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Agency in Conflict Resolution as a Manager–Lawyer Issue: Theory and Implications for Research


  • The author extends warm thanks to the editor of the special issue, as well as the two anonymous reviewers who provided highly relevant guidance toward the completion of this paper. Prof. Erik Wetter, Assistant Professor, Department of Management and Organizations, Stockholm School of Economics, also provided tremendous help in making this manuscript publishable.

Adrian Borbély, Institute for Research and Education on Negotiation (IRENE), ESSEC Business School, Avenue Bernard Hirsch, 95000 Cergy Pontoise, France; e-mail:


Agency theory is often used, through the principal–agent framework, to explain organizational barriers to conflict resolution, i.e., the internal reasons why parties in conflict lean so much toward adjudication, despite the availability of more efficient negotiated settlement methods. Framing business conflict resolution as a professional service, a knowledge-intensive field in which lawyers assist the other functions of the firm in resolving difficulties encountered with other organizations, leads scholars to reconsider classical agency assumptions. This contribution proposes a manager–lawyer agency framework of conflict resolution, which recognizes the influence lawyers exert over their clients and induces a focus on the micro-interactions among decision-makers, in-house legal counsels and attorneys as they coproduce response to conflict. From this theoretical effort, one may draw numerous paths for future research aiming to provide Alternative Dispute Resolution promoters with an increased understanding of within-party agency interactions.

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