From FOI Carrie Menkel-Meadow who posted this originally on the Law, Technology, and Access to Justice Blog here.   A really interesting overview–enjoy!

Continued from Part 1:

This conference was devoted to bringing ODR to the public sector –courts and formal dispute resolution. On offer at the meeting was an opportunity to hear several ‘pitches’ of the latest ODR products, intended for use in the public sector, particularly as a supplement, or in some cases, a substitute, for parties going to court.  Access to justice is the mantra of most platform designers as they hope to interest court systems in moving into the 21st century as so many private companies have done.

The conference began with UK Lord Justice Fulford who clearly thinks the time has come for the UK, citing Richard Susskind’s committee’s work and the near 1 billion GBP now allocated to digitalisalising the courts including the creation of an Online Court for disputes under £25,000, to be rolled out within the next 18 months. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ might have been the title of this address, as Sir Adrian suggested that the caseloads of modern life cannot be sustained in a paper filled legal system. Courts, unlike, hospitals, businesses and even schools, have resisted change in design and function as we move to an electronically based communication society. Lord Fulford suggested we would dispense with buildings and consumer and complainants would indeed have access to computers, smartphones and could go to local community libraries to get online to deal with their cases, as physical courts move into ‘Virtual’ courts of streamlined case management and document filing and access, and decisions.

There will be risks—privacy, confidentiality, will judges play ‘candy crush’ in their offices or on the bench, will low value, but factually complex cases, be managed properly, will Rules of Civil Procedure have to be modified for this brave new world?  Who will want to be a judge in this computerized world?  Will criminal cases be handled without in-person confrontation of witnesses (likely unconstitutional where I come from in the US), though some jurisdictions are experimenting with online admissions of guilt and plea-bargains in minor (mostly driving) cases.  Yet Lord Justice Fulford seems to think we are moving to the greatest changes in the legal system in 1000 years.  We in the rest of the world will be watching the UK.

I still have my doubts. The digital divide is still profound—language, both linguistic and computer logic language, age (sight and typing and comprehension for the elderly or those alone), income, access to equipment and learning of constant updates and an inability to talk to a real person to give and get advice about legal matters that don’t lend themselves to tick boxes are issues that continue to worry me.

Continued in Part 3 forthcoming next week...


Andrea Schneider is a professor at Marquette Law School teaching ADR, Negotiation, Ethics, International Law, International Conflict Resolution and Art Law. She is the author or co-author of numerous books and book chapters in the field of dispute resolution. She serves as the editor of ADR Prof Blog.