I love articles that promise me eating blueberries, goji berries or fermented foods will make me super healthy.  Well, I don’t really love those articles, but the idea of superfood as a quick fix certainly has its charms, even though at heart we know it’s just silly. 

Just as silly, is the idea that courts are a ‘superfood’ for resolving conflicts. A magical solution for complex medical problems is the stuff of dreams in most cases, and so too is the idea of courts magically being able to manage relationships, dysfunctional interpersonal dynamics, emotional or financial healing, and the other complexities that are invariably present between litigants. 

Courts make decisions, they do not resolve conflict, and they do not finalise disputes.  The human experience of conflict is tossed aside, papered over or made worse in court. 

Courts are not built for the work of conflict resolution, but there are professions which are built for just that.  I hope we might see the legal concept of pre-action procedure expanded beyond (mainly) court-annexed mediation. It could encompass genuine management of conflict, by whomever that work needs to be done. Conflict coaching, money coaching, business coaching, careers coaching, communication coaching, divorce coaching, family therapy, counselling, financial planning, child psychology, all hold the potential to work at a level underneath the presenting issues, and very likely at the point of the causes and potential cures, in so many cases I have seen. 

It is up to lawyers to decide if we can see beyond DR; whether we see our job as delivering outcomes, which courts do well, or delivering true resolution, which we need to design outside the arena of adversarial thinking. 

In the same way out-of-court dispute resolution is an idea whose time has come, the idea of pre-emptive work, multi-disciplinary approaches and aiming for something better than judicial decisions or legal settlements, can’t be far off. For me, it’s an idea that arrived a long time ago; I know I’m not alone, and I hope one day I will be ‘normal’.  

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