Posted by Andrea Kilby, business development director at Legal Futures Associate Thomson Reuters
The need for arbitration and alternative dispute resolution has grown significantly during the pandemic.
Ways of working have had to evolve to accommodate the growth and also to adjust to remote working and a mixture of in-person, remote and hybrid hearings. Are law firms that focus on commercial dispute resolution working as efficiently as possible, or is there still room for improvement?
International arbitration centres, and law firms handling arbitration cases directly, have played a key role in helping the business world adjust to the fallout of the pandemic. They also proved adept at keeping the system running at a time when many national courts had to pause proceedings or operate partial shutdowns.
Data from Global Arbitration News shows a 16% increase in arbitration caseloads for major arbitration centres in 2020 compared to 2019. The London Court of International Arbitration grew its caseload by 11%. And this is a trend that looks set to continue.
Ingredients for success
Now that the industry has experienced the benefits of digital, there can be no return to paper. Instead, legal teams need cost-effective, scalable cloud-based, litigation-specific digital tools such as Thomson Reuters Case Center (formerly CaseLines) that allow them to collaborate securely and maximise efficiencies in building bundles, collaborating and reviewing evidence, preparing cases and presenting hearings.
If law firms are to capitalise on the growth in arbitration cases, they must be equipped to respond as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible – and be able to seamlessly switch from remote to hybrid to in-person working, without costly delays. It’s here that purpose-built software, available in the cloud, comes into its own.
Law firms can be up and running on a cloud-based platform within as little as a day. All they need is a secure internet connection. From there, litigation teams can start uploading evidence, preparing cases and also share access to all relevant parties so that everyone is always up to date and viewing the latest information.
As a result, it becomes irrelevant where parties are based. Participants can securely access all information and cases relevant to them – for which they have the appropriate permissions – whether they are in court, in the office or working remotely.
And for international arbitration cases, parties can all access the same system from multiple different countries. As a result, all processes can continue whether an arbitration case is taking place in-person, remotely, or in a hybrid fashion, unhindered by any changes in travel restrictions.
Avoiding PDF soup
When it comes to preparing and sharing bundles, law firms need a means of handling this in the most effective way, not just coping strategies.
Once you move beyond small cases, where PDFs can prove adequate, law firms really need a purpose-built tool for bundle preparation and evidence sharing. Imagine the frustration of those faced with handling PDF documents that run to thousands of pages, that are difficult to search, annotate and manage.
Technological innovation should enhance ways of working, not compound them by replicating paper-based legacy processes in PDF format.
A law firm handling a medium sized arbitration case – too large to manage effectively using a bundle in PDF format, yet not large enough to justify the expense of a dedicated managed service – can benefit immensely from a cloud-based platform specifically built for case preparation and presentation.
Self-service capabilities mean there is no need to rely on, or pay, third parties to upload documents. And with costs incurred by the number of pages used rather than by the length of the case, it means there is no penalty involved in using the system from the outset to start preparing cases early, as soon as evidence becomes available.
A cloud-based platform can also accommodate multi-media files. With a growing requirement to share evidence in the form of spreadsheets, or in video format – such as drone footage for property cases – it’s increasingly important to have this capability.
The result is improved productivity, with all team members collaborating on one shared bundle, not multiple disparate PDF documents, avoiding any duplication in activity, and removing the challenge of version control.
In summary, a litigation-specific cloud-based platform for case preparation and court presentation makes life more efficient, simpler and faster for legal teams every step of the way – helping to accelerate alternative dispute resolution for all involved.