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Professor Tom Stipanowich, "Of Time and Tide" -- Texas A and M Law Review

Professor Thomas J. Stipanowich's article "Of Time and Tide" is published in the Texas A&M Law Review, 10 Texas A&M Law Review 685 (2024) (SSRN). The article is a reflection on Professor Stipanowich's journey as a legal scholar and prime participant in the modern wave of change that transformed conflict resolution perspectives and practices during "the Quiet Revolution."

Abstract of "Of Time and Tide"

In this essay, Professor Thomas Stipanowich reflects on his journey as a legal scholar and prime participant in the modern wave of change that transformed perspectives and practices in conflict resolution which he calls “the Quiet Revolution,” offering insights and perspectives garnered over more than four decades. Building on Professor Jackie Nolan-Haley’s retrospective of his work, he charts the path of his own experience against the backdrop of broader cycles of evolution in the practice of law and the management of conflict.

Hearkening back to the roots of a career that happily coincided with the Quiet Revolution, the author recalls sharing an awareness of being engaged in a process of reevaluating and rethinking the nature and direction of our approaches to the resolution of conflict. Practical experimentation suggested that arbitration and mediation offered opportunities to avoid the inefficiency, waste, costs, and risks of lawsuits while promoting more effective methods for problem-solving, and for satisfying disputing parties’ real priorities and interests. With broadening experience, however, came the realization that dispute resolution processes that were advantageous to business parties might work to the disadvantage of consumers or employees, and that private justice raised special challenges and concerns if mandated by boilerplate in standardized contracts.

While acknowledging the achievements of recent years, the author expresses concerns about the resurgence of a litigation-centric culture and the impact of U.S.-style litigation practices in the realm of domestic and international arbitration. Drawing on his experience as a law professor, he emphasizes the continuing need for a more integrated approach to dispute resolution within the curriculum and laments the fact that, despite all of the human capital devoted to promoting resolution of conflict, our society is becoming more fragmented and polarized.

Stipanowich concludes that, as in other times of challenge, lessons may be drawn from outstanding exemplars such as Abraham Lincoln. In addition to offering many lessons in leadership in the course of guiding his country through a time of great peril, Lincoln (though a gifted trial and appellate attorney) counseled legal peers to discourage clients from going to court and instead focus on informal settlement. Lincoln's principled, deliberate approaches to all kinds of conflict offer important lessons for those seeking to improve their skills as communicators, negotiators, problem-solvers, leaders, and decision-makers.