For most of our day-to-day communication, we rely on the written word to replace much of the in-person and telephone conversations we relied on in the past. There’s no doubt there are instances where the intended meaning of what we write is misinterpreted by the person on the receiving end, which could have been avoided in person. But in certain situations, such where there are disputing Parties, there are many benefits to using the written word online.
How many times have you been in an argument or dispute with someone where simply looking at the person makes your blood boil? How often does your blood boil over when that person opens their mouth to speak? Anthropologist Ray Birdwhistell found that over 65 percent of communication is nonverbal.
Each gesture or movement can convey meaning and trigger different emotions in others. This is useful in most circumstances, but given a dispute between Parties who are at odds with one another, it can be destructive. Facial expressions, the roll of the eyes, crossing of arms, shrugging of shoulders, or inflection in someone’s voice can set off negative emotions that distort the substance of the message – reason and logic are lost to emotion.
The following are some of the benefits that Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) has over traditional in-person dispute resolution:
- Online communication is often less emotional since negative verbal and visual communication is absent; it’s easier to focus on the facts and a reasoned resolution.
- People are less likely to be intimidated by the opposing Party when they’re not physically present due to the absence of visual and vocal tools of intimidation.
- It levels the playing field for those who are less skilled at expressing themselves verbally, suffer from stage fright, or who have speech impediments that cause them to be self-conscious. People also are less likely to be caught off guard or become flustered in the heat of the moment.
- It provides the Parties time to organize their thoughts and state their case in the clearest manner possible. There is time to consider what the other Party’s position is and to prepare a reasoned response.
- It eliminates the difficulties created by physical distance, other travel barriers, and scheduling conflicts.
- There’s a written record of what has been discussed making it difficult to deny what was said.
The B.C. government is getting into the online dispute resolution business. It unveiled plans to take small civil claims and condominium disputes out of the courts and put them online.
“Both individuals and business owners will find this a convenient and affordable way of reaching agreements,” B.C. Attorney General Shirley Bond said in a statement. “Few people want to go to court to solve a legal dispute, which can be costly, intimidating and time consuming. A tribunal offers an innovative alternative to settling a dispute in a faster, more amicable way.” The government is hoping to launch the ODR infrastructure in 2013 or 2014 as a way to cut legal fees and travel costs for parties as well as to reduce the backlog of cases in the courts.
With the Civil Resolution Tribunal Act, the B.C. Ministry of Justice is predicting a 60-day dispute resolution process, compared with the 12 to 18 months it can currently take for cases to wind their way through the province’s Small Claims Court. The tribunal will be available for disputes worth up to $25,000 where both parties agree to participate. However, it will be mandatory in certain types of property disputes involving condominiums.
The Act mandates that disputing parties are to represent themselves in the tribunal proceeding, however provision is made for legal representation in certain circumstances.
The tribunal will progress in four stages, with participants moving to the next stage only if they are unable to reach an agreement:
- Self-Help Dispute Resolution using online, interactive tools with information, tips and templates to help the parties reach a settlement;
- Supervised Negotiations Online;
- Direct Intervention by a Case Manager to Facilitate Settlement; and
- Online Tribunal Hearing where a final decision is made – the order can be filed with the court giving it the same force and effect as if it were a judgment of that court.
Being ‘greener’ than driving an electric car is just one of the many benefits of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR). Below is a short summary of some of the benefits of ODR:
1. It’s Better for the Environment
A paper titled “ODR: The Next Green Giant“ (Noam Ebner and Colleen Getz) illustrates how ODR results in a significant environmental impact
ODR allows all participating parties, including the judges and court reporters and other personnel, to stay at home and turn on their computers to resolve an issue, rather than driving or boarding a plane. On a mass scale, this creates a huge reduction in carbon emissions.
The associated reduction in the use of the courts would also produce massive savings in energy consumption as the need for lighting, heating and air conditioning is reduced.
Of course less paper would be needed since ODR is virtually paperless.
2. It’s Very Cost Effective
ODR saves the disputing parties an incredible amount of money in legal fees they would otherwise have to pay their attorneys. eQuibbly takes this one step further by offering its ODR services free.
3. It’s Convenient
There’s no need to take-off work to spend half your day in court or and pre-trial hearings. You can resolve your disputes on your own schedule whenever you have time. You can even do it at 1 a.m. if that’s more convenient for you. You only need access to a computer.
5. It’s Private & Confidential
eQuibbly is private and confidential. Only the disputing parties and the arbitrators or mediators they invite to help them resolve their dispute can view the information. Everyone who participates agrees to keep it confidential. By contrast, the cases tried in courts in the U.S. and Canada are for public record; anyone including reporters can read what was said in court, what evidence was used and what judgment was handed down. There’s no need to air your dirty laundry in court when you have the privacy of ODR available to you.
These are just several benefits of ODR. There are many more advantages, which we will touch on in this blog from time to time. In the meantime find out for yourself how useful eQuibbly can be. Go to www.eQuibbly.com now and resolve that dispute that’s been bothering you for months!