The Dispute Resolution Movement Needs Good Theories of Change

15 Pages Posted: 10 May 2021

See all articles by John Lande

John Lande

University of Missouri School of Law


In 1982, Chief Justice Warren Burger reflected on the litigation process and asked, “Isn't there a better way”? This question reflects the aspirations of the dispute resolution community for innovation and improvement of traditional processes of dispute resolution. Almost four decades later, in 2019, leading dispute resolution organizations convened a conference calling on this community to appreciate the legacy of past initiatives and engage the future of the field.

This essay follows up that important conference, arguing that members of the dispute resolution movement should develop realistic theories of change to advance their goals. To provide material for theories of change, the essay sketches out some of the many goals for dispute resolution, sets forth strategies that have been used to advance these goals, and discusses factors that may affect the success of these efforts. As an example of a theory of change, it suggests a strategy to advance a particular high-priority goal: maintaining the vitality of the dispute resolution field in American legal education.

Keywords: dispute resolution, theory of change, change process, trend, innovation, goal, strategy, resource, barrier, assumption, evaluation, measurement, legal education

Suggested Citation

Lande, John, The Dispute Resolution Movement Needs Good Theories of Change. 2020 Journal of Dispute Resolution 121, University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-08, Available at SSRN:

John Lande (Contact Author)

University of Missouri School of Law ( email )

Hulston Hall
Columbia, MO 65211
United States

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