Does it surprise you that someone who has dedicated his career to resolving disputes would use a phrase to imply that it’s easy? I hope so, because resolving disputes can be frustratingly difficult. But I stand by that statement—it’s not rocket science.
Usually when people use that phrase, they mean that something is easy. So they compare it to something that is the opposite of easy. Rocket science is the opposite of easy. It took brilliant scientists and engineers to develop the principles of rocketry. And it took large teams of them, using extensive resources, to apply those principles to successfully put satellites in orbit, men on the moon, rovers on Mars, and achieve up-close views of Pluto and beyond.
But despite its complexity, rocket science has an advantage over resolving disputes. It is a science. It deals with the principles of physics, which determine how things move in the natural world, everywhere, every day. As scientists figured out those principles, they had something definite they could work with to accomplish those amazing feats.
According to MIT, here’s a simplified version of one equation used in rocket science:
I don’t even know how to read that equation. But it is an equation. And it can be solved to determine a precise answer—every time.
Resolving disputes is very different. Disputes are disagreements between people. And while there are many similarities between people, there are also many differences. People involved in a dispute will view it according to a myriad of factors—their personalities, life experiences, viewpoints, values, motivations, beliefs, personal circumstances, as well as their understanding of the relevant law. Those factors will necessarily be different for any two people. And the factors will also be different for the judge or each member of a jury if the dispute ends up in a trial in court.
Our system of laws provides a very helpful structure that parties in a dispute can look to for guidance in how their dispute should be resolved. It is the one constant among a myriad of variables. But with all the differing factors involved, the law alone often does not bring the parties together to an agreed resolution of their dispute.
I’ve helped people resolve their disputes for over 30 years now, and I’m convinced there’s no equation for resolving disputes. There are certainly factors and general principles that can help in the process of trying to resolve disputes. In an earlier article I wrote of 10 key factors involved in resolving disputes, at this link. In another article I wrote of 21 practices lawyers can use to help their clients resolve disputes, at this link. But neither of those comes close to being a mathematical formula, where the factors can be plugged in and a resolution determined.
So resolving disputes isn’t rocket science. It’s a challenge all its own.