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Justice Talk with Nick West: The Now and Next in the Legal Industry
5 min read
The future is indeed uncertain, but with the proper preparation and learning from the best practices of the present, one can ensure its success. This applies to many things, including the adoption and implementation of legal tech. But exactly how can that be done? We spoke with Nick West, Chief Strategy Officer of Mischon de Reya on his experience in implementing innovation in the legal industry, and how he sees it evolving in the coming years. Nick West: On the science of law, technology and business “I was doing legal tech 15 years ago, back when no one was calling it legal tech yet,” says Nick West, the Chief Strategy Officer of Mishcon de Reya LLP. Nick took up chemistry in university and studied law with the intention to work on intellectual property, copyright, and trademarks. He then moved to McKinsey & Company in early 2000 wherein he did a lot of strategy work on emerging technologies, right at the beginning of web 2.0. Armed with his rigorous scientific background and expertise in business and tech, Nick led a career in legal tech. Aside from being a Partner and Chief Strategy Officer of Mischon de Reya and Founder of MDR LAB, an accelerator program for tech start-ups in the legal space. He is also an advisor of many illustrious organizations such as the Oxford Deep Tech Dispute Resolution Lab, King’s College London, and AIFC LawTech Advisory Council, to name a few. In his prolific career that afforded him his domain knowledge as a lawyer with the functional capability of strategy and technology, we asked Nick about his experience with legal tech now and how he thinks it will progress in the future. Foresight in Action  To look into the now and the next, we must first prepare in the past. We asked Nick about this and he shared with us a story of how Mishcon de Reya’s foresight helped them be more ready for today and the years to come. “Mischon did a piece of work, envisioning the next 10 years. We’re a London-based firm and we've always benefited from our location since it’s such an important place to litigate. However, the world is changing and becoming more globalized. Now, how do we adapt to a global infrastructure?” Nick says. In this effort, the team sought to achieve three goals to ensure that they are future-ready. “First, we need to make sure that our core technology stack is modern and fit for purpose for the 2020s. Next, running our business should be fit for the 2020s, meaning we need to know how to market in ways that are modern and digital. And finally, we need our people to be technologically equipped” Nick explains. “In this process, we realized the importance of data and data science, so we invested in our data team,” he says “We took decisions to be very forward-leaning with technology and work with new technologies as quickly as possible, whether they are new technologies like blockchain, or whether they are just new technology players in an existing technology space.” Through this, Nick was able to lead his team and firm to be a top player and industry leader in the legal technology space. One evidence of this is MDR Lab, Mischon de Reya’s accelerator program for legal tech start-ups, wherein Jur has had the opportunity to be a part of. The Now: Breaking barriers and norms “The biggest challenge is adoption, it always is,” Nick opens when we asked him about the most difficult part of legal tech implementation, “It's because behavior change is always the hardest thing to do. So it doesn't matter how brilliant the piece of technology is, there will always be people who don't want to pay attention and adapt to it.” However, the current pandemic has accelerated the rate of legal tech adoption. “COVID, in all of its awfulness, has honestly been a really good catalyst for change. Suddenly, everybody had to do things in a different way.” Nick says. An example of this experience is how digital signatures have become much more accepted. “We've been talking about digital or electronic signatures for years, and we've been using it for years, but not in a way that you could get everybody to use it all the time for all signatures because all people saw was risk,” he says, remembering how there were only specific documents back then wherein electronic signatures would be acceptable. However, e-signatures are now much more accepted in many documents, and Nick says that this is a welcome development. “It’s always difficult at first, but once you break through that barrier, there's no going back. Once it's done, it’s done and everyone's now comfortable with it,” he says. This practice of finding the right path to ensure tech adoption is something that Nick enjoys, “Every so often the path isn’t quite clear yet and you spend a lot of time working on it. That is something that I love doing. A good example of that is how we’re working with Jur.” The Next: Catering to a dynamic global market For Nick, the next chapter of legal tech innovation and adoption is not simply about the technology — it will be about the problems that the technologies will solve. “I tend not to look for the next big thing, but rather think about the dynamics,” he declares. “We at Mishcon are clearly well-made for large, complicated disputes, where we use a lot of brainpower to figure out the answer to a dispute. Our process works well for those larger disputes, but it's not very good for small routine disputes,” he says, “This is why I immediately got very interested in the concept of online dispute resolution.” However, just like the present, the future is still riddled with the same problem — adoption. And aside from people’s appetite towards innovation, Nick says that changes at the governmental level is a key factor. “We can agree to do whatever we like to resolve a dispute, but if that's not enforceable, then it's not worth doing. Which is why system change at a governmental level is important to innovate,” he explains, “However, I don’t think that’s  necessarily a problem, because we don't want our core court systems to be playing around with new technologies that are yet to be proven.” Nick painted an example of this in the real estate industry. “There’s a lot of talk on why the land registry, which is really the ledger of who owns what real estate assets, should be blockchain-enabled,” he says. “And the answer to that is because it works really well now. And you can't change it unless the existing incumbent government-backed provider changes, because you can't have an alternative land registry. You've got to have one land registry,” Nick explains. “We can argue about it but you can't have multiple different land registries, because then you will have a really complicated effort to make sure they all say the same thing. And so you know, changing stuff like that can only happen at governmental level, and that takes time,” he says, noting that although possible, innovation can really take time to happen. Ultimately, Nick says that legal tech and the industry should focus on client problems, rather than the technologies. “What is legal tech, exactly? It’s just enabling a business thing to happen. Which is why, the next big thing is what clients need from us,” he declares. With a future that is focused on problem-solving, Jur is proud to be a frontrunner in ensuring that technology is ready to answer the call.

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A Glossary of Terms in Digital Arbitration
Are you finding it difficult to understand some key terms and words in digital arbitration? Learn the ABCs of the industry with this glossary of terms. As Jur leads the way to revolutionize justice, we thought that it would be important to provide helpful resources such as this and our smart guide to legal tech terms. Let’s get started! A Advocate: A person representing a party who presents the party’s position, evidence, and arguments to an arbitrator. They may also be known as general counsel, attorneys, or specialists in the given case. Affidavit: A written statement related to the issue that is presented as a sworn document.  Appointment: The process by which an arbitrator or panel of arbitrators is appointed to decide a dispute. Arbitral Award (or shortly “Award”): ​​An arbitration award is a final and binding decision made by a sole arbitrator or an arbitral tribunal, which resolves, wholly or in part, the dispute submitted. by an arbitrator, similar to a court ruling. This discusses the rights and obligations of the parties regarding the case. Arbitral Tribunal: depending on the case, the sole arbitrator or a panel of arbitrators Arbitration: A dispute resolution method wherein parties agree to submit their dispute to one more impartial arbitrator who will make a final and binding decision. Arbitrator: an independent person or body formally appointed to settle a dispute by providing a binding arbitral award. B Bad Faith: dishonest or unacceptable behavior with an intent to deceive or disrupt the procedure. This may also refer to a party’s unruly conduct with respect to the arbitral procedure. Bench decision: An oral ruling or a written ruling read aloud, by an arbitrator after a hearing. Bifurcation: the process of dividing and separating certain issues in a case from the others.  Brief: summary of information, details, facts, and legal principles related to a dispute. C Challenge to Arbitrators: the process by means of which a party requests the removal of an arbitrator from the panel with respect to the arbitration rules and applicable law. Claimant: the party who initiates the arbitration proceeding. Class action: an action wherein two or more parties or claimants with a common interest file a grievance against the same respondent. It is often done to make arbitration more cost-effective for the claimants who usually have smaller claims. Commercial Arbitration: arbitration of disputes involving commercial and business transactions, whether from one business entity to another, a business entity to an individual, etc. Costs of the Arbitration: the fees and expenses incurred for the arbitration proceeding. This includes, but is not limited to, the fees for the lawyers, arbitrator or panel, arbitral institution, experts, witnesses, and other services. Counterclaim: a claim or set of claims made to rebut a prior claim; generally made at the same time as the Statement of Defence. Cross-Examination: the process of questioning a witness at a hearing by the opposing party. D Damages: the amount of money recovered to redress a grievance. Defense: the respondent’s answer to the claims made against them by the claimant; also known as Statement of Defence. Deposition: an out-of-court testimony of a witness which may be considered for discovery purposes later in the process. Discovery: the formal process of gathering information prior to a hearing. This can be done through depositions, document requests, interrogatories, and other means. Dispute: an argument or disagreement between parties; the reason why arbitration is needed. Due process: the proper application of standard procedures to ensure fairness among the parties. E Electronic signature: or e-signature is an electronic symbol provided by a signatory through a tech-enabled and secured procedure that is logically associated with other electronic data. Evidence: documents, testimonies, or other matters that are presented as proof at a hearing. Ex Parte Communications: communications between a party and an arbitrator, without the involvement of the opposing party. F Force Majeure: an exceptional, uncontrollable, and often unfortunate, circumstance that prevents a party from fulfilling their legal obligations. Foundation: the preliminary facts demonstrating the authenticity of a document or testimony. Frustration: a legal principle which excuses a party from fulfilling a contract due to an unforeseen event that renders performance impossible, illegal, or radically different. G Grievance: a claim of a party that details that a term of a contract has been violated. Governing Law: the law upon which a contract is to be interpreted. H Hearing: a legal proceeding before an arbitrator wherein parties present evidence and argument to reach a decision. Hot-Tubbing: is the process of questioning an expert witness while cross-examining them at the same time. I Impasse: essentially a deadlock wherein progress to reach an agreement is no longer possible between the parties. Injunction: an order to refrain from doing a specified act. International Arbitration: arbitration with elements related to two or more jurisdictions (for instance, parties to the dispute based in two different states). J Joinder: the process of bringing a third party into an ongoing arbitration, which generally requires the agreement of all of the parties. Jurisdiction: the authority of an arbitrator to hear and decide a particular issue placed before them in an arbitration proceeding. L Laches: the lack of diligence from one party to make a legal claim, which endangers their opportunity to make said claim. Leading question: preliminary inquiries used on direct examination and/or cross-examination. Lex Contractus: the applicable law in a given contract. M Materiality: the degree of significance of an evidence to the dispute or case. Merits: the substantive issues or the inherent right and wrongs or a legal case, as opposed to procedural grounds. Model Law: a format for arbitration law adopted by UNCITRAL in 1985 and promoted to provide standards and harmonization in international arbitration. N Necessity: the rule that exempts a state from performing an obligation under international law due to exceptional and uncontrollable circumstances. Notice of Arbitration: is a document that signifies a party’s intention to refer a dispute to arbitration and it is given when initiating recourse to arbitration or to join any party as an arbitrating party as well as to initiate recourse in arbitration against any party which is already an Arbitrating party O Opening Statement: a lawyer's first opportunity to present their arguments before an arbitral tribunal, in writing or, depending on the context and the arbitration rules, orally at the start of a hearing. Offer of proof: an advocate’s response to an opposing advocate’s to the admissibility of evidence at the hearing directed to the arbitrator. Opinion evidence: evidence based on the belief or impression of a witness regarding the matter at hand. P Party: Persons, businesses, or governmental entities involved in legal proceedings; this could refer to either the claimant or respondent. Per diem fee: an arbitrator’s daily rate for hearings. Pleading: an oral or written submission of the parties in support of their argument in the case. This includes but is not limited to, the Statement of Claim, Defence, and Reply. Pre-Hearing Conference: a physical or digital meeting held prior to a hearing to address procedural matters, rules, and other relevant issues to ensure a smooth arbitration process; may also be referred to as case management conference. Presiding Arbitrator: sometimes also referred to as president of the arbitral tribunal, is the arbitrator in a panel responsible to lead and manage proceedings in arbitration. They may be appointed by the parties, the other arbitrators, or by an appointing body. Q Quantum: the amount of money involved in a case. R Recognition of Award: a court of law’s recognition that an arbitration award is valid and binding; this is also related to enforceability. Remedy: the form of enforcement in redress for a claim, such as damages. Respondent: a party against whom a claim is brought by a claimant or class action. Restitution: is the order from a ruling body for a party to compensate for the amount the victim lost and suffered in light of the dispute. S Schedule of Costs: a table detailing the fees and expenses payable by the parties to the arbitrator, panel, or arbitral institution. Seat of Arbitration: the jurisdiction wherein the arbitration is to legally take place and where the award is to be made (regardless of the arbitrator’s or panels’ physical location). Settlement: happens when the parties come to an agreement which results in the voluntary resolution of a dispute. Slip Rule: the ability of an arbitrator or panel to correct minor errors in its award (i.e. typographical errors). Sole Arbitrator: an individual who serves as the only arbitrator who will preside over an arbitral procedure. Splitting the Baby: a situation wherein both parties are given partial victory over a case; may also be known as compromise. Stare decisis: a law principle which states that an arbitrator or panel should be guided by precedents in past similar cases. Submission agreement: presented to an arbitrator when there is no collective bargaining procedure that authorizes arbitration. Commonly, this identifies the nature of the dispute, the issue, and relief to be decided, etc. Subpoena: a formal request of attendance to a hearing sent to an individual Surety: a guarantor who promises to pay for the principal debtor in case of the former’s default. T Terms of Reference: a document which details the specifics of a case, including but not limited to the names and addresses of the parties and their counsel, summary of claims, the seat of arbitration, etc. Transcript: a verbatim record of spoken language used to record hearings for later reference. See also Stenographic Record. Transparency: the process and right to scrutinize the decision-making procedure. U Umbrella Clause: common in international investment cases, this compels the host state to comply with all obligations it has assumed in relation to investments made by an investor. United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL): a leading authority in international trade and investment law, backed by the United Nations established in 1966, currently composed of 60 member states. V Validation Principle: a principle wherein a parties’ arbitration agreement takes effect due to an arbitrator’s application of a specific law. Voir dire: the method of examining an expert witness’s capacity and qualification to testify, to vet any bias or prejudice. W Witness of Fact: an individual who provides evidence, by way of a Witness Statement based on their personal knowledge of the matter; to be distinguished from expert witnesses who carry with them expertise in the subject. Writ of fieri facias: a court order allowing enforcers to seize and sell the debtor’s assets with respect to an award’s ruling. Z Zipper clause: is a provision in an agreement that states that the agreement is full and complete to the best understanding of the parties. There you have it! The ABCs up to Z of digital arbitration. It could be a dizzying experience and procedure, but with the right knowledge, everyone can be empowered in utilizing arbitral procedures.
Is Digital Arbitration Here to Stay? See What Experts Have to Say
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