Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) presents both a major opportunity and a major challenge for the ADR field. For the first time, dispute resolution isn’t really an alternative—the courts don’t work online, so dispute resolution is often the default. In response, demand for ADR services online is growing rapidly. At the same time, many mediators believe that online dispute resolution is an oxymoron: dispute resolution means sitting parties down at the same table, and you literally can’t do that online.
As consumers and business come to expect that any service they need should be available online, 24 hours a day, they will push for the creation of ODR services. If the ADR field is hesitant to provide them, many outsiders won’t hesitate to rush into the space. Many observers believe transactions online soon reach into the trillions of dollars in value. These transactions will generate disputes, and particularly complicated ones at that. They will likely be conflicts that are over complex issues, transboundary in nature, multicultural, and between people who have never met each other.
But how do we deliver mediation services over a wire, when you can’t look into the parties’ eyes or shake their hands? Translating our offline ADR skills online is a formidable challenge. As we get comfortable with online communication we need to learn what we can and cannot do through our keyboards. The online environment offers many challenges, but it also opens up new possibilities for ADR that weren’t practical or even possible before, such as asynchronous communication and multiparty participation without respect to geography.
The ADR field should fully engage the challenges brought on by technology so that we can best meet the demand for these types of services. Using the decades of experience in our field we should strive to develop answers to the questions posed by online ADR: Does it work? What are best practices? What standards should be developed? How can we train people to do it? How can we prevent abuse? What technology needs to be developed to improve it?
I’m excited to serve as the editor for the ODR section at mediate.com, to facilitate some of the discussions focused on answering these questions and to act as an information clearinghouse for ODR news.
Please email me if you have any questions or ideas for content in this space ([email protected]
Additional Links and information of interest.
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