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Small business disputes can range from a common nuisance to downright disaster. This is why it’s important for business owners to understand different ways in which they can resolve their disputes. And with the world going digital, digital arbitration might just be the solution to the growing number of small business disputes.

We spoke with international arbitration specialist, Sebastian Mejia, about how he thinks digital arbitration can help solve small business disputes.

Paperless & AI-assisted Documentation 

Digital arbitration provides paperless and AI-assisted document processing for disputes of all sizes, even for those with small businesses.

“Now, we have the opportunity of having well-thought-out tools which provide efficient ways to access documents that are hyperlinked and organized,” says Sebastian when we asked him about how these document processing tools are helping small business disputes. “We have AI capabilities right now that just make cases so much easier to manage.” he expounds.

Without these tools, small business disputes would require significant time being spent simply organizing the file, taking the first pass-through documents, or preparing filings. These are costs that can be more easily absorbed by large disputes but may make small disputes economically unfeasible.

Now, these more efficient case management tools allow small business owners to obtain value from disputes they wouldn’t even consider pursuing in the first place. Efficient and carbon-lite processes also translate to less cost, which is important for a small business.

Digital Meetings & Hearings

Digital arbitration can also mean virtual hearings, which means that a small business owner does not have to close shop in order to attend to their dispute. Just set aside a few hours and they can go back to running the business. Travel costs and time in transit no longer need to be spent, which may be a significant gain for a small business with a limited (or no) legal budget.

In terms of operationalizing virtual hearings for dispute resolution cases, Sebastian shared with us that a hybrid model has reaped them a great experience. Instead of simply doing the virtual hearing separately from home offices, Sebastian and their team worked in hubs from all over the world.

“The virtual hearing process went very well. What impressed me the most was how lawyers worked more effectively and efficiently. Because in a physical hearing, you normally have the main hearing room and each party has their breakout rooms. 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.” Sebastian recalled.

This level of efficiency affords small business owners more time resolving their disputes and spending less time on unnecessary activities. Time is gold, and digital arbitration just turns it into diamond.

Better Access to Quality Justice

Ultimately, by cutting the cost and time, justice is more accessible even for small businesses. 

“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.

With digital arbitration, smaller business disputes are given the same level of attention as larger cases.

“In the end, an important element of arbitration is due process — making sure that everyone’s being heard, and everyone has the opportunity to be heard,” he says.

Digital arbitration is for businesses of all sizes

Now that we know how small businesses can benefit from digital arbitration, a simple question arises: is digital arbitration only good for small disputes? The answer is no.

“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, and other features allow anyone to have a good procedure for any dispute.”

To further prove his point, Sebastian shared with us his experience on using digital arbitration for a multi-billion dollar dispute.

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