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Dispute Systems Design

Spring 2020 • Law 610 • Credits: 3

Instructor: Jennifer Reynolds

Every group (family, team, organization, institution, nation, and so on) must deal with disputes. The various approaches for dealing with disputes may be thought of as “dispute systems.” Dispute systems vary in terms of formality, complexity, scope, resources, and authority. They may be highly structured (e.g., U.S. civil procedure) or fairly ad hoc (e.g., dealing with problems on a case-by-case basis). They may focus on one specific dispute or on broader patterns within the group’s disputing culture. They may be created to respond to an event, like the Victims Compensation Fund in the wake of 9/11; or to manage existing disputes within an organization, like a university grievance process; or to prevent potentially contentious situations from ripening into disputes, as when companies enter early structured negotiation to clarify provisions within agreements. The field of dispute systems design arose in response to the increasing demand on the part of organizations and others for more effective institutional approaches to managing conflict and disputes, both proactively and after the fact. Lawyers and conflict resolution professionals are well positioned to help clients to design dispute systems that will help managing existing and new conflict more creatively and efficiently. This course will prepare students to evaluate, design, and implement processes for managing disputes in multiple contexts. These contexts may include university harassment policies, transitional justice programs, cross-border e-commerce, and institutional integrated conflict management systems.