Having been involved in developments in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) since the end of the last century (doesn't that sound a long time ago), I have found that most of the invitations I receive to give talks have, until recently, been at conferences organised largely by those equally involved in the subject and often with more knowledge than I have to impart. Whilst these invitations have widened my professional network, and made me dozens of new friends, not to mention clocking up air miles giving talks in 15 countries throughout five continents, I have, in effect been very much 'preaching to the converted'. The big development in 2015 , however, is the extent to which organisations not previously involved to any significant degree in this field are beginning to take notice. As a result, more and more conferences and events not specific to ODR are placing ODR firmly in their event programs....as well they should.
In this regard it was a pleasure to be invited to be asked to give a talk at the RIAD Congress held in Brussels on the 8th and 9th October. RIAD is the worldwide association of the legal protection insurance industry. Since RIAD member companies cover the cost of providing legal advice and representation in legal proceeding, it is not surprising that they should show interest in how ODR can extend access to justice whilst reducing risk and cost.
The Congress event was entitled "ADR. Getting It Right Online" and focused on how Alternative and Online Dispute Resolution (ADR & ODR) will challenge existing means of redress, raising questions around the future of the classical judicial systems and prompting thought on what opportunities ADR and ODR might present to the legal protection insurers' industry.
Speakers included Despina Spanou. Director for Consumers, DG Justice and Consumers, European Commission, Philippe Rambaud, President, RIAD, Dr Pablo Cortes of the University of Leicester, Marnik Vanhaverbeke, CEO, Legal Assistance & Recovery Belgium (LAR), Zbynek Loebl , CEO of Youstice, Stefan Krawczyk, Associate General Counsel & Head Government Relations International for eBay, Pat Monks, Past President, 2014, Group Legal Service Association, Grégory Jemine of Generation Y, University of Liège, Karin Kuchelmeister, Project Officer, of Stiftung Warentest (a German consumer protection body) and Detlef Fechtner EU Correspondent, Börsen-Zeitung.
The event was interesting for the use of technology. Delegates were able at one stage to work on their own roleplay disputes using the Youstice platform. Delegates and speakers were also entered onto an online networking platform to facilitate contact and which enabled ongoing debate. As speakers gave their presentations, delegates were able to upload questions, which would be displayed on two large screens and then put to the speaker by the moderator. Further the use of Twitter was encouraged with the twitter feed for the event's hashtag also being constantly displayed on screen. This required much multi-tasking of the brain trying to keep up to speed with the presentations as well as the constantly changing display of tweets and questions, not to mention making notes. I made good use of this technology when, having learnt by text message of the birth of my grand-daughter, I was able, to much applause, to share my news with the whole Congress when Olivia Ross was barely 13 minutes old.
It was clear that the trigger for the focus on ODR was the European Directive on Alternative Dispute Resolution in Consumer Disputes and the accompanying Regulation on Online Dispute Resolution. This explained why Despina Spanou was invited to give the keynote. One could see the interest of RIAD members in any legislative initiative to increase the use of speedy and low cost resolution of disputes not just for the cases which they may be required to fund but the way in which this legislation could, in widening knowledge and use of ADR/ODR, effectively help promote a bigger uptake of ADR/ODR in general and beyond consumer disputes.