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Stages of Conflict Management

Stages of Conflict Management

How does your proposal distinguish between Conflict Resolution, Containment and Avoidance?

 

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Well, what actually happened, from these three layers, as it were, was we concluded what an online court should look like and our fundamental recommendation is that, the government should set up an online court, is a three-tier court. And the first tier, the top tier, should help with dispute avoidance. The second tier should help with dispute containment. And the third tier should help with dispute resolution.

 

So, starting at the bottom, as it were, the third tier, Dispute Resolution, our recommendation is that judges, proper, full-time Her Majesty’s judges, should sit and decide some cases on an online basis. By which we mean, in the first generation of these systems, they will decide cases on the papers alone, and if necessary, do some kind of telephone conference call with the parties involved. Nothing smarter than that. So, that’s the lower tier, the third tier. But that’s the tier of last resort.

 

If you go up a level and we’re making a recommendation here that we think is quite innovative for the justice system. We recommend introduction of a new sort of court official we call “the facilitator.” Now, we’ve been very much impressed here by the work of the financial ombudsman service, and you may know, that they receive about hundreds of thousands of disputes every year, and only about 10% of these disputes actually reach the ombudsman themselves.

 

Ninety percent handled by what they call “adjudicators”. They’re individuals who, in our language, rather than participating in an adversarial trial, where they don’t sit as judges. It’s more inquisitorial. They poke and prod. They make enquiries. It’s a whole bundle of ADR techniques rolled into one, as I understand it.

 

Also, we certainly recommend some facilitators. The facilitators are there to identify, understand, categorise, classify the particular problems that are coming through. If, frankly, it’s absolutely clear that this is not the case that should reach a judge at all, then they will advise in that way.

 

They’ll poke and prod and make enquiries, and try to get a clearer picture themselves of what the issues are, what the merits are and so forth. It’s a whole mixture and bundle, and I see this in a fairly unstructured way, so far. The whole theme is having these level of facilitators who act as a kind of filter. So that, we hope, many disputes that would hitherto, have gone through to a physical resolution in a court room, before a judge will actually be settled online, by a Facilitator on papers, or perhaps again through telephone conferencing calls.

 

The level above that, actually even earlier, that’s the dispute avoidance level, we call this “online evaluation.” What we want to do there, and is partly, we believe, this is a collaborative project between the online courts and perhaps the voluntary sector as well, where we should have online guidance, online advice, online diagnostics, to help individuals themselves understand their entitlements, try to classify and categorise what kind of problem they have, understand what options are available to them, what remedies might be available to them. In many cases, we hope, just having an understanding of one’s position and options will avoid having a dispute in the first place.

 

So, online evaluation is the top level, the first level one comes across, and that is essentially online assistance. I’d say, partly we believe should be offered, or at least hosted by the online court, but there are so many very useful websites already out there. In due course, you’ll have things like useful diagnostic expert systems, which will ask people a series of questions and out will come some kind of preliminary recommendation. But if you don’t actually think there’s a way to avoid your problem, you’ll then proceed to the online facilitator, and if that doesn’t work, on to the online judge. They are a three-tiered court matching the online evaluation, online containment and online resolution.

 

A different model. There’s two innovations therefore. The first is that judges are actually deciding cases on an online basis, if that ever happened in this country. And the second is, that for certain types of civil action or civil claims, in the first instance, we try to dispose of them through the use of

facilitators rather than judges.

 

The top level we are envisaging, there’s no fee Level two, tier two, though there would be, in tier three there would be. I think the style and interfaces of these systems would have to be considerably friendlier, the interfaces that one comes across just now between lawyers and clients and the courts. So, I think it’s animations, it’s friendly diagrams, it’s flow charts, it’s bullet points. This is not large bodies of impenetrable text. So, what we hope is that it’s a welcoming, affordable, in a sense it’s costing nothing, but clearly intelligible set of guidelines, for people who need help. We have in mind a lot of the time, litigants in person. As we know, going through the court process can be terribly difficult. Our intuition is that a user-friendly online service might be more convenient, less forbidding, and more intelligible to the litigants in person.

About the mediator

Richard Susskind Profile Pic

Professor Richard Susskind OBE is an author, speaker, and independent adviser to major professional firms and to national governments. His main area of expertise is the future of professional service and, in particular, the way in which the IT and the Internet are changing the work of lawyers. He has worked on legal technology for over 30 years. He lectures internationally, has written many books, and advised on numerous government inquiries.. ... View Mediator