Cold War and running to the response to 9/11 (ca. 1976-2004), chronicles the re-articulation of ADR in the work of Frank Sander, the creator of the multi-door courthouse, and Roger Fisher, the inventor of interest-based negotiation theory and author of one of the most popular books in negotiation: Getting to Yes (1981). This shift represented a new way of looking at conflict: from the structural dimensions to the individual psychology and relational ethics.

The last part will trace how ADR has trickled down into peace negotiations globally, particularly, the Colombian peace negotiations with the FARC. The work of Roger Fisher and William Ury was influential in the way the process was structured and implemented. I show how ideas, therefore, are transformed into complex negotiations to transform social dynamics and how the shortcomings of the dispute methods might be reflected in the failures of implementing the peace agreements negotiated with such methods.

Fields of Research and Supervisors

  • Critical Theory in Legal Scholarship, Janet Halley.
  • Alternative Dispute Resolution, Amy Cohen.
  • Institutional Design and Transitional Justice, Martha Minow.
  • Social Thought, Duncan Kennedy.

Additional Research Interests

  • Private Law
  • Philosophy of Law
  • Political Economy of Law
  • Adaptive Leadership and Law
  • Intellectual and Legal History
  • Law and Humanities
  • Pragmatism
  • Ethics


  • Harvard Law School, S.J.D. Candidate
  • Harvard Law School, LL.M. 2019 (requirements fulfilled, degree waived)
  • Universidad de los Andes, Specialization degree in International Business Law, 2016
  • Universidad de los Andes, Cum Laude, M.A. in Philosophy, 2013
  • Universidad de los Andes, Magna Cum Laude, Abogado (J.D. equivalent), 2013
  • Universidad de los Andes, Magna Cum Laude, B.A. in Philosophy, 2011.

Academic Appointments and Fellowships

  • Graduate Fellow, 2021-2022, Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School.
  • Harvard College, 2022, Head Teaching Fellow, Economic Justice. 
  • Harvard Law School, 2022, Course Coach, Adaptive Leadership for Lawyers.
  • Harvard Kennedy School, 2021, Teaching Fellow, Moral Leadership: Ethics in Public Life.
  • Harvard Kennedy School, 2020, Course Coach, Adaptive Leadership.
  • Harvard Law School, 2019-2020, Graduate Program Fellow, LL.M. Advisor
  • Universidad de los Andes, 2019, Professor of Negotiation, Mediation and Dispute System Design at the International Summer School
  • Universidad de los Andes, 2014-2018, Lecturer of the following courses: (i) Legal Theory, (ii) Law of Obligations, (iii) Torts, (iv) Legal Hermeneutics, (v) Logic and Rhetoric, and (vi) Introduction to Law
  • Universidad del Rosario, 2014 and 2018, Lecturer of the following courses: (i) Legal and Political Ideas and (ii) Legal Theory
  • Universidad Jorge Tadeo Lozano, 2013, Lecturer in Philosophy of Law
  • Pennsylvania State University, 2009-2010, Visiting Scholar at the Philosophy Department.

Representative Publications

Additional Information

Last Updated: June 10, 2022