This chapter is from “Online Dispute Resolution
Theory and Practice,” Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Ethan Katsh & Daniel Rainey ( Eds.), published, sold and distributed by Eleven International Publishing.
The Hague, Netherlands at: www.elevenpub.com.
This chapter, offering a regional perspective, involves a daunting challenge, that is providing
a nall-inclusive survey and analysis of ODR in North America despite the inherent diversity
and prevailing multitude of norms and practices. As Melissa Conley Tyler wrote in the
first comprehensive mapping of ODR, “most of the early activity in ODR took place in
As a result, all of the perspectives listed above have roots, examples and
lessons grounded in the North American experience even though ODR is intrinsically
borderless and geographically unconstrained. Accordingly, whilst one can comment on
how North American based entities might apply or offer ODR, the services involved might
be utilized by a Malaysian importer (accessing the web in an airport in Australia) and a
distillery in Scotland, assisted by a Belgian mediator. That, of course, is even before one
considers that due to the way Internet technology works, communication between these
far-flung parties might be broken up and routed through a dozen different countries before
arriving at their destination.
These challenges might be easier to acknowledge than overcome. Our primary focus
in this chapter is providing a comprehensive picture of the status quo of ODR in North
America from the perspective of North America-based service providers, institutions and
governments. Our review of service providers and institutions shall be exclusive to US and
Canada, as the chapter on ODR in Latin America addresses initiatives in Mexico and
In the following pages, we shall commence by mapping out the state of ODR private
market services. Subsequently, we look at the federal government and its potential roles
as a major provider, and user, of ODR services. Thereafter, we shall address ODR professionals and providers, looking at organizational and structural themes as well as the nature
of the services they provide. The US and Canada not only spear-headed the offering of
ODR services; North American institutions were also the first to set up research institutes
in this area of dispute resolution, as well as to incorporate it into academic curricula, as we shall discuss. Finally, we shall shed light on the prospects of the existing combination
of practice, research and institutionalization in order to try and determine which trends
might provide a trajectory for ODR in North America over the coming few years.
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