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“Neighborhood Dispute Resolution Projects – The Legacy of Our Adversarial System.”

Stulberg, J.B.
June 4, 2015

Source: Study of Barriers to the Use of Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution, Vermont School of Law Dispute Resolution Project.

A typical case for mediation might involve neighbors for whom a minor disagreement cannot be resolved between themselves or forgotten. When these persons come to a justice center they meet with a trained mediator who assists them in developing acceptable solutions to the problem. If the parties are successful, they negotiate terms of an agreement in the form of a legally enforceable contract. This process is quite different from the adversarial system to which lawyers are accustomed. Legal training and adversarial system principles preclude discussion of issues priorities, establishes the superior rank of legal rights, ascribes fault and liability, establishes a relationship between a client’s interests and his legal rights, and has an aura of professionalism which stigmatizes alternate dispute resolution processes. Adherence to these principles effectively bars a lawyer from participation in the process. The author suggests that total adherence to the adversary system does not aid the citizenry because there is no mechanism for dealing with clashes between diverse lifestyles. An appended discussion focuses on alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and the protection of rights.


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