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Tools of the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Tools of the Civil Resolution Tribunal

How can Civil Resolution Tribunal help people in disputes?

 

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To describe it in technology-based terms, it’s an expert system, and it’s set up so that we go out into the world and deal with subject-matter experts. This is a process we call knowledge engineering, where we acquire the expert knowledge from them and build it into the system.

 

We structure it in a way that it can be input into this system so the users can interact with it. What we will do is we will ask the subject-matter expert, “Try to think of every possible issue, question, or problem that we need to ask or every possible answer that we can provide for the user to select.”

 

If we don’t do our jobs as well as we would like, and we miss something, then we will have at various points, escape valves, where we can say to a user, “If none of the following address your particular problem, click here” then we’ll get out into what we expect to be a multi-level or multi-stage help system.

 

For example, the first stage might be, in effect, saying, “Are you sure that the answer wasn’t there?”, and maybe try and provide the information in a slightly different way so the user can say, “Oh, okay, now I get it. I have to go back and click that other answer.”

 

The second stage, or higher-level stage might be asking for a virtual chat with someone at a help desk sort of thing if it’s at certain hours of the day.

 

It could also be filling out a form that then gets e-mailed into our help desk and it says, “I’ve gotten to this point. I can’t find the right answer for my situation.”

 

That might cause our help-desk person to say, “Well, we need to take you back there, because there is the right screen there. You just kind of got off course.” It could also be our help-desk person saying, “You know what? We didn’t complete this area. It looks like we need to add another stream or another set of answers there”. So that builds into a continuous improvement cycle that we have to employ.

 

We’ve given them information, and the other thing we can do since we’ve diagnosed this problem is we can give them some self-help tools. Self-help tools in technology terms, they’re still pretty basic, but we think that they can be tremendously helpful for some people.

 

Some examples might be a calculator. Say we’ve got someone in a small claims situation who has a debt and they can’t make their payments. It’s a very common problem. So one of the things we might do is help that user figure out why they can’t make their payments, and one of the very elementary things we can do for them is say, “Let’s figure out what your monthly disposable income is.”

 

We can provide a calculator to the user that says, “Put your monthly rent here, put your cell phone bill here, put your grocery expenses here,” and so on, and all that it does is it adds it up for them and says, “Okay, this is a rough approximation of your monthly disposable income.” whatever is left over. Then, we can compare that with the payments they are supposed to make every month, servicing their debt.

 

If it shows the monthly debt payments are bigger that the disposable income, then we’ve now given this user a good idea about why they are in trouble.

 

It’s different things like that were we can help, again, very basic information. Our subject matter experts still might tell us, “Yeah, people get into debt problems all the time, some people very frequently. It’s because they don’t have a very good handle on their finances.” Let’s help them address that with a very simple tool.

 

The most common tool we expect to use is a letter template. The letter template, you can probably imagine what it will look like. It’s just a word processing sort of opportunity or tool on the site that will provide some opportunities for the user to put in their own, custom information, their own name, their own address, they might be describing their own dispute.

 

We’ve also, in the process of knowledge engineering, we’ve asked our subject-matter experts, “Hey, what should this communication, what should this letter tablet have in it?” So, for that Strata example that we gave about the fine, it will have very, very custom content in there saying, “I am writing to you about the issue of the fine. I don’t think that the fine was issued in an appropriate way” or, “I think the amount was too big.”

 

Depending on where we’ve walked the user through our Solution Explorer system, we will know what that letter should say, what some of that custom content is.

 

That letter can be used, by the way, as a letter. It can be completed, printed, and sent as a letter, but it can also be copy and pasted as an e-mail, it can be used as a script if they are going to have a telephone conversation with the other party and so on.

 

The idea here, though, I hope you are picking up on it, is all of this is happening outside of the process. We haven’t asked our user to file anything yet with us. We haven’t started a case or anything. We are trying to deliver all of this service at the earliest possible stage, with the least amount of time invested, and the least amount of expenses.

About the mediator

Darin Thompson Profile Pic

Darin Thompson is a lawyer with the Ministry of Justice in British Columbia, Canada. He currently serves as the Acting Legal Officer for the BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, a new, fully online tribunal that will begin operations in 2015, handling small claims and condominium disputes. He has helped to initiate multiple projects using Online Dispute Resolution and is a member of the Canadian delegation to the United Nations Working Group on ODR. ... View Mediator