Disputants' Perceptions of Dispute Resolution Procedures: A Longitudinal Empirical Study

46 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2008 Last revised: 14 Mar 2008

Date Written: March 6, 2008


Disputants who file claims in civil court have a multitude of procedural options. They can settle via negotiation, mediation, arbitration, trial or a host of other alternatives. To the extent that courts and lawyers want to competently advise disputants about how various procedures might satisfy their needs, legal professionals face the challenge of understanding how disputants initially evaluate their options, and how they perceive procedures after they have experienced them. To date, empirical studies of actual civil disputants have examined their perceptions of procedures almost exclusively after their disputes have ended. Moreover, none of the published research has assessed their perceptions both before and after experiencing a dispute resolution procedure for the same dispute. The relevant research as a whole, then, appears to disregard important ways in which disputants' perceptions might be dynamic. To fill this significant gap in the literature, we present the first pre-experience (ex ante) and post-experience (ex post) longitudinal field study of actual civil disputants. Consistent with previous laboratory research, we found that disputants initially evaluated their options on the basis of the relative control they offered disputants as opposed to third parties. We also found that initial attraction to third party control predicted ex post satisfaction with adjudicative procedures. However, initial attraction to disputant control did not predict ex post satisfaction with nonadjudicative procedures. This pattern suggests that adjudication met disputants' expectations but nonadjudicative procedures failed to do so. Recommendations for court policy and future research are discussed.

Keywords: courts, empirical, disputants, alternative dispute resolution, negotiation

Suggested Citation

Shestowsky, Donna and Brett, Jeanne M., Disputants' Perceptions of Dispute Resolution Procedures: A Longitudinal Empirical Study (March 6, 2008). UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 130, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1103585 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1103585

Donna Shestowsky (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
400 Mrak Hall Drive
Davis, CA 95616-5201
United States
530-754-5693 (Phone)

Jeanne M. Brett

Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States
847-491-8075 (Phone)
847-491-8896 (Fax)

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