Snap Disputes

38 Pages Posted: 22 Jun 2020

Date Written: August 1, 2019


We live in a conflict-saturated moment. First-hand disputes, reports of disputes, and disputes in the making crop up at every turn. Political and personal disagreements are nothing new, of course, but today many of these disagreements feel highly fraught and inescapably public, laden with imminent violence (or the perception of imminent violence) and subject to broad transmission via social media. Times like these present an opportunity to reexamine the roles and responsibilities of those who specialize in dispute resolution.

Conventional dispute resolution methods, such as litigation or mediation, are suitable for many different kinds of disputes, especially in structured environments where the participants have some kind of direct involvement in the dispute at hand. But these methods are difficult to apply when it comes to diffuse, values-intensive, norms-focused, once-removed, media-driven, “scissor algorithm,” in-the-moment disagreements — what I am calling (and will explain below) snap disputes. Snap disputes create new practice challenges for dispute resolution experts — like, what do we do in these situations? — and they force those working in dispute resolution to reexamine whether and how the terms of civil discourse have changed and what that means for existing theories and practices.

For decades, ADR proponents have worked on the front lines of theory and practice, inside and outside of law schools, innovating best practices for handling conflict in a variety of contexts. When it comes to snap disputes, however, much of the theory and practice is inadequate and more work is needed.

Keywords: conflict, dispute, social media

Suggested Citation

Reynolds, Jennifer Wenska, Snap Disputes (August 1, 2019). 25 Harv. Negot. L. Rev. 37 (2019) , Available at SSRN:

Jennifer Wenska Reynolds (Contact Author)

University of Oregon School of Law ( email )

1515 Agate Street
Eugene, OR Oregon 97403
United States
541-346-3691 (Phone)

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