Having landed the night before from my trip to Salamanca, it was up early on the 8th February (2016) to catch the train to London to go to Parliament where I had been invited to speak on developments in ODR to the All Party Parliamentary Group on ADR meeting.
This was an opportunity to ensure politicians with an interest in justice were abreast of developments in ODR and , in particular, to explain the recommendations in various Reports (the Civil Justice Council ODR Advisory Group, the Justice Report, the Council od Europe and the Interim Report of Lord Justice Briggs) as well as all calling for the introduction of ODR to increase access to, and improve quality of, justice. You can listen to the audio recording here. I speak at 38mns 23secs and later in the general discussion.
I left the MPs with the following 'take aways':-
1. ODR is not just Skype and email. That is ODR v1.0 which uses online technology simply as a medium for communication. ODR now in practice , especially as in systems powered by Modria, extends to so much more, such as self-operated dispute analysis and triage and case framing and argument structuring assistance. On the very near horizon is predictive analytics , prioritisation assistance through game theory and, thanks to IBM Watson, cognitive computing (the robo-mediator).
These wider benefits from more advanced ODR should be exploited to improve access to justice (lowering physical and cost barriers) but also, by making mediation more accessible and thus increasing consensual outcomes, the quality of justice itself.
2. There is no 'A' in 'ODR', ie it has only three letters and that those who see a 4th letter 'A' for 'Alternative' , and thus see it through a narrow lense of only applying to out of court resolutions, are ignoring the true potential for ODR to become part of mainstream court based justice, and, in fact, overlooking the progress being made to that end. The Civil Justice Council Report recommending the setting up of HM Online Court is but one example, as is the Interim Report of Lord Justice Briggs which supports the concept of an online court. Courts services all over are looking at how ODR can improve their court systems. So it si not an illusion, There really is no 'A' in 'ODR'!
3. ODR increases the availability and suitability of the mediation form of ADR. As a consensual resolution this is more in tune with the meaning of 'justice' than arbitration/adjudication where always at least one party, and sometime both parties, are unhappy at the outcome.
I suggested the following action points:-
1. To take steps to ensure UK businesses do not continue, as at present, to remain almost totally ignorant of the need to comply with the new Consumer ADR Regulations. The Department of Business, Innovation and Skills seem to have done very little to make promote awareness. It should not be just awareness of the need to comply but of the business benefits in compliance i.e that engagement with dissatisfied customers to reach agreement will lead to increased customer loyalty and thus is good for business.
2. To implement the recommendations of the ODR Advisory Group to the Civil Justice Council in the setting up of 'HM Online Court' which will ensure the court will not just be as accessible as the nearest smartphone but will embrace ADR within its service. The current Secretary of State for Justice, supported the proposal in his first speech on taking office.
3. To follow the recommendation in the Council of Europe Resolution to promote development, use and availablity of ODR within the justice system.
Mr Justice Mathews famously said "Justice is open to all like the Ritz Hotel". I hope eventually we can remove those final four words but, as a starter, lets do what is needed to deliver fast and fair justice so, at least, it becomes "Justice is open to all like a Travelodge".*
* Other low cost hotel chains are available!