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UH Law Center Professor Jessica Bregant honored for advancing dispute resolution research

Assistant Professor Jessica Bregant

University of Houston Law Center Assistant Professor Jessica Bregant

Nov. 20, 2023 — University of Houston Law Center Assistant Professor Jessica Bregant received the 2023 Hugh L. Carey Center’s Dispute Resolution Advancement Award for settlement research. The “award recognizes scholars whose published empirical research furthers the advancement and understanding of the values and skills of dispute resolution,” published Harvard Negotiation Law Review.

“It was very exciting to receive the award because it recognizes not just one article but a series of papers that we are working on,” Bregant said. “It is great to know that others are as excited as we are about what we have been working on in settlement and recognize its importance.”

Co-authoring Perceptions of Settlement with University of Illinois College of Law Professors Jennifer Robbennolt and Verity Winship, she examined how parties involved in conflict or dispute perceive the terms, outcomes and fairness of a potential settlement.

In Perceptions, the authors describe settlement as “merely an agreement to resolve a legal dispute, but in the law and in public consciousness, the way settlement is conceptualized is often more complicated.”

“Settlement is multifaceted and can be associated with apologies,” Bregant said. “I am interested in how people think about whether justice has been done to both parties … and reactions are very different depending on situational experiences.”

A survey was performed with a nationally representative sample, gaining answers from an estimated 1,000 individuals in the first phase of the project for insight into people’s views of settlement.

“We started focused on the inferences that people are making specifically about the parties and their responsibility,” Bregant said. “That led to further study of settlement, in part because of the discussions we had with people after that set of studies, prompting the question, ‘Do people really even know what settlement means?’”

The article discusses perceptions of settlement in cases such as wrongful death, police excessive force and jury verdicts. Settlement hindrances and practical solutions to common obstacles in negotiation were analyzed, examining how biases can prevent parties from reaching a mutually beneficial agreement and providing an understanding of how parties can overcome such challenges to reach successful resolutions.   

“We have a very broad set of data that are looking at ‘What do people actually know about settlement?’ and next I think we will move to something more focused,” Bregant said. “We have a long list of projects that we could do in this space.”

The three scholars were awarded $5,000 and recognized at a virtual ceremony in the spring hosted by St. John’s Law for the outstanding quality of their research, its interdisciplinary nature and its impact on the legal field.

Perceptions was also named as the Association of American Law Schools’ Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Article of the Year in 2021.

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