Effective dispute prevention and resolution through proactive contract design

Petra Hietanen-Kunwald, Helena Haapio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Research shows that strategic dispute resolution and early intervention reduce direct and indirect costs of conflicts. Minimal costs are involved in preventing and de-escalating disputes, compared with the costs of arbitration and litigation, for example. In this context, the traditional view of contracts as legal documents or reactive enforcement mechanisms is too narrow. Contracts can be used proactively, ex ante, too, enhancing the parties’ chances of success and preventing unnecessary problems. In Europe, this is part of what is known as Proactive Law; in the US, Preventive Law. On both sides of the Atlantic, it can also be framed as practicing proactive contracting or proactive contract design. Well-designed contracting processes and documents can prevent misaligned expectations and disappointments so that unnecessary disputes can be avoided.
Early intervention methods of dispute resolution, such as mediation, can be used to de-escalate the dispute and promote cooperation. Along with other crucial elements, contracts can provide pre-agreed procedures and resolution mechanisms if changes, delays, or disturbances occur or a conflict situation arises. Building on our previous work on civil and commercial mediation and a
managerial-legal view on contracts and their design we illustrate, with examples, how proactive contract design, combined with early intervention procedures and monitoring systems as well as post-award management processes can be used to better deal with the commercial, legal and human elements of a dispute. With a focus on commercial business-to-business contracts and related conflicts we explore how design methods can be used to address the root causes of legal
disputes and to operationalize an effective dispute prevention and resolution system.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Strategic Contracting and Negotiation
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Dispute prevention and de-escalation
  • contract design
  • early intervention
  • conflict costs
  • proactive contracting

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