In 2018 the Law Gazette (house publication of the Law Society of England and Wales) organised a Round Table to discuss information technology in dispute resolution, chaired by Eduardo Reyes (Features Editor of the Law Gazette) and reported by Joanna Goodman the discussion considered the current state of LegalTech in dispute resolution.  The article about the proceedings at that round table is here: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/roundtables/roundtable-information-technology-in-dispute-resolution/5066307.article

Ms Goodman reported the author’s remarks:

“…..in recent years litigation technology has broadened significantly from the document management and case management capability outlined by Lord Justice Jackson, into a confusing collection of online systems and applications that deal with various aspects of dispute resolution.”

The author had identified no less than 66 LegalTech products aimed at the dispute resolution process.  There are undoubtedly far more now than there were in Spring 2018 when that Round Table took place. Without exception each was aimed at a narrow part of the dispute resolution process.  None of the products I identified focused on ADR which increasingly is where the litigation action is taking place.

This year’s Legal Geek presented a number of speakers envisioning “Platformisation” which is to say single platforms offering to bind together the multiplicity of the LegalTech offerings into some kind of coherent whole.  It is a phenomenon familiar in FinTech where companies like Finastra and Temenos provide Platforms-as-a-Service are creating Cloud based platforms into which third party developers can integrate their solutions.

In ADR a single end-to-end Platform solution has been in place for about 4 years in the form of DisputesEfiling.com’s (DEF’s) One Platform providing a single secure, Cloud based space in which pre-action protocol activity can take place as well as providing modules which enable arbitration, mediation, evaluation and adjudication together with a module enabling the costs of a dispute to be resolved through the Costs ADR service.  The DEF Platform enables the increasingly popular hybrid forms of ADR such as MedArb, ArbMedArb and the latest which is ArbEva (Arbitration with Neutral Evaluation).  The hybrids are facilitated by seamless data transition between the modules.  DEF is an exception in LegalTech.

Typically the LegalTech market is awash with products for eDiscovery, bundling programs, evidence review, judicial decision analysis programs and so-called Intelligent Search products, to mention just a few of the plethora of product types.

All these products will be impressive.  Regrettably the effect of such mass innovation pursued at the expense of coherent structure is to create massive inefficiencies in the civil justice system or as I call it, the Innovation Irony.  Such ironies add more inefficiency to a civil courts system which works with gross inefficiencies because of under-resourced and expensive courts short of enough Judges and burdened with inadequate and insufficient technology.

Each of the LegalTech products needs to be sewn together to work efficiently.  No thread exists to sew them together; on the contrary, none of the products is capable of talking to each other coherently or otherwise.

The phrase Burning Platform became popularised in IT as a result of the disaster that occurred on the Piper Alpha oil rig in the North Sea in 1988.  Where a man decided to jump from the rig rather than remain to be burned alive.  It is said that today’s LegalTech market has not yet reached its Burning Platform point but that point cannot be far off given the pace at which Legal Tech products are brought to market seemingly with abundant investment.

If paper based processes are insecure, costly and bad for the environment which of the product plethora will save law firms from the flames of archaic processes?

The Legal market needs to take a long, hard look at itself and decide what is the business issue LegalTech can help solve?  Instead a patchwork of solutions are purchased which simply add to business inefficiency causing more issues than solutions.

What is coming in legal services. certainly in dispute resolution, if not across the board, is a recognition that the entire process needs to be radically streamlined, not just discrete parts.

What is required is akin to the re-shaping of the freight shipping industry in the 1950s and 1960s.  Freight was very expensive to move around because it was individually packed and unpacked by people who were in tightly regulated and inward looking industries.  But putting freight into containers did not bring immediate costs savings.  It was not until every aspect of the freight haulage industry was streamlined to accept and move containers (ports, trains, lorries) that massive savings were achieved in costs and the market for global freight shipping then expanded massively.

Why is the example of containerisation relevant to today’s legal services market in England and Wales?  Because cases such as Lomax v Lomax [2019] EWCA Civ 1467 and new Court rules will  implement compulsory ADR following a number of Civil Justice Council reports.  The detail of this aspect of the streamlining of dispute resolution can be read in my article – ADR: the time has come which is available in the DEF Newsroom via this link: https://news.disputesefiling.com/2019/10/18/adr-the-time-has-come/

The effect of changes such as Fixed Recoverable Costs, the increase in ADR and the increase in the Small Claims Limit will mean firms must find economies and efficiencies.  Platformisation, like containerisation before it, offers the legal profession the prospect of massive growth.  If it has the energy and imagination to seize the opportunities made available by single Platforms such as DEF.

By adding bundling programs and eDiscovery programs to DEF even greater efficiencies can be realised.  The future of dispute resolution practice lies in evolving with the aid of technology to streamline all of the process; realising efficiencies not living with Innovation Ironies.

Putting DEF at the heart of the streamlined dispute resolution process means that the Bonfire of the (LegalTech) Ironies can begin.