Settling Disputes: Conflict Resolution in Business, Families, and the Legal System
By Linda Singer
Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff
Citation: Linda Singer. Settling Disputes: Conflict Resolution in Business, Families, and the Legal System. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1990, 196 pp.
Settling Disputes: Conflict Resolution in Business, Families, and the Legal System offers an overview of alternatives forms of dispute resolution. It describes and evaluates the use of these alternatives in cases ranging from family disputes to business and the legal system.
Settling Disputes: Conflict Resolution in Business, Families, and the Legal System will be of interest to those who seek a general understanding of the techniques and uses of alternative dispute resolution. This work is divided into eight chapters.
Chapter One reviews the origins and growth of the dispute settlement movement. The legal system is the official forum for dispute settlement. Litigation can be costly and complex, and some disputes are better resolved in a more informal forums. Chapter Two then reviews various techniques for settling disputes. In negotiation, disputing parties communicate directly with each other in an effort to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. Mediation employs a neutral third-party to facilitate negotiations. Arbitration relies on a neutral third- party decision-maker to settle disputes. Adjudication is arbitration by courts or by administrative agencies. Decisions are publicly made and enforced. Hybrid forms of dispute settlement combine these techniques in various ways.
Subsequent chapters explore the use of settlement techniques in various areas of conflict. Chapter Three examines the use of mediation in family disputes. The author focuses on divorce mediation. She describes criteria for choosing divorce mediation over litigation, and describes various sources of divorce mediation services. A case study illustrates the divorce mediation process. Chapter Four explores the use of arbitration and mediation in business disputes. Corporate arbitration avoids costly and lengthy litigation. Singer explores the use of summary juries, mini-trials, or neutral experts. Mediation is becoming more popular in settling business disputes, since it shares the advantages and remedies some of the drawbacks of mini-trials.
Chapter Five discusses consumer and employment disputes. Most consumer disputes are handled by the business itself. The author surveys public and private consumer dispute programs. She also describes the use of mediation to settle disputes between farmers and lenders. Finally she describes the establishment of mediation based grievance procedures to handle employee disputes. Chapter Six looks at the rise of community dispute centers, also called neighborhood justice centers. This chapter opens with a description of a typical case of community mediation. Community mediation deals with a wide variety of cases, including small claims cases, minor criminal cases, and interpersonal disputes. The author describes the advantages of community mediation over litigation.
Chapter Seven explores the issues involved in settling public disputes. Such disputes may involve government policy, or public institutions. Drawing on cases, the author describes the mediation of racial conflict, environmental disputes, housing and school disputes. She also describes the use of regulatory negotiation, and of school-based conflict mediation. Finally, Chapter Eight discusses alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and the legal system. The author describes the origins of ADR. She explores privacy and ethical issues within ADR, and describes impediments to more widespread use of ADR processes. The text concludes with a brief but optimistic Afterword on the increasing use of various forms of alternative dispute resolution
Settling Disputes: Conflict Resolution in Business, Families, and the Legal System offers a general review of the techniques of alternative dispute resolution, and of their use in a wide range of disputes.