BARRISTER, MEDIATOR and arbitrator Derek Minus is about to launch Australia’s first virtual chambers — Mediation & Arbitration Chambers.
As the name suggests, the online chambers will focus exclusively on dispute resolution, and it aims to bring a number of arbitration and mediation specialists under a single, easily accessible, umbrella organisation.
According to Minus, there are currently a large number of solicitors and barristers who are also qualified in mediation and/or arbitration but who have difficulty promoting that side of their practice.
This, Minus said, had resulted in an information gap between those who are qualified to provide arbitration and mediation services and those who need them. The chambers — which will feature an online database of the profiles and contact details of legally qualified mediators and arbitrators — aims to close that gap.
“Firstly, it’s for people in the profession who wish to make [mediation/arbitration] a bigger part of their career path and promote themselves as mediators or arbitrators. Through this virtual chambers they can have a different profile, be in a different space, and be seen as a dispute resolver, without leaving their building — without giving up their day job,” Minus said.
“It’s [also] for solicitors or barristers who are looking for a mediator for a particular dispute, or even for members of the public.”
Minus explained that the chambers is based on a sophisticated telecommunications platform that runs out of Sydney. Members of the chambers will be able receive phone calls, voice messages and documents relevant to their matters from anywhere in Australia with internet access, effectively enabling them to run their practices nationally.
”It’s suited for people who are moving into the next generation of legal work — whether they’re a solicitor or barrister,” Minus said. “It’s the ability to be available anywhere — at home, in another state — and to be able to operate independently. You don’t have to physically be in chambers any more, and you don’t need a library — the libraries are all on the internet now.”
Through the chambers, Minus also hopes to promote the concept of combined mediation and arbitration processes; that is where a dispute resolver is appointed both as the mediator and arbitrator and can switch between them as the particular dispute requires. According to Minus, considerable controversy has surrounded the concept in Australia, though it is used routinely in Asia.
“It’s caused a lot of angst in Australia, despite the fact that our own Commercial Arbitration Act section 27 provides a deal of support for it. But if you’re arbitrating in China, Japan or Singapore, it’s done all the time,” Minus said.
“I think it will grow as people become more comfortable with mediation. Even big companies now are getting tired of waiting three years for an arbitral award, and they’re moving towards mediation and combined processes.”
Mediation & Arbitration Chambers will be officially launched early in September and can be found at www.medarb.com.au.