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Archive for the ‘Dispute Resolution’ Columns

Making a First Impression: The Role of Opening Statements in Hearings

You only get one chance to make a first impression, as the saying goes. A recent study has confirmed that first impressions are persistent and can be difficult to overcome. The opening statement of the adjudicator and of the parties at the beginning of a hearing is that first impression and will often set the tone for the entire proceeding.

In crafting any communication, the first question to answer is, “who is your audience?” In many cases there are primary and secondary audiences. For an adjudicator, the primary audience is the parties to the dispute. The secondary audience for the . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

The Most Successful Court Mediators Are Not Necessarily Lawyers – and Other Findings From the Court Mediation Program

 Mediation is gaining popularity in Canada but promotion of mediation is still mostly anecdotal. To develop further, the field needs a more solid foundation of deep empirical research. Mediate BC is attempting to fill some of the gaps based on fourteen years of data collection by its Court Mediation Program (the “CMP”). The CMP has administered the mediation program in the Provincial Court of BC, Small Claims Division, since 1998 and now mediates claims up to $25,000 in Vancouver and up to $10,000 in four other locations. The CMP recently celebrated its 20,000th referral! It has thousands of mediations in . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Death Knell for the National Banking Ombudsman?

The federal government has announced proposed regulations that will allow banks to opt out of a national customer ombudsman service in favour of private ADR services that they will choose and pay for.

This seems like a bad idea.

If banks can simply shop around for another ADR service provider whenever they are unhappy with the decisions of the current provider, how can consumers and small businesses have any confidence in the integrity and impartiality of decisions?

The Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments (OBSI) currently has more than 600 participating firms including banks, credit unions, trust and loan companies, . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

A Plea for Court-Sanctioned ODR

[Sean Dwyer assisted in the preparation of this column.]

Like many others, we have, on this blog and elsewhere, claimed that online dispute resolution (ODR) platforms and processes constitute an extremely useful tool for conflict resolution. This being said, it is unfortunately possible to assert that a majority of attempts to create a system for ODR have fallen short of expectations, making our assertions seem somewhat difficult to defend. However, we remain convinced that the fault doesn’t lie with the technology or the concept, but rather that ODR’s failure is in large part due to the absence of obligation . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Recording Hearings: Let’s Be Clear on the Purpose

Some tribunals routinely tape record proceedings while others consistently prohibit it. And within those tribunals that allow tape recording of proceedings, practices on the use of the tape or transcript also vary. It is pretty clear in law that administrative tribunals are not required to record the proceedings, unless required to do so by statute: Canadian Union of Public Employees, Local 301 v. Montreal (City), [1997] 1 S.C.R. 793

Administrative tribunals were designed to be less formal than courts, yet the recording of proceedings is a hallmark of the judicial process. Why do some tribunals routinely tape proceedings and . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Apology in the Media (Again)

Much has been written about apologies and how they can be effective in resolving conflict. However, two recent events spurred me to tackle this important topic once again and identify lessons that apply to conflict resolution.

First, I listened to a terrific podcast of the CBC radio program “Under the Influence” with Terry O’Reilly. He is a master storyteller and devoted this episode of his terrific series to corporate apologies used by corporations strategically as part of a public relations plan to redeem themselves in the eyes of their public. He described four specific situations in which corporations (Johnson & . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Mandatory Mediation in Commercial Contracts

When my daughters sailed on the tall ships for several summers, the crew had a daily activity called “mandatory fun.” It seems like an oxymoron until you think about it a bit. If you tell people they’re going to have fun, they do.

If you tell people they have to try to resolve their disputes, or else… — they will.

I have had many “full and frank discussions” (a very useful diplomatic euphemism) with fellow commercial lawyers about whether to include mandatory mediation clauses in business agreements.

Those who are vehemently against the idea insist that forced mediation doesn’t work. . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

ODR and the (BC) Courts

We were recently asked to contribute a chapter on ODR and the Courts to an International treatise on ODR edited by Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab, Ethan Katsh and Daniel Rainey. In researching how Courts could and should use ODR, we were pleasantly surprised to see how many court-run ODR projects are currently being implemented or tested around the World. From the United Kingdom’s Money Claim Online and Possession Claim Online, to Australia’s eCourt to the seemingly defunct Subordinate Courts of Singapore’s eAlternative Dispute Resolution (e@dr) project (the website is no longer online), ODR practices and processes are seeping into the . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

We Shape Our Hearing Rooms and Afterwards They Shape Us

When the discussion turned to rebuilding the British House of Commons in 1943 (after its destruction on May 10, 1941) Winston Churchill in a simple but profound way stated, “We shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us.” He had fixed ideas about what the rebuilt House of Commons should look like – exactly like it was before. He was opposed to the semi-circular chamber which was popular in continental Europe and the U.S. (and Toronto City Hall) and in his view was poorly suited to party politics. His theory, based on his own experience, was that changing political . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Unlocking the Potential of Commercial Mediation (Part II)

In my last post, I promised to explore how the current commercial mediation model might be “tweaked” to unlock the full potential of mediation. There seemed to be a divide between “interest-based” or “facilitative” mediation (which is the focus of most mediation training programs) and the commercial mediation model.

Is there a way to preserve the foundational principles of interest-based negotiation and mediation while venturing into the world of commercial mediation?

Experienced litigators and some mediators have remarked that commercial mediation is really a purely distributive exercise which is only about the money. Is that ever really true? I . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Blended Mediation: A Practical Approach to Commercial Dispute Resolution

The debate over the merits of facilitative vs. evaluative mediation never seems to end, but is it an artificial distinction in the mediation of commercial disputes?

A recent article in the Australasian Dispute Resolution Journal suggests that it is.

The author, Troy Peisley, a mediator and arbitrator with more than 20 years experience in commercial litigation and forensic accounting, argues in favour of “blended mediation”, which combines the facilitative and evaluative models and employs a “mediation matrix” to evaluate both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the dispute.

It’s an interesting model and seems equally relevant to the realities of . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution

Do We Need Exclusivity for ODR?

Notwithstanding the fact that, as we mentioned in a previous column, it remains difficult to find a business model that could ensure the availability of a fair and accessible online dispute resolution service, ODR has come a long way. When we first launched the CyberTribunal, back in 1996, and tried to convey our objectives at various conferences on information technology law (thus before audiences that could be considered informed), many legal practitioners questioned the possibility of modeling mediation and arbitration procedures. They cited legal reasons, which were quickly swept away through examination of relevant texts, as well as the . . . [more]

Posted in: Dispute Resolution