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Litigation: Arbitration online
Posted on Tuesday, February 01 @ 16:56:15 CET by eglobal

World of Arbitration A Colleague writes "A lot of dispute resolution business comes to the UK. Between 6,000 and 8,000 cases find their way here each year for arbitration or other forms of mediation, such as ADR. At least half of this is related to shipping industry disputes, processed in the UK on behalf of Lloyd’s of London, but there is a significant amount of commercial dispute resolution too.

Kieran Flatt asks Alan Connarty, director of operations at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, why his organisation is championing the cause of electronic dispute resolution — in some cases

In many of these disputes, the opposing parties may have very little to do with the UK. Alan Connarty, director of operations at the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb), says that England and Wales — and specifically, London — gets the business for three reasons: the efficiency of the process, trust in the local law and trust in the local law firms. But has he not heard the frequently voiced assertions that London risks losing business to more ‘modern’ or dynamic jurisdictions? Is this overstatement or fact?

"It is a bit of both," Connarty says. "Some of what is said on the subject is wild rumour. In the Far East technology is marching steadily onwards but I would hesitate to say that London is dragging its heels. It is true that some countries have modernised very rapidly and they are now going out to promote their jurisdiction as a convenient venue for both online and regular types of arbitration."

So does CIArb disapprove of this behaviour? No, Connarty says: "We encourage it very strongly. While we recognise the value of London we also support the sensible use of IT."

In arbitration centres such as London, Rotterdam and Hamburg, CIArb would like to see more use of video conferencing and more commitment to electronic document management as a means of supporting mediation and arbitration.

Only in the past 12 months has CIArb begun to see the use of video conferencing for commercial disputes in London. "Video conferencing provides an opportunity for witness statements," he says. "It enables an understanding by both parties of exactly what a witness has said."

CIArb would also like to see the introduction of virtual courtrooms and is enthused by the work carried out by Court 21, a Leeds-based project linked to the city’s university. Connarty describes the project as "very promising indeed". Some of Court 21’s work is expected to bear fruit in the next six months, with real, live dispute resolution systems on the market. Connarty expresses the hope that Court 21 will provide an integrated, end-to-end solution that can realistically be used for online mediation.

He also commends Lloyd’s for putting some of its ‘open form’ shipping disputes into online resolution systems to cut costs and improve procedures. "This sort of dispute lends itself well to online resolution," Connarty says. The American Arbitration Association (www.adr.org) has also gone online, setting up an office in Dublin for maritime arbitration, which uses an online procedure. Connarty says that even its detractors have to admit that the move "has provoked people to start thinking" more seriously about online dispute resolution.

In the US itself, there are several online technologies and video conferencing solutions used for arbitration and mediation. Taking these from a regional to a national level will be the next step forward for them, Connarty says. He adds that business in the US seems far more e-enabled than in Europe. "Traditionalists, and there are many in London, say they have not seen any demand for online arbitration," he adds. "However, online dispute resolution is viable in the UK and most legal aspects can be addressed in English law."

According to Connarty, online is shorthand for "cheaper and quicker". "When law firms are talking to their clients, they should be offering them a variety of different forms of ADR," he says. CIArb has estimated that in about 10% of cases, where it has been offered, clients have favoured the online option. Business, quite surprisingly, has been rather reluctant to use it.

Connarty sees the real challenge as persuading the parties to be more active in their use of modern facilities. "We are seeing a mix of participation," he says. "For law firms and their clients, the challenge is to start using the internet as a communication tool for resolving disputes. Their concerns should be: is it confidential and private; is it secure? I have seen no evidence to suggest that it is not."

Source: Legal IT - online IT magazine"

 
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