Considering a recent announcement that the European Parliament voted, on March 12th, to go forward with the development of an EU-wide online dispute resolution (ODR) platform, and that said platform “will be operational at the end of 2015”, it seems that ODR is poised to reach new heights in the next few years.
What this entails for the legal community and how this and other initiatives will impact traditional legal structures are therefore topics that need to be addressed shortly if lawyers want to adapt their practice to this emerging trend.
This is why the Université de Montréal’s Cyberjustice Laboratory and ODR.info have partnered to host this year’s International ODR Forum, which will be held in Montreal, Quebec. This will be the 12th annual meeting of a working group gathering some of the world’s leading scholars and practitioners in the field.
The upcoming Forum will build on the research and field development that has taken place since it was first convened in 2002 in Geneva. Formed under the auspices of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and its Head of Knowledge Economy Unit Daewon Choi, it has grown into the premier conference for ODR experts from all over the globe – academics, decision-makers, international business leaders and developers. As originally stated, among its primary objectives are:
- To understand how ODR stems and differs from alternative dispute resolution (ADR);
- To assess the benefits and role of newly emerging ODR systems for the development of a knowledge-based economy at the regional and global level;
- To review the technical, financial and legal infrastructure requirements, evaluate the current developments and identify major barriers;
- To consider interoperability issues for cross border ODR systems;
- To examine prospects for implementation in developing and transition economies;
- To promote awareness of best practices in ODR for trade, investment and enterprise development; and
- To recommend further work to be undertaken at the regional and global level.
It has thus over the years provided a unique and interdisciplinary venue to discuss the promise that ODR holds, to identify the many obstacles to the deployment of technological solutions in the legal system and to work towards increasing the efficiency and availability of judicial and extra-judicial online mechanisms in various areas.
While the UNCITRAL Working Group on ODR meetings must focus mainly on the legal and political implications of implementation, the Forum aims to offer a wider theoretical and technical perspective. Crucial issues discussed in previous forums included the digital divide, language and cultural barriers as well as trust building measures, to name a few. In view of the vast array of research questions, 2010 ODR Forum organizers Colin Rule and Doug Leigh keenly stressed the importance of this – now-parallel – regular international channel:
“Operating in a constantly changing environment, the ODR system envisioned will most likely be sufficiently complex such that very few questions will ever be answered permanently. Instead, the system will evolve organically over time, and will require continuous refinement to account for new challenges. […] Similar future meetings will enable the reflection required to enable the system to grow and evolve.”
As momentum continues to spread for legal technology and digital innovations aimed at providing low-cost, fast and simple procedures, the Cyberjustice Laboratory is proud to co-host what’s sure to be another informative and thought-provoking event. Through keynotes, panel presentations and roundtables, high-level speakers and participants will engage in critical discussions on the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. The Forum will feature several talks addressing the latest advancements in ODR implementation and its potential impact on the traditional legal culture. In addition, the program includes technical sessions led by online negotiation and arbitration application developers.
What’s in it for the legal community? How can we foster a civic dimension to private online settlement? Could ODR technologies have negative unintended consequences? How can diversity be accommodated? How can the financial sustainability of the services be ensured? These are only a few of the questions attendees will be tackling.
Notable speakers include internationally renowned legal scholars in the field of ODR such as Pablo Cortés (University of Leicester School of Law), Benjamin Davis (University of Toledo Faculty of Law), and Ethan Katsh (Director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts), as well as ODR providers, and representatives from organisations who currently use ODR such as the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada.
The event will run from June 16 to 18 at McGill University and at the Université de Montréal. Monitor the 2013 ODR Forum website for a detailed agenda and further updates.
Program and proceedings information from previous Forums can be found here.