In the essay that follows, I advocate for greater acceptance of the diversity of belief and practice in the field of dispute resolution and contend that the unifying elements of law and dispute resolution practice predominate over those elements that divide practitioners. After providing definitions of some of the primary forms of dispute resolution (in Part II), the article describes tensions in the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) field (in Part III), quoting some of the harsh criticism that mediators, Collaborative practitioners, and other dispute resolvers have leveled at each other. Part III also expresses the concern that demonization and harsh rhetoric may distort the process of choosing an appropriate dispute resolution process to match the specific needs in an individual case, and may be hard to justify as a matter of logic when one considers the vast diversity of dispute resolution cases and processes. Part IV describes both the blurring of boundaries that has occurred in the ADR field and the increasing hybridization of processes within the ADR field, as well as the positive value in such cross-fertilization. Part V offers empirical data collected from 199 divorce cases in which various processes were used-ranging from mediation and Collaborative Practice at one end of the spectrum to litigation at the other end. Part VI advances the view that not only are there broad common elements among the various forms of dispute resolution but there are also common elements that unite the practice of law and dispute resolution practice; accordingly, while there are differing legal and ethical principles that guide. Part VII describes the common elements that unite the field of dispute resolution and advocates for a "big tent" philosophy that will enable practitioners of all kinds-lawyers, mediators, and others-to work more successfully together and do a better job of matching clients' needs with the services that we offer.
David A. Hoffman,
Colliding Worlds of Dispute Resolution: Towards a Unified Field Theory of ADR,
2008 J. Disp. Resol.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/jdr/vol2008/iss1/4