Is Australia risking losing business in dispute resolution?

By Jerome Doraisamy|02 December 2019

It is anticipated that three-quarters of all lawsuits in the DR space will be resolved online in the next decade, and Australia must ensure it isn’t falling behind our regional neighbours, argues one professional.

“The Asian market is primed to start using online dispute resolution in a big way.”

That is the view of barrister and founder of online dispute resolution platform Immediation Laura Keily, who is keeping a close eye on “how far is Australia falling behind” other nations in the Asia-Pacific region with the creation of effective resolution strategies and services for legal disputes.

A stark example of this, she noted, was the fact that Australia didn’t sign the recently enacted Singapore Mediation Convention – which facilitates processes for direct enforcement of cross-border settlement agreements between parties – meaning that we are “at risk of losing business”.

Another example of progression in Asia, she added, was the recent adoption by APEC of the Collaborative Framework for Online Dispute Resolution of Cross-Border Business-to-Business Disputes”.

“The prediction by a leading academic in this space is that 75 per cent of all lawsuits will be resolved online within the next decade,” she mused.

Australia has always been a tad slow off the mark in showcasing itself with international dispute resolution in hubs such as Hong Kong and Singapore, Ms Keily continued, at least compared to counterparts in the UK.

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This is especially true, she added, for roles as international mediators and arbitrators.

“Although there are some exceptions, Australians tend to put less effort into being physically present in those markets,” she posited.

That all said, Australia at least seems to be “starring in output” of legal technology, she noted.

“We seem to be able to produce lawyers who can think outside the square when it comes to the production and origination of legal technology,” she said.

“The question is whether as a profession we are forward-thinking enough to put aside the risk aversion and adopt that technology fast enough to take competitive advantage of this great launching off point.”

When asked what those in Australia are getting right at present, Ms Keily reflected that there appears to be a growing acceptance that “change is coming, whether we like it or not” and any notion that it won’t happen in our lifetimes should be dispelled.

“That is a good sign about a mindset shift that has occurred in the past five years. What concerns me is whether the Australian legal profession will be able to ride out the large shock that is coming to the world’s global legal profession, in the same way that we did the GFC,” she explained.

“At the moment, there is an awareness of the need to innovate but not very many moves to rapidly accelerate to industry 4.0 in the law. Much of the legal tech adoption is at the margins. If we are to retain control over the shape of the profession going forward, best to be on the front foot and start to lead the way in terms of the legal tech that mirrors the digitisation journey our clients are on.”

Moreover, lawyers need to shelve their risk aversion, Ms Keily argued.

“Lawyers tend to look for all of the reasons why something may not work, before considering the potential benefits in terms of value creation for the clients. Put the risk aversion on the shelf, look at the benefits in the cold hard light and then ask ourselves – is it really that big a risk to try something new? Do the potential benefits outweigh the risks? If I don’t start keeping up with my clients on their digital journey, where will the profession be in 10 years’ time?” she submitted.

“Then, with that in mind, go back to the risk aversion and see whether it can be overcome with the benefits of technology adoption front and centre.

“We also need to accept that just because something has always been done one way, [doesn’t] mean it is the best way for all clients in all circumstances.”

Australian legal professionals are also able to utilise Immediation’s services, Ms Keily added, which will allow them to “gain fast access to the international stage” without having to physically leave the country.

“The platform is location-agnostic, which is also good for the environment. As a founder, I believe that stopping people flying around the world to resolve disputes may be the most important thing I ever do,” she outlined.

“Immediation is proud to be leading the world with not only the first Australian, but the first global, comprehensive ecosystem for the resolution of large corporate disputes online.”

Is Australia risking losing business in dispute resolution?
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