Maneuvering through the Digital Labyrinth: Contemporary Realities and Prospective Challenges in E-Arbitration - WAMR - 2019 Vol. 13, No. 2
The legal arena has always used dynamic methods for the rapid resolution of conflicts. There was a time when parties were reluctant to engage in anything but traditional forms of litigation. However, as cross-border transactions rose and the involvement of multi-jurisdictional claims increased, parties desired more control over the procedural aspects of dispute resolution mechanisms. This is one of the primary reasons for alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”), gaining worldwide consensus for the prompt resolution of legal disputes.
Due to increased technological advancement, the legal sector is also primed for change, thereby providing avant-garde opportunities for justice. The use of online dispute resolution methods was limited to, inter alia, e-filing, editing, and scheduling. However, with the upcoming digital age, online dispute resolution (“ODR”) is at the forefront of the legal sector. ODR mechanisms have been adapted in both private and public dispute resolution mechanisms such as mediation, arbitration, and judicial proceedings for the past two decades. ODR is on the cusp of being recognized, adopted, and institutionalized by several national and international systems. In the private sector, the practitioner’s modus operandi pertaining to ADR is rapidly reinvigorating with the changing times. Although ODR is gaining worldwide consensus, it is electronic arbitration (“online arbitration” or “virtual arbitration”) that is the preferred mode of ODR in the current era, owing to the efficient outcomes it guarantees.
Notwithstanding that online arbitration plays a pivotal role today, it is the added impetus of artificial intelligence and automation that is making the online redressal system less cumbersome. Artificial intelligence in e-arbitration is in its nascent stage, and there are just a handful of institutions that have made use of this tool to replace human arbitrators with robot arbitrators. The uncertainty here is, will machines completely replace human arbitrators, or will they only facilitate their functions?
To answer such multi-disciplinary questions, this article will discuss the intricacies of ODR with an emphasis on e-arbitration, as it is the most extensively used method of ODR for transnational disputes. It will further provide clarity on the merits and shortcomings of bringing about such a drastic change in the arena through an empirical study conducted to analyze the knowledge and experience of those who have mastered or been involved in the field. Finally, the article concludes with suggestions that can be incorporated into the ODR field for an enhanced justice delivery system.