Dispute Resolution

ADR, ODR, and AI-DR, or do we even need courts anymore?

In 2018 the Chief Justice of New South Wales (NSW) addressed the question of whether we even need courts anymore or ADR, ODR, AI-DR is sufficient. The discussion was divided into various parts like:

  • definitions of ADR, ODR, AI-DR,
  • the influence of technology on courts,
  • the influence of technology on ADR, and
  • future challenges

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has certain limitations while determining disputes. As AI relies generally upon algorithms
drawn from prior experience and outcomes there may still be a need for human expertise to deal with situations that fall outside of the norm. Ultimately it will depend on the sophistication of the algorithm, but we are still a long way from computerizing the human brain.

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to any form of resolving a dispute outside the traditional and adversarial process of a trial or hearing. Similarly, Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) refers to various forms of ADR carried out online. It means any dispute resolution conducted with the aid of technology. AI-DR refers to the replication of human decision-making by computers. It is based on systems modeled on past data about decisions, which ask users a number of questions and then form conclusions by applying the specific rules.

Technology is reshaping the adversarial system which in turn reshapes ADR. Firstly, there are supportive technologies that can assist to inform, supporting, and advise. Secondly, there are replacement technologies that supplant functions and activities previously carried out by humans. Finally, there are disruptive technologies that provide for different forms of ADR, including systems supported by artificial intelligence.

Influence of Technology on Courts

The influence of technology on dispute resolution has already been significant. We tend to overestimate the effect of
technology in the short run and underestimate its effect in the long run. The courts are using supportive technology for:

  • e-filing,
  • e-discovery,
  • real-time transcription services,
  • electronic courtrooms,
  • the use of video links and safe rooms for vulnerable witnesses,
  • the use of devices on the bench and at the bar table.

The NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal (NCAT) decides a range of civil and administrative cases in New South Wales. NCAT conducts a few hearings electronically. Additionally, an online court is available in NSW for managing and processing preliminary orders in some court lists. It also includes the Supreme Court Corporations Registrar’s List. Technology has the capacity to generate significant efficiencies in this area. Traditional in-person arrangements for case management are time and administration-intensive.

Influence of Technology on ADR

Internet-based information sources, video-conferencing, teleconferencing, and email supplant support face-to-face ADR approaches. The internet has also resulted in the creation of ODR specific to disputes relating to itself. For instance, the online dispute resolution services offered by eBay and PayPal. The eBay system is said to resolve 60 million disputes each year. While these sorts of dispute resolution mechanisms are not likely to affect the business of traditional ADR, they are servicing new forms of disputes.

Future Challenges

Neither ADR nor the courts will exist in their current form in 20, 30, or 40 years’ time. There will be fundamental shifts in the administration of justice that will be pervasive and transformational. ADR will benefit from new technology which can improve efficiencies and reduce costs. However, there will be challenges and unforeseen consequences.

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by Sushree Swagatika

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