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Justice Talk with Mark Deem: Digital Arbitration on Trial
6 min read
Online dispute resolution methods such as digital arbitration are growing in today’s increasingly technological world. As evidence of this, many legal practitioners are becoming more aware and skilled in tech-enabled tools to facilitate procedures. Now that we seem to be approaching an inflection point, it’s good to step back and understand digital arbitration further. To do this, we invited an expert on all things tech and legal, Mark Deem. In this Justice Talk, we put digital arbitration on trial to see its merits, challenges, and if it’s the right career move for legal practitioners. Online dispute resolution methods such as digital arbitration are growing in today’s increasingly technological world. As evidence of this, many legal practitioners are becoming more aware and skilled in tech-enabled tools to facilitate procedures. Now that we seem to be approaching an inflection point, it’s good to step back and understand digital arbitration further. To do this, we invited an expert on all things tech and legal, Mark Deem. In this Justice Talk, we put digital arbitration on trial to see its merits, challenges, and if it’s the right career move for legal practitioners. Mark Deem: At the Convergence of Tech and Law Our guest is no stranger to legal tech. Mark Deem is an expert in commercial law and is currently a Solicitor-Advocate and Partner at Mishcon de Reya LLP.  His experience in technology, media, and telecommunications is second to none, having handled multi-million dollar disputes in the field. In terms of arbitration, Mark has faced disputes from Hollywood films all the way to electronics issues. With his experience, we thought he would be the perfect expert to join us and put digital arbitration on trial. Plus, he’s also putting AI on trial in his upcoming book (more on that later). So without further ado, let’s begin. Opening Statement: Why Go Digital? “I think arbitration is just one way of resolving a dispute. And fundamentally, I'm somebody who likes to deal with disputes. But the compelling part of arbitration is that both parties arrive having decided that this is going to be the basis upon which their dispute is going to be resolved.” says Mark when we asked what urged him to choose a career in arbitration. “Now, why digital? What are the benefits of digital?” says Mark, “Well, I think this is where we're all heading at the moment. What we have seen over the last 15 to 20 years is that disputes are growing in scale, and with it, more data is being created.” This accumulation of data is what Mark sees to be the catalyst for digital becoming a more attractive option to handle disputes. These data come in many forms — from documents submitted, evidence and merits, and even the administrative files that are needed in order to conduct arbitration. All of these data needs secure and efficient management especially since arbitration cases can often involve sensitive and confidential information. “Now, we either have to deal with arbitration in a manual way, which is becoming increasingly difficult. Or we can start looking at digital ways of speeding this up and becoming more efficient. And so for me, the route through interdigital arbitration is using technology to speed up the process.” Mark explains. He even quips how lawyers have a real risk of drowning in paperwork without the assistance of technology. And when we asked Mark about what is his favorite application of technology in arbitration, here’s his response, “A technology which I think is incredibly useful is predictive coding or the ability of the technology to rate and promote documents that may be more relevant to the case. That technology uncovers a mass of material and helps us get to the heart of the matter at hand.” The Examination: What it Takes to Succeed Now that we know the justification about why going digital in arbitration is a fit response in today’s world, we take a look into how it can be used as a catalyst for positive change — both for an arbitrator’s career and for the world at large. From a career point of view, Mark says that one needs great listening skills to succeed in this field. “One of the most important skills for lawyers and arbitrators is the ability to listen and evaluate the information as presented. That sounds like a trite thing to say, but it's very easy to only listen to parts of the answers, rather than appreciating that people may be speaking from a certain context.” Mark expounds by saying that in order to resolve disputes, even in digital setups, an arbitrator has to listen intently. “You have two competing parties who are putting forward different viewpoints. Listening to the way that the narrative emerges is incredibly important and is key to understanding how the dispute needs to be resolved,” he explains. Other than soft skills such as listening, one also has to have the necessary tech skills to reach greater heights in the field of digital arbitration. “I think it is necessary to have technological skills and capabilities to really cut through and make it work,” Mark says. “There is a real risk if you don't scale up in an appropriate way and you don't have great technological or human bench strength,” he explains. “You can't maintain efficiency when you start having larger cases because the volume of materials and the scale of the paperwork makes the process a lot harder to manage. You start devoting more time managing the process rather than actually conducting the arbitration.” The tech is there to help arbitrators manage the case better and faster and to unlock this ability, they have to have some level of technological know-how. Luckily, many tech tools are now available and provide intuitive and user-friendly platforms. Exhibit A: Personal Experience on Digital Arbitration In his prolific career, Mark has had personal encounters with how technology was used in arbitration. “I had a case in the IT sector a couple of years ago and it had a very large disclosure exercise,” he opens, “It looked as though there were potentially 31 million documents that will be responsive to the disclosure exercise. Now, that was going to be very difficult for the lawyers preparing the case, but it was going to be equally difficult for anybody who will be hearing the case.” At this juncture, tech was used to help sift through all the noise. “By using predictive technology to identify and go through all the documents, and with more senior members of the team helping empower that predictive process, we were then able to take that 31 million down to about 650,000 documents which were subject to manual review.” “The initial reaction of anybody looking at that is ‘Well, how can you have faith you did not end up throwing away some very significant documents along the way?’” Mark says, recognizing that many may question the quality of justice that could be served after filtering that many documents with the help of tech. He counters this by saying, “By maintaining and conducting the manual review, you get reassurance because you still have that human in the loop, which I think is important.” he explains. “Using technology to augment human understanding, and then making sure that the human remains in the loop.” Not only did this process save the lawyers and arbitrators from piles of paperwork, but it also saved the client from astronomical fees. “We ended up with a very truncated, but nonetheless high-quality process which enabled efficient arbitration. And what was particularly important in that regard is, there was no way that a client would ever be able to afford the cost of a human review of 31 million documents. By using technology, it became manageable from a human resource and financial point of view.” Ultimately, Mark believes that although the technology was crucial, the human touch was also important to make sure that a level of trust is maintained. “It was a case of augmenting the intelligence rather than simply replacing it.” he notes. Questioning: Resistance to Tech “I think the main source of any resistance towards digital arbitration will come from a person's response to technology.” Mark opens when we asked him about an issue on digital arbitration. “If you have somebody who approaches it from a technophobic point of view, who doesn't feel comfortable with technology, I think a degree of resistance is inevitable.” Mark explains that it could stem from the culture of the legal profession, “We as lawyers are creatures of habit, in many ways, we take a certain comfort in doing things the way they have always been done. And so I think there'll be a lot of people who will approach any form of dispute resolution who will want to conduct it in the same way as they have always conducted it.” “So the biggest barrier of digital arbitration adoption will be whether or not someone is approaching the technology with an open mind — whether or not they are technophobic or technophiles.” he closes. However, Mark hopes that more legal professionals start embracing technology in the future in order to propel the industry forward. Closing Arguments: A More Insightful Look The verdict is out and digital arbitration is guilty; guilty of providing better access to justice to more individuals and businesses in solving their disputes. It’s also guilty of providing a great avenue for legal professionals to improve their careers. Mark has given us great insight into digital arbitration. Luckily, he will discuss more in his upcoming book, AI on Trial. The book is published by Bloomsbury and is coming out later this year. “The idea is to take a look at how AI is being implemented at the moment. There are some contributions from various experts and people sharing their views on AI. It will have some recommendations about the ethical, legal, and regulatory framework to make sure that we have an infrastructure that will allow the technology to develop in a way that has greater societal benefit.” Mark tells us, giving us a glimpse of his upcoming book that will surely be insightful.

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Justice Talk with Sebastian Mejia: Leveraging Digital Arbitration for Business Disputes
Disputes in business are normal, however, efficient ways to resolve them can sometimes be difficult to find. There are a lot of options, but there seems to always be a disconnect between what is provided and what is needed. In a fragmented industry with lots of options vying to be the chosen one by business owners, digital arbitration is slowly gaining popularity. With digital arbitration, business disputes can be handled efficiently and effectively. In this Justice Talk, we interviewed international commercial arbitration specialist Sebastian Mejia to discuss how businesses can leverage the power of digital arbitration for their disputes. Sebastian Mejia: The practical application of digital arbitration Our guest, Sebastian Mejia, is an international arbitration specialist in the truest sense of the world. He is an international arbitration lawyer qualified to practice law in New York and Madrid. Sebastian is also a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (FCIArb). In terms of his professional background, Sebastian has almost a decade of experience handling multiple cases in the financial, construction, sports, insurance, technology, and energy sectors. His experience in arbitration has immensely grown during the COVID era after having been part of a multi-billion dollar dispute that was handled through digital arbitration. Sebastian believes that as digital technologies evolved, businesses of all kinds in all industries and all sizes also adapted to the change. With his international outlook and first-hand experience with digital arbitration, Sebastian shares his valuable insight about the direction of the arbitration industry as a whole, and how this will affect businesses worldwide. Tools of the trade: How digital arbitration can be good for business To understand how digital arbitration works in business disputes, we must first learn what are the features of this up-and-coming dispute resolution method in facilitating better justice practices that benefit entrepreneurs. The main factor contributing to digital arbitration helping businesses is the cost reduction it brings in dispute resolution. Sebastian agrees with this and says: “With emerging digital technologies, it's possible to have a more transparent arbitrator selection process which when combined with the ability to automate and reduce bureaucratic tasks can contribute to cost savings.” “For me, arbitration which uses any type of digital tool is just a way to further boost those advantages,” he quips, noting how digital arbitration essentially enhances what arbitration can already do from the get-go. “I think there are features of digital arbitration that benefit every single dispute and business,” Sebastian says, who proceeds to provide us with a few examples of how digital arbitration facilitates this boost in efficiency, starting with digital documents management. “So you have technologies that let you have a common repository of all the documents, communications, procedural orders, evidence, and submissions,” he says, “And those kinds of technologies let you access them wherever and whenever in a secure environment.” Sebastian tells us how these kinds of technologies even push the boundaries further by not only managing documents, but also sorting them based on the relevance to the dispute: “These AI-assisted and technology-powered review tools helped us identify the key documents, and I’m pretty sure that within the 10,000-something documents that we had, we didn’t miss a single important document. And I’m 100% confident that the reason for that was not only the great people that were working on it but also the tools [that helped us] do it,” he shares. This boost in efficiency is a great feature for businesses who want to use digital arbitration in settling their dispute as it helps cut down the time, therefore, reducing the cost of arbitration. Virtual hearings is another example Sebastian discussed where he outlined how it helped in the efficient use of time. As for his experience with it, this is what he has to say: “The virtual hearing process went very well. What impressed me the most was how lawyers worked more effectively and efficiently.” “In a physical hearing, you normally have the main hearing room and each party has their breakout rooms,” he explains, “But when you’re in a virtual hearing, you probably have your whole team there. Whoever was doing the advocacy at the time had a camera on their face with an open mic, while everyone else was to the side with closed mics working in the background.”  With all these cost savings brought by efficiency, arbitration becomes a win-win situation for businesses and arbitrators alike: “What we want from digital arbitration is not for the arbitrators and lawyers to be paid less,” Sebastian boldly explains, “but for everyone to be more efficient.”   Leveling the playing field “Small businesses don't have to have an internal legal team,” notes Sebastian, “A lot of times, it's just the owners or CEOs who are negotiating and signing a contract. Because of that, dispute resolution clauses are almost always the last thing they negotiate, if at all.” This reality could then be rectified by leveraging digital arbitration to positively affect smaller businesses who may not have the resources necessary to conduct arbitration to resolve issues, “To a degree, it also levels the playing field, because large companies and firms already have access to all of this. However, if anyone can access arbitration from anywhere, smaller firms who don’t have those kinds of tools get a fighting chance,” Sebastian explains. “Companies should not be paying for their own learning experiences, and just writing off costs because they cannot pursue their rights — and that’s where I think arbitration helps,” says Sebastian. “In the end, an important element of arbitration is a due process — making sure that everyone’s being heard, and everyone has the opportunity to be heard,” he says. Big impact for big businesses With all that’s been said so far, it does not mean that digital arbitration is exclusively for small business disputes. On the contrary, large companies with multi-million and even billion-dollar value disputes are also using digital arbitration. Sebastian has shared with us an experience he’s had in handling a high-value dispute amidst the pandemic, through the power of digital arbitration. In this case, he was able to see for himself the documents management system and virtual hearings in action. “Through AI-technology, documents were sorted properly and it helped us tell a coherent story,” he shares, “Because this was a case that had tens and thousands of documents, we needed to find a way to focus the story. Through technology, we were able to identify the key point of the piece regardless of how massive it was.” With regards to how they operated, Sebastian shared how their hybrid system of online and offline work environments helped optimize their time: “We organized hubs. So for example, on our side, we had a hub in one of our European offices. And the others were in different parts of the world. It was not the first, but it was definitely the largest [and most complex] virtual hearing I had been in.” Sebastian recalls. Through this method, Sebastian says that they were able to collaborate more efficiently and effectively. The one doing the advocacy had their camera and microphones on, thus having everyone’s focus. Meanwhile, everyone else’s mics were closed and they got to do work in the background. “Digital procedures are now much more acceptable to all the parties, which again, is good because it reduces costs, it makes things more efficient,” Sebastian says, sharing how regardless of how small or large a company is, people nowadays have become more accepting of digital arbitration. “No business, however big, will say ‘Oh, I'm happy spending and sending a team of five lawyers halfway across the world for today,’” he says when we asked how big businesses respond to the cost savings of digital arbitration. “For large companies, it's probably just a drop in the barrel, but it’s still money, time, and inefficiency.” “You don't have to book three full days for a one-day hearing anymore. You can just book the six or the four hours in a day for the hearing and you're good to go,” he explains. Sebastian also noted how this reduction in travel time also reduced carbon footprint which he believes to be important in the grander scheme of things. “There’s always some element of digital arbitration that may benefit every single dispute and every single business,” says Sebastian. “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 of online hearings, automated document processing, transparency in appointments, and other features allow anyone to have a good procedure for any dispute.” Finally, Sebastian reveals how third-party providers became pivotal in ensuring that digital arbitration was successfully conducted: “In a lot of hearings, they say that ‘We can manage this, this is just like another video call. I will just share my screen and show the documents — however that’s not the case,” he explains, “The providers we had helped in making sure that there were no glitches in the procedure and the arbitration process would be delightful for us all.” We agree with Sebastian as we believe that digital arbitration should be handled with utmost care. Fortunately, the Jur Arbitration Platform is here to deliver unparalleled arbitration services built to leverage digital arbitration for business disputes. 
Justice Talk with Sophie Nappert: Global Community of Digital Arbitration
The arbitration community is a small yet strong one. It’s composed of people who believe that justice should not only be efficient and effective but also accessible to everyone. In whatever field of arbitration, arbitrators are keen to network with like-minded individuals who champion access to justice. With a globalized market, it’s understandable that the arbitration community has also gone global. There are online talks, conferences, and groups that all want to take part in promoting and fostering the growth of the arbitration industry. One such group is ArbTech, a worldwide community of arbitrators who believe in the power of tech to provide access to justice. We spoke with ArbTech founder and international commercial arbitrator, Sophie Nappert, on her thoughts about the growth of the global arbitration community, as well as the implications and lessons that digital arbitration imparts to all who are part of this growing circle. Sophie Nappert: Taking International Arbitration to the Next Level Sophie is no stranger to the field of international arbitration. Having been dual-qualified as an Avocat of the Bar of Quebec, Canada, and as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales, her track record as a legal professional precedes her. Prior to becoming an arbitrator, she also was Head of International Arbitration at a global law firm. Aside from being a decorated law practitioner, Sophie has also broken glass ceilings after being the first female recipient of the Global Arbitration Review Award for Best Speech in 2016. True to her nature of always pushing forward, she has also completed a Programme on Blockchain Strategy from the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School. Sophie is a known pioneer in the space where technology and law meet, and the group she has founded, ArbTech, is just a testament to her desire to build a community where digital arbitration may flourish. She is continuously making great strides in the industry, which is why we first asked her about how other arbitrators could also make their mark in the field of arbitration. Making a Mark in the Global Arbitration Community “To grow in the field of arbitration, you must first have a certain professional maturity as a lawyer,” says Sophie when we asked about how one could start making a mark in the industry. “You can't sell your services and your abilities if you don't know what they are, so you have to know yourself well.” “You have to be quite frank with yourself early on, and understand where your strengths lie. Then, try to acquire more skills where you have a weakness once you’ve identified and cultivated your strength,” she says, noting how many lawyers may not be comfortable with numbers yet it’s still important to develop mathematical skills.  Knowing your market and seizing each opportunity in the said market is also a piece of advice she shared. “Know your market — I would say that was the first thing that I did when I decided to become an arbitrator. Early on, I knew what users of arbitration were looking for and I tried to find a place in the industry.” She also says how barriers in the market should not deter an aspiring arbitrator, instead, it should fuel them into changing the status quo. “Little to no women were full-time arbitrators when I started. I was also not as senior as my other colleagues. So, to stand out, I made sure I read the documents and was prepared. My goal was to complement other, perhaps, more senior colleagues who had less time to do certain tasks.” “So that's what I mean, if you want to get into the field of arbitration, acquire the skills and know the market so that you know exactly where to pitch yourself. And with the online taking ground, I would highly suggest getting comfortable with the digital world.” Leveraging on the growing global community of arbitrators, Sophie said how expanding your network will also help. “It's the same with any type of business — you have to network,” she says. She says institutions nowadays are a lot savvier and wiser because they have understood that there's a pool of talent amongst the new arbitrators who are at the forefront of digital adoption. These institutions give up-and-coming arbitrations to smaller cases or put them on a panel with more established arbitrators to train them up. In terms of technology’s use, Sophie says how using digital tools to your advantage will also help in making your mark in the worldwide arbitration community. “If an institution knows your name, then you have a very good chance of landing your first appointment that way,” she illustrates. “Another way to do it is to become very well-versed in one topic, publish blog articles on said topic, and people will start associating your name with that topic,” Sophie says. Ultimately, to make a mark in the community, you have to add value to those in the group. You must really understand what you bring to the table and maximize that to your advantage. Lessons Learned From the Global Community In a vast community of people with shared experiences and values, it’s common that certain life lessons will ring true, and Sophie shared some of these lessons with us. “One great life lesson that I learned from being an arbitrator is how to be intellectually humble,” she says. “Not to think that because you are sitting on that side of the table, that you have all the answers.” With this lesson ingrained in her, Sophie says that she’s become more careful in her decisions as she understands the implications. She then quips how she double and even triple-checks everything. The humility she’s learned from her experience also taught her to be respectful of others’ opposing opinions. “If you're lucky enough to be on a panel with colleagues, then you obviously have to extend respect for their input, even if you might disagree.” In a global community, Sophie says how respect, cultural sensitivity, and an ability to disagree without making the argument into a fight are some of the key things to learn and practice. In terms of being an arbitrator, Sophie explains how decisiveness is very important, and that splitting the baby should be avoided. “It's very important that a decision be motivated,” she says. “An arbitrator is hired to decide whether someone's right or wrong. You can't please everyone, and I think if you try to please everyone, you might have a short-term gain — but in the long run, your reputation will suffer,” Sophie warns. And in a growing community with a worldwide reach, technology is very much important. “I think that there's a great potential for partnership between humanity and technology to optimize processes and what human nature can do,” she explains. “There has to be a line that needs to be drawn as to how far we let technology take over the process,” she says, noting how technology can help humans process large amounts of data and information. And in the age of digital communication, Sophie founded a community of arbitrators and legal professionals who are connected by their desire to champion the future of justice. ArbTech: A Global Community of Digital Arbitration Champions According to their profile, ArbTech is a worldwide community fostering cross-disciplinary dialogue on tech, dispute resolution, and the future of justice. With Sophie at the helm of the group, ArbTech is dedicated to providing a conducive environment for all arbitrators to share, discuss, and promote their advocacies to like-minded individuals. Jur is proud to be part of the group and we look forward to collaborating with them in more legal tech innovations.