The Dispute Tree and the Legal Forest

Posted: 5 Nov 2014

See all articles by Catherine Albiston

Catherine Albiston

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law; University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Lauren B. Edelman

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and Center for the Study of Law and Society

Joy Milligan

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Date Written: November 2014

Abstract

Since the Civil Litigation Research Project in the 1980s, sociolegal researchers have referenced the metaphor of the dispute pyramid to understand dispute resolution. The pyramid focuses on formal legal dispute resolution and represents disputes as a linear process of attrition in which only a small proportion of perceived injuries proceed to adjudication. Although a fertile metaphor, the dispute pyramid approach left important processes undertheorized and understudied. We propose a new metaphor: the dispute tree. The dispute tree has many branches, both legal and nonlegal, through which grievances may be resolved. Grievances may move along several branches simultaneously, and dispute resolution may be a nonlinear process. Branches represent the evolving nature of disputes as living organisms that may bear flowers and fruit or may wither and die. Not only dispute trees but also their forests are subjects for study. Dispute trees exist in social environments that may foster or inhibit healthy growth; they may grow within public or privately governed forests. We argue that the dispute tree metaphor better represents decades of research on disputing, which has identified myriad disputing channels outside of courts, as well as both individual and collective mobilization. We also believe that this new metaphor for disputes and the dispute process will open new avenues of inquiry.

Suggested Citation

Albiston, Catherine and Edelman, Lauren B. and Milligan, Joy, The Dispute Tree and the Legal Forest (November 2014). Annual Review of Law and Social Science, Vol. 10, pp. 105-131, 2014. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2519030 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-lawsocsci-110413-030826

Catherine Albiston (Contact Author)

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

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

University of California, Berkeley - Berkeley Center on Comparative Equality & Anti-Discrimination Law

Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Lauren B. Edelman

University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence & Social Policy Program and Center for the Study of Law and Society ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States
510-642-4038 (Phone)
510-643-6171 (Fax)

Joy Milligan

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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