T.J. Voboril
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March 16, 2014
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Vail Daily column: Tinder is a microcosm of the law

I went on a Tinder date recently. More accurately, I was the third wheel on a Tinder date. I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: my wife, Lauren, is the only woman for me. For those not familiar, Tinder is a dating app designed to remove a common impediment to finding a mate: initial uncertainty as to whether one’s advances will be well-received.

It is based on the concept of mutuality. As you scroll through users in the set geographical area, you make a notation in the app if you think someone is cute. If he or she feels the same about you, then Tinder alerts both to the potential match. It is then up to the matched persons to message via the app and decide whether an in-person meeting is warranted and/or prudent.

Fans of Tinder are legion and growing, as are its critics, who cite its perceived superficiality and other drawbacks. I make no value judgment about Tinder, but, as relevant to this column, I wonder how this new dating paradigm may reflect or affect use and expectations of the legal system.


Walking into the bar with my friend and watching him introduce himself to a woman known previously only through a small picture on his phone and a few brief messages, I felt like the unfrozen caveman lawyer awaking to a new world. Because they each knew that the other had an initial attraction and interest, they confidently launched into conversation.

On the one hand, I was impressed by the direct nature of the transaction. The word transaction is not intended to be pejorative but might indicate my instinctual response to what I was witnessing. There was no hiding of intentions: my friend was in town for a few days and there was no pretense of anything more than a passing fling. On the other hand, I lamented the lack of inherent risk. It takes real verve to approach a stranger across a bar.

Applying these initial observations to the process of litigation, I was mostly encouraged. So much of the difficulty in resolving disputes is in the breaking of facades, in the playing of games. The Tinder generation does not appear to believe much in circumlocution and is not afraid to put their goals right on the table.


If Tinder’s removal of the initial fear of failure can be extrapolated to other areas, then it may be that the Tinder generation will become more risk-adverse. That being the case, I would expect to see more negotiated resolutions of disputes rather than wagers on a positive outcome at trial. Certainly, there is the possibility that Tinder actually encourages more risk-taking, in which case the analysis would change in kind.

Tinder’s ability to remove the initial risk component is not completely favorable in a legal context. The possibility of failure is important to remind litigants that actions may have dire consequences. Moreover, when the dispute calls for full engagement at trial, it is critical that both the attorney and the client are comfortable with taking risks, strategic and otherwise. If one is not prepared to fail, then attaining true success may be impossible.


As the night progressed, so did my fascination. It being a small town, it so happened that my friend had also had promising Tinder interactions with the initial woman’s roommate. This fact was known both to the initial woman and to her roommate, who showed up at dinner. I was bewildered, but none of the Tinder triumvirate seemed fazed. While Tinder removed an initial barrier to entry, it also allowed its users to be fickle and catered to the narcissistic impulse to keep all possible options open.

In a conflict resolution setting, perfect outcomes are exceedingly rare. I was concerned that Tinder promoted the idea that one can always get what one wants. It is a dangerous outlook both in life and in the law.

That said, if Tinder encourages people to not settle for the easy way out and instead inspires attempts to craft an ideal solution, I have no quarrel with that. However, this is counterbalanced by my suspicion that Tinder allows people to forget that the arduous path is often required. The instant gratification that underlies the success of Tinder also sets a perilous precedent for expecting the legal system to give immediate results, when it does quite the opposite.

As for the resolution of the evening, it would be ungentlemanly to disclose the denouement.

T.J. Voboril is a partner at Reynolds, Kalamaya & Voboril LLC, a local law firm, and the owner and mediator at Voice Of Reason Dispute Resolution. For more information, contact Voboril at 970-306-6456, tj@rkvlaw.com or visit www.rkvlaw.com.

It being a small town, it so happened that my friend had also had promising Tinder interactions with the initial woman’s roommate. This fact was known both to the initial woman and to her roommate, who showed up at dinner.

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The VailDaily Updated Mar 16, 2014 05:43PM Published Mar 17, 2014 05:01PM Copyright 2014 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.