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By: Sharan Johal http://www.linkedin.com/in/sharan-johal 

The sudden move to remote work environments has set the stage for exploring alternative, online methods to conduct different legal processes to ensure that the legal system does not come to a complete standstill. Enter online dispute resolution, also known as ODR – an efficient way of conducting virtual resolution processes. 

How Does Online Dispute Resolution Work?

Online dispute resolution, which is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR), incorporates internet technology, allowing dispute resolution to take place online through the internet or a virtual communication platform. This means that the parties involved would not be required to physically be in the same room in order to solve the dispute. The goal behind ODR is to allow for a more cost-effective and convenient means to conduct negotiations or mediations compared to face-to-face meetings.

Other than the parties involved, there may be lawyers that are a part of the process as well, depending on the kind of dispute that is happening. Lawyers might not be required for informal and flexible types of ODR. There can also be an “ODR neutral”, who helps parties identify common ground and reach possible settlements.

Around the world, different claims can be made online, ranging from possession claims (UK) to the Federal Court in Australia, which allows parties to testify through videoconference. In Canada, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (BC) includes ODR in the negotiation part of a broad case management system. Ontario also created its first online tribunal, the Condominium Authority Tribunal (CAT), developed by the Cyberjustice Laboratory.

Can ODR be Used for Every Dispute?

ODR is likely to be used more successfully where the key issue in the case concerns some amount of money, as opposed to liability. It also works better where there are fewer parties involved, and where there is no issue with any party’s credibility.

Advantages of ODR – Convenience and Cost

Generally, resolving disputes online is more convenient for parties and increases accessibility to legal processes. Rather than spending valuable time and money travelling for in-person meetings, especially where parties are located in significantly different geographic regions, parties can simply “attend” the meeting online from wherever they are situated. 

Additionally, ODR is accessible in that parties that are unable to attend in-person meetings due to a condition or disability are now able to do so in comfort, and participate meaningfully. 

Like other ADR processes, ODR can reduce litigation costs to both corporations and individuals. The cost of the neutral ODR evaluator is generally split equally between the parties. ODR is also informal and flexible in that the process can be designed to suit the parties’ needs, and encourages approaches agreed upon by all parties.

Disadvantages of ODR

Like nearly all technologies, ODR comes with its disadvantages, though not ones that necessarily outweigh the advantages. Not all cases will be readily heard through ODR. Similar to other alternative methods to dispute resolution, there are limits to the circumstances in which ODR can be practically used.

Parties lacking the technology required for participation in ODR may be unable to participate, for instance, putting them at a serious disadvantage. 

As well, because the meeting is taking place through a screen, it can feel somewhat less personal since social cues cannot be read as easily. However, where cases are emotionally driven and parties would prefer not to be in the same room (such as in family matters), conducting a virtual meeting may be the best option to curb some of the animosity and tension that would otherwise be distinctly present in a physical space. 

Accessibility of the Legal System

Increasing access to justice and efficient legal processes has been a topic of concern and a goal in the legal industry for some time. Through incorporating the latest technology and making use of readily available platforms online, the goal of accessibility and efficiency is within reach.

MyOpenCourt aims to increase both the accessibility and the convenience of legal services to those who may not be able to afford a lawyer or are self-representing litigants by developing easy-to-use online tools. MyOpenCourt additionally works towards developing platforms and implementing new ideas to continue to improve the accessibility of law across various legal fields. The tool also makes it easy to submit information and connect with a lawyer for a free initial consultation.

MyOpenCourt marks the beginning of a shift in how legal services are sought in the industry. As ODR and online methods of obtaining estimates and consultations become more prevalent, the accessibility and convenience of recognizing and seeking justice will rise as well. 

Check out MyOpenCourt’s AI-powered platform at myopencourt.org

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