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Pioneering a Transformative Approach to Dispute Resolution at the American Arbitration Association


At the heart of the American Arbitration Association (AAA®) lies a vibrant culture of innovation and a forward-looking approach to artificial intelligence (AI). This ethos is not just a recent addition but a decade-long journey of growth and evolution.

“AAA’s innovation program started over a decade ago and has grown organically since that time. Our program is based on the belief that good ideas can come from anyone anywhere in the organization,” said Linda L. Beyea, vice president of innovation at the AAA-ICDR® (International Centre for Dispute Resolution®).

Over the years, Beyea said that AAA has matured its innovation program, creating more structure and resources to support not only driving good ideas but implementing them as well. The arrival of new CEO Bridget M. McCormack has further accelerated these efforts, increasing the resources devoted to innovation.

“She came to us as a champion for innovation,” Beyea said. During her tenure as the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court from 2019 to 2023, McCormack advocated for the use of technology to improve access to justice. Eight months prior to the coronavirus pandemic, every trial judge in Michigan was already equipped with Zoom licenses, software and hardware necessary for virtual courtrooms. McCormack also played a pivotal role in implementing free Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) across the state, as detailed in her discussion with Butler Snow. Now, as president and CEO of AAA, she has supercharged AAA’s innovation efforts.

In April 2023, AAA implemented the BrightIdea platform, a company-wide idea pipeline focused on strategic priorities, increasing client satisfaction and improving internal operations. Since its inception, 472 ideas have been submitted from all divisions of the company. “That’s a real tribute to the strength of our innovation program,” said Diana Didia, senior vice president and chief information officer at AAA-ICDR. Of the ideas submitted in 2023, 20 percent were approved as of this past September.

Over the past year, AAA not only introduced the BrightIdea platform but also equipped its entire staff with comprehensive innovation training. Through the “How to Think Like an Innovator Series,” conducted by Beyea, employees gained insights into creative thinking and innovation management. They also learned strategies to identify and meet customer needs effectively. Additionally, fifteen new staff members received specialized training to become innovation coaches, bringing the total to forty-five coaches across AAA’s nine key offices.

The application of generative AI is a significant area of innovation for AAA. Recognizing its potential impact on dispute resolution and the legal industry, the organization has integrated AI as a critical component of its strategic plan.

Artificial intelligence’s impact goes beyond mere efficiency, signaling a fundamental shift in how work is organized and executed. “With AI, we’re not just automating tasks but reimagining how we approach our work,” Beyea said.

Three AI projects currently under production have emerged from BrightIdea: ClauseBuilder® AI, which will assist with writing clear and effective arbitration and mediation agreements; a chatbot for filing cases; and automated scheduling orders.

The automated scheduling order tool was developed and deployed in four months, a testament to AAA’s newfound agility in innovation. It is currently being used for fast-track construction cases, and the innovation team is working on expanding its usability for more complex dispute types. This project tied for first place in AAA’s Best Ideas Implemented Awards, with team members winning more than $10,000.

Staff at the AAA have also received training on how to use generative AI, such as ChatGPT, responsibly. “Balancing education with caution, we are ensuring our staff harness AI’s potential without overstepping boundaries,” Didia said.

As the AAA continues its progressive integration of AI, it is not just keeping pace with technological advancements but also pioneering a transformative approach to arbitration and dispute resolution. This integration goes beyond internal efficiency; it’s a commitment to revolutionizing access and equity in legal processes.

“There’s a lot of talk around how this generation of automation will help address access to justice issues,” Didia said. One example is the potential for a chatbot that provides clear guidance on filing an arbitration and is available 24/7, which can significantly improve outcomes for self-represented parties in disputes.

The American Arbitration Association’s journey with AI and innovation is not only about adopting new technologies but also about embracing a fundamental shift in the organizational culture. It’s a journey marked by collaboration, openness to new ideas, and a commitment to enhancing the quality and accessibility of dispute resolution services. As AI continues to evolve, so will how the AAA leverages this technology to better serve its clients and the broader legal community.

To learn more about how the AAA is shaping the future of alternative dispute resolution and legal practice through technology, join us at ALM Legalweek New York. We are excited to host the panel discussion “How the American Arbitration Association Embraced AI to Manage Complex Internal Case Files, Forms, Data and External Workflow” on January 30, 2024 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Exhibit Hall of the New York Hilton Midtown. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of an innovative experience—register now!

                        author

Kendal Enz

Kendal Enz is the senior communications lead for the American Arbitration Association. She has a background in journalism, creative writing and software engineering, and enjoys building websites and writing about harnessing the power of AI. She’s based in Brooklyn, NY, and enjoys going on long runs through the city. MORE >

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