Major international firms band together to speed up tech use in global dispute resolution

HSF, Ashurst, CMS, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins make up the superstar team

Major international firms band together to speed up tech use in global dispute resolution
Charlie Morgan; Myfanwy Wood

Major international firms have banded together to speed up tech use in global dispute resolution.

Ashurst, CMS, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins have joined a collaborative effort launched by Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) to develop a protocol that will aid in standardising the use of online case management platforms for disputes worldwide and will facilitate the secure and efficient sharing of documents. Ashurst said that the group was spurred by the “absence of universal guidance on the use of new technologies in international arbitration,” which became particularly evident as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The group acknowledged that “dispute resolution processes must evolve to keep pace with regulation, technological progress and increasing digitisation of information,” Ashurst said. The firm called the collaborative effort an “industry first.”

The collaboration began in May 2019, with a group led by chair Charlie Morgan from HSF. Members included Alexandra Scott, Kushal Gandhi and Richard Bamforth from CMS; Bryce Williams from Latham & Watkins; Carolyn Wensley, Susan Field and Vanessa Naish from HSF, Grzegorz Harasimiuk, Heidi Thomas and Maria Scott from DLA Piper; Michael Taylor from Hogan Lovells; and Myfanwy Wood and Rachel Barnes from Ashurst.

“The joint approach comes as the use of technology and digitisation in arbitration is changing how dispute resolution practices operate. Arbitral tribunals are also giving greater focus to enhanced cybersecurity and data protection measures, as arbitral institutions are reviewing and revising their procedural rules to require tribunals to do so, together with implementing new online data hosting platforms to improve data security procedures,” Ashurst said. “Against this backdrop, the six firms have worked together to produce guidance that will help to foster greater understanding and a consistent approach within the arbitration community.”

The protocol encapsulates the areas of commercial and investment arbitration, institutional and ad hoc arbitrations. It is meant to guide arbitral participants, legal representatives, tribunal members and arbitral institutions, as well as “aid technology developers and providers to tailor their solutions and ensure their products are well-suited,” Ashurst said.

The group has developed the protocol to be flexible and able to consider the requirements of all jurisdictions.

“This protocol will help to drive discussion and consensus within the arbitration community and with relevant technology providers about the need for and functionality of online platforms in arbitration,” said Morgan, a senior associate who serves as HSF’s digital law lead in the UK. “Given the fantastic input from various arbitral participants to date, this guidance will support more informed, streamlined and effective decision-making about the adoption and use of online platforms in international arbitration. It will also herald the development of more sophisticated platform options that continue to meet the evolving needs of arbitration users.”

The group has presented its guidance for public consultation, and looks to provide a post-consultation draft this year.

Group member Wood, a senior associate at Ashurst’s dispute resolution practice in London, said that the initiative “has the ability fundamentally to change the future of arbitration.”

“New technologies have a critical role to play in improving the efficiency, cost-effectiveness, security, transparency and to widen access to the arbitration process. Having an industry-wide protocol to act as a reference point for parties on key issues to consider when adopting new digital case management platforms will accelerate this process significantly,” she said. “As parties are increasingly moving arbitration processes to the digital realm, with that trend accelerating yet further in response to COVID-19, there has never been a more important time to secure consistency of approach on these issues.”

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