Killing The Billable: Balancing Accuracy Against Efficiency In Dispute Resolution

In the world of dispute resolution, the twin concepts of accuracy and efficiency remain in tenuous counterbalance.  Certain methods of resolving disputes are highly accurate, while others are highly efficicent.  Generally, the more efficient a dispute resolution process, the less accurate the result and the more accurate the result, the less efficient the process.

Before I go further, it helps to define “accuracy” and “efficiency” as independent concepts in the dispute resolution context.  The most accurate result would be the one achieved by an arbiter with knowledge of the essential truth of the dispute, i.e. if the judge or arbitrator knew all the facts in their truest form prior to making a decision (the nature of essential truth is a deep philosophical question for another time).  The application of the proper laws and regulations and the appropriateness of the punishment also play a role in the accuracy of a judgment. The more efficient a dispute resolution process, the less resources (time, manpower, money) are consumed in reaching a decision. 

The U.S. justice system is currently skewed in terms of accuracy.  This focus on accuracy over efficiency often leaves hundreds of thousands of low-income clients without the ability to afford even basic legal services.  For instance, civil court procedure encourages parties to “discover” all the information underlying a dispute through the use of written questions (interrogatories), interviews of important parties (depositions) and formal written requests for documents and related evidence. 

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