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Is Digital Arbitration Here to Stay? See What Experts Have to Say
3 min read
The pandemic has made tech adoption faster than ever before, and this includes digital arbitration. With more arbitrators, counsels, and businesses turning to digital arbitration during a global crisis, would this new dispute resolution method stand the test of time? We spoke with multiple experts in legal tech and international arbitration to hear their opinion, and they seem to be pointing towards the same answer — that digital arbitration is here to stay. Read more about what they have to say. Mark Beer, OBE “Technology is universal. More people have access to the internet than justice. It’s ubiquitous. It sits on people’s devices. And it could give people access to legal resolution tools that go beyond any court or legal system. That’s why technology is likely to fill the justice chasm.” Legal tech expert, Mark Beer OBE believes that technology would be able to bridge the justice chasm. He also says that the momentum, which was accelerated by the pandemic, will more likely continue in the coming years with the private sector pitching in on this movement. “We are going to see the rise of private-sector dispute avoidance and dispute resolution processes, which deal with the settlement, conciliation, and mediation to some extent. The justice chasm is too wide and deep now to hope for the State to be able to help it in a quick fashion. Thus, private sector-led online dispute platforms will come into place.” he says. Ben Giaretta C. Arb. “Of course, [VR hearing] might be a step too far - it might be too much for many people to accept. But innovation will continue. Whether we take the further step of engaging in a virtual reality environment or not, more and more technology will be used, just as we have seen recently.” For international commercial arbitrator, Ben Giaretta C. Arb, video conferencing will continue to dominate in digital arbitration, and improvements may be well underway. Through digitization, a truly international form of arbitration may also arise. “If we are predominantly operating in a digital environment, and not physically meeting in one place, then perhaps we can finally separate arbitration from individual approaches that are adopted within individual countries, often influenced by the approaches in the local courts” he explains. Sophie Nappert “Digital arbitration is a fantastic time and cost saver. The danger, on the flip side, is how do you avoid miscarriages of justice or wrong decisions because they are so quick?” Sophie Nappert, an independent digital arbitrator, recognizes the benefits of digital arbitration, but she reminds us that although speed is its strength, it can also be its weakness. She also says that for tech adoption to really take flight, people in the legal industry need to have an open mind on how digital processes can help simplify procedures. “This is [one of the] reasons why arbitration, and the courts for that matter, have resisted for so long to take everything online, because even advocates like barristers and lawyers who plead would say, ‘I can’t cross-examine, it makes no sense, there’s a whole lot of body language, chemistry, and human interaction that you don’t even have to speak and you convey information.’” she says. Mark Deem “I think the main source of any resistance towards digital arbitration will come from a person's response to technology. I think it's inevitable that there's going to be some degree of resistance.” In line with the prior comment, Mark Deem, Mishcon de Reya’s Dispute Partner, says that resistance comes not from the technology per se, but the familiarity of the users such as lawyers to the technology itself. Once that is overcome, a more digital environment could prosper and help automate certain processes. “The route through interdigital arbitration is using technology to speed up the process by which we're reviewing documents. Then, conducting the arbitration itself in a more digital environment would soon be possible. I think that’s the next step in the evolution.” he explains. Sebastian Mejia “There's always some element of digital arbitration that may benefit every single dispute and every single business.” Finally, according to Sebastian Mejia, the beauty and strength of digital arbitration lie in the fact that it can be used in multiple kinds of disputes. With that, digital arbitration ensures its proliferation because of its flexibility. “Digital arbitration is not tailored for specific types of disputes. I wouldn't say ‘Oh, only small disputes, only large disputes, only contractual disputes, or only disputes where you have documents’. As I said, the flexibility allows you to have a good procedure for any dispute.” he explains. There you have it. Those are the thoughts of legal experts on whether digital arbitration is here to stay. Do you agree with their points? Comment down below! The Next Frontier of Digital Arbitration is Here Today, the project is entering a new and exciting chapter for arbitrators who want to join the Jur Roster of modern arbitrators. Check it out.

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Justice Talk with Ben Giaretta: The Ins & Outs of International Digital Arbitration
In our second installation of the Justice Talk series, we dive into international digital arbitration with expert arbitrator, Ben Giaretta. We discuss how the rapid adoption of technology is affecting the career growth of digital arbitrators, how we see this industry evolving in the next few years, and more. Check it out. Ben Giaretta C.Arb: an expert on the intersection of law, business, and technology If you’re looking for an expert in international commercial arbitration, look no further than Ben Giaretta, C.Arb. He is currently the Chair of the London Branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and a dispute resolution partner at Fox Williams LLP. He’s had years of experience handling dispute cases for multiple industries such as oil & gas, renewables, construction, mining, and technology, to name a few. As someone who is at the forefront of international arbitration, we asked his thoughts about the industry, how technology is affecting its trajectory, and the secret to his success. Digital Arbitration’s Promising Future in the Global Market When we asked Ben his thoughts about international arbitration, he gave us an interesting answer. “International arbitration is a bit of a misnomer because in many ways it’s a collection of national systems and approaches,” he says. Despite efforts to try and make it “international”, Ben argues that people are still always rooted in their own national and cultural ways of doing things, even in an international arbitration setup.  This is why digitization is so promising because it opens the idea that a truly international arbitration is within reach. “If we are predominantly operating in a digital environment, and not physically meeting in one place, then perhaps we can finally separate arbitration from individual approaches that are adopted within individual countries, often influenced by the approaches in the local courts,” he says.  Steps to Professional Success These innovations in digital arbitration are certainly something to be excited about. But how does one launch a career in arbitration? How did Ben do it? Ben recalls his first appointment from an institution that gave him his first valuable lesson in the field of arbitration. “It was a dispute about a medical center in Singapore. The building had lots of doctors and individual consulting rooms housed within it, all separate from each other. This meant that there were around 55 parties to the case, and I'm afraid to say I was terrified of that number.” He decided to decline the appointment, but this experience taught him how to be brave in the field of arbitration. “Be brave, because when you start out, it's very nerve-racking. It's all-new. And there's a mental shift you have to do, from the comfort of what you know as counsel to the unknowns of a new role as arbitrator.” Ben says. Aside from building the courage to take on the new challenge of arbitration, Ben tells us that casting a wider net has helped him launch his career. “When you work in a law firm as a counsel, you're encouraged to become a specialist. This is especially true with big law firms where you're encouraged to focus on particular disputes, clients, and subject matters. You don't really have that luxury as an arbitrator. There are a few particular industries where expertise is a must, but most arbitrators have to turn their hand to almost anything and look for appointments from almost anywhere.” And with the world going global and digital at a faster rate than ever before, Ben says that marketing oneself internationally is key to growth. “You have to think about marketing yourself in different parts of the world and be ready to take on lots of different types of cases with different approaches.” Humanity & Technology for Justice In the face of globalization and digital evolution, technology has successfully augmented the capabilities of humans. Ben says that this is very much apparent now and may continue in the future. “The pandemic has accelerated people's access to video conferencing. The fact that we now have this software on all our computers and phones is remarkable. Four or five years ago, if I was going to do a video conference, I would go to a special room in the office; but now, you can do video conferencing from your laptop or your smartphone,” he says, by way of example. Aside from video conferencing, AI-powered tools have also made it easier for arbitration practitioners to handle cases, especially in managing large amounts of evidence as well as in legal project management. However, Ben warns that despite technology’s ubiquity, human interaction is still very important. “While processes might increasingly be driven by AI, I also want to point out that being human in international arbitration is important because you are dealing with human problems. It's also difficult to leave the work to digital analysis alone, because that way, we may lose sight of certain complexities.” Ben also discussed how a touch of humanity is necessary to make the arbitration process effective and to deliver high-quality justice. “Probably the most important tip is to be human. As an arbitrator, You are not an automaton, you’re not there to simply churn out an answer.” Ben says. “You're dealing with different kinds of humans — humans as individuals, as parties, as companies, as legal counsels, and many more. You have to engage with them throughout a case which may go on for a while, maybe years.” Ben tells us as he discusses the human interaction that an arbitrator has while handling a case. “A big part of an arbitrator’s job is project management, which is as much about managing the case and the process, as it is about managing the people involved. I think the only way you can run an arbitral proceeding successfully is by approaching things on a human level. You are a manager of people, as much as you are a manager of the case,” he expounds. Ben illustrates this humanity in a simple example, “So if you set a timetable and one party can't meet that, then you need to engage with them and listen to them on why they can't meet the timetable.” What’s Next for International Digital Arbitration? Digital arbitration’s growth promises other possible innovations which Ben is excited about.  “Video conferencing nowadays is remarkable. It will be surprising to have a case which doesn't involve video conferencing in the future. Now, what comes next? Well, perhaps we will get into truly virtual hearings.” Ben opened when we asked about the future of video conferencing. He expounds this more, observing how the “virtual hearings” we have now are not yet truly virtual, “I mean, we talk about virtual hearings now, but they're not really virtual. They are hearings using video conferencing. “Virtual” means you are immersed in that environment. Perhaps the next stage in the development of international arbitration is to use virtual reality in hearings.” He explains how soon, it may be a rule in digital arbitration that participants engage in a simulated common environment wherein “everyone feels as if they are sitting in the same room”. “It might seem a bit of a leap now, but the same could have been said 10 years ago about video conferencing being available on every computer and becoming the main form of communication.” Ben declares. “Of course, [VR hearing] might be a step too far - it might be too much for many people to accept. But innovation will continue. Whether we take the further step of engaging in a virtual reality environment or not, more and more technology will be used, just as we have seen recently.” he tells us, gesturing at the screens we were using as we conduct the interview from four different time zones. Aside from innovations that sound like they’re straight out of a sci-fi film, Ben also shared how international digital arbitration may see more efficient processes, platforms, and technologies. This may come in the form of a “platform which is adaptable to every single case.” “Having automatic drafting of awards would be a very good thing. I still don't know why, but we don’t have automatic award drafting in arbitration. And that's actually a fairly straightforward thing to do. You'd have to ensure that all the communications are on one platform, and once it is, I believe it would be a relatively straightforward job to draft a substantial part of the award via computer technology.” Ben says as an example of the processes and technologies which may revolutionize digital arbitration as we know it. International digital arbitration is poised for more innovations in the coming years — and Jur is proud to be a leader in this movement. Today, Jur is entering a new and exciting chapter for arbitrators who want to join the Jur Roster of modern arbitrators. Check it out.
Traditional Arbitration vs. Digital Arbitration: Differences, Benefits, & Challenges
Arbitration is becoming a more prevalent choice in resolving many disputes around the world. With technology making great strides in modernizing processes, one would wonder what could be the difference between traditional and digital arbitration. Let’s take a deeper look into the key differences between traditional and digital arbitration and what are the benefits and challenges of using either of the two. Key Differences The most obvious difference between traditional and digital arbitration is their mode of operation. Traditional arbitration is conducted through real-time hearings with most of the documents in physical format. Because of its straightforward approach, traditional arbitration is often considered the simpler option. On the other hand, digital arbitration is often done through tech-enabled platforms (though not necessarily). Technology is used so that parties, counsels, and arbitrators could submit documents, attend virtual hearings, and draft the award. Another key difference between the two is their business model. Since traditional arbitration bodies require physical appearance and coordination, most of them have offices where they could meet clients and do business. This could affect the cost of operations of the arbitration chamber. Digital arbitration needs little to no physical office space — probably aside from the desk that the arbitrator would need to conduct their business. The only infrastructure needed for digital arbitration is the platform upon which the proceedings will be conducted and managed, and a laptop to access the platform. Accessibility is also another differentiating factor between traditional and digital arbitration. Since traditional arbitration has existed far longer than digital arbitration, there are already many reputable organizations that operate with this method. To an extent, this makes traditional arbitration more visible. However, given the need for physical presence, it becomes less accessible compared to digital arbitration. With digital arbitration, parties, counsels, and even the arbitrator themselves could come from different parts of the world and still conduct business. This ability to open arbitration to more people is one of the reasons why the pool of practitioners in this field is growing. Traditional Arbitration: Benefits & Challenges Many technocrats view traditional arbitration as an obsolete method. However, there are many benefits to traditional arbitration which still makes it the leading choice versus digital. One of these benefits is reputation and availability. Traditional arbitration is still the standard upon which digital arbitration derives its processes. As the longer-running method, it’s natural for participants to rely on and trust traditional arbitration more. And since it has existed longer, there are many traditional arbitration chambers that are present and visible in the market. This level of trust could be attributed to the human touch that traditional arbitration offers. When a reluctant party who was coerced into going with digital arbitration loses, a lot of problems may arise. They may argue that they weren't able to present their case adequately, because they were forced into a virtual hearing. This is a problem that would not be encountered through traditional arbitration. We’ve spoken to arbitration experts and they agree that although digital arbitration is the future, the human side of a proceeding is a must in order to conduct an effective arbitration. However, the criticisms of traditional arbitration aren’t unfounded. Generally, traditional arbitration can often be riddled with less efficient processes and more costly operations. Since physical presence is needed, it often requires a lot of time to collate all documents needed, read through them, and conduct hearings. For international cases, participants are made to fly from location to location which does not only cost money but time as well. Poor document management could be one of the culprits of its inefficiency.  With traditional arbitration, having rooms and rooms of binders is sometimes the way to manage documents, which makes discerning relevant information difficult. Some traditional arbitration cases also produce enormous amounts of documents with no standard naming convention which makes it a mess. Digital Arbitration: Benefits & Challenges Traditional arbitration’s biggest weakness is digital arbitration’s #1 strength — efficiency. With technology at play, processes are simplified, accelerated, and even automated. This is very apparent in how digital arbitration handles and manages documents. With the power of technology, a relevant document is just one CTRL+F away, and if the document is also in a digital format, even specific sections could be easily found. The benefit of an automated and tech-enabled management system creates an environment of freedom for all participants. Digital arbitration can be done anywhere as long as it has access to the internet, which gives parties, counsels, and arbitrators more time to do more things. With its wide reach, digital arbitration also promotes diversity and accessibility. With all of these benefits rolled up, it’s clear that the most exciting benefit of digital arbitration is future-proofing. The world is heading towards digitalization and the legal industry is no exception. Digital arbitration provides law practitioners the avenue to be ready for a more globalized commercial market. As exciting as digital arbitration is, it also faces a couple of challenges. One of which is the cyber security concerns of skeptics. Despite bank-grade encryption and other security measures, many still question the level of safety that digital arbitration can offer. Since digital arbitration is mediated through tech platforms, many are concerned about the security of the documents and procedures. This is important because arbitration is primarily used for commercial disputes wherein trade secrets may be involved. Another challenge of digital arbitration is its high start-up cost. This is mainly due to the infrastructure that has to be set in place. Tech platforms take time and money to build, which may be an issue for firms who are looking into digital transformation for their arbitration processes. Whether traditional or digital, arbitration is here to help provide better access to justice to people around the world. Technology has a long way to go and traditional processes still need polishing.  It can be argued that these two are not polar opposites, but complementary methods to aid in delivering justice. Ready to take on digital arbitration? Today, the project is entering a new and exciting chapter for arbitrators who want to join the Jur Roster of modern arbitrators. Check it out.