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Breaking Barriers: The Tech Revolution in Arbitration

In the dynamic realm of arbitration, the integration of technology has emerged as a pivotal force, reshaping traditional practices and propelling the field towards unprecedented efficiency and collaboration.

In an illuminating discussion with Thomas Snider (Head of International Arbitration), Dalal Alhouti (Knowledge Development Lawyer) and Reem Faqihi (Associate in the Litigation & Dispute Resolution) from Charles Russell Speechlys, LegalcommunityMENA explores the transformative impact of technology on the arbitration landscape.

What specific technologies have you observed being adopted in the field of arbitration to streamline processes and introduce innovation?

Several technologies have been introduced in arbitration proceedings in recent years. We have seen  an increase in online dispute resolution (“ODR”) platforms, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing for the conduct of arbitrations to take place solely online, and producing quicker and more cost-efficient proceedings. These are already used in India for consumer arbitrations, for example,  but are gaining interest from other sectors.

Even in respect to more traditional arbitral institutions, there has been a move towards digitization. For example, the ICC has launched ‘Case Connect’, which it presents as a “pioneering digital case management platform to connect parties, arbitral tribunals and the ICC Secretariat”.

Cloud-based document management systems are now common. This technology enhances accessibility and collaboration by enabling the storage and sharing of documents in a secure and efficient manner, which is especially useful in disputes that involve tens of thousands of documents.

Another example is the use of e-discovery platforms, which help in identifying, collecting and analysing data. This not only saves time and resources when compared to a manual review, but can also provide a deeper analysis of larger datasets, potentially uncovering hidden details that may have otherwise been missed due to human error.

A final example is the use of electronic trial bundles, which make it much easier and quicker to navigate the relevant documents during a hearing, and which are much lighter to carry around not to mention more environmentally sound.

Based on your experience advising on multi-jurisdiction disputes, how do you see technology influencing the management of such cases across different legal systems?

As already highlighted, the ability to instantly send material across borders and to collaborate on shared digital workspaces enables close collaboration. However, another aspect that is changing is legal research. Online legal databases and written commentaries have been a key feature of common law legal research for many years, but less so in the Middle East, which is mainly civil law based. This meant that when reviewing the legal position in different jurisdictions there was often a marked difference between the volume of material available in common law jurisdictions, and that for others.

This is rapidly changing now that more legal databases are being set up for Middle Eastern laws, in both English and Arabic. This is enabling lawyers to benefit from a much wider variety of cases and commentary to create stronger and more novel arguments. Whereas in days past it was difficult to learn about recent Court of Cassation judgments unless you were involved in the case, now they can be accessed on databases. Obtaining a translation used to be costly and time-consuming, but AI- powered translation means that a decent free translation can immediately be generated as an initial starting point, removing the language barrier almost completely.

As an arbitrator and panel member of various arbitral institutions, how do you navigate the balance between traditional arbitration practices and emerging technological solutions?

The balance between traditional arbitration practices and emerging technologies requires careful consideration in practice and is more about evolution than revolution.

Traditional practices place an emphasis on established procedures, which helps ensure fairness and predictability, but can often be time-consuming and expensive. Emerging technological solutions tend to offer exciting possibilities, possible cost savings and increased efficiency, but may require new training and investment in hardware.

In some ways arbitration is the perfect environment for new technologies because the process is flexible - the tribunal and the parties can simply decide to adjust the procedure to incorporate the new technology in the way they think is best for the management of the dispute (for example, using a central online document platform to host the trial bundle). However, there can be challenges.

Perhaps one party is not as experienced as the others in some technological area, leading to a disadvantage. And some arbitrators (even relatively young ones) face challenges in adopting to new ways and will still ask for paper bundles even if the parties themselves have moved on to using digital bundles.

Could you provide insights into the benefits of technology in improving collaboration and information sharing among legal teams handling complex disputes?

Technology is crucial to proper collaboration and information sharing among legal teams. Video conferencing and instant messaging tools enable quick communication across jurisdictions.

Centralised document management systems ensure that everyone has access to the same documents and the latest versions of them. Team members can add notes, highlight important material, and invite comments from other team members. Lawyers can also work in more flexible conditions - they are no longer tied to having to be in the same room to review boxes of physical documents late into the night with pizza delivery boxes strewn around but can access the material remotely from home or when abroad (with pizza delivery boxes strewn around).

Legal research is almost exclusively done online these days, enabling lawyers to find case law and analysis from a huge range of sources and jurisdictions. This also makes it possible for parties to better research arbitrators and experts, finding articles they may have published or other cases in which they were involved in.

What are your thoughts on the future trajectory of technology and innovation in arbitration, and how do you anticipate it shaping the industry in the coming years?

It is always difficult to predict technological innovations. Nobody foresaw the significant impact of ChatGPT, and we are now seeing generative AI being able to create realistic photos of almost anything at the touch of a button, including fake emails, videos and voice recordings. Whilst it has always been possible with enough determination to create fake evidence, the ease, speed and quality at which an AI can create this material is unprecedented. It seems to me inevitable that desperate or nefarious parties may resort to using it to bolster their claims or cause delay by, for example, challenging the independence of an arbitrator with fake evidence.

However, I expect AI to have a positive impact and I think we can expect technology to continue to make arbitration quicker and cheaper. For example, whereas before it was costly, and on occasion, time-consuming to get a transcript of a final hearing, AI will be able to generate one from the audio recording instantly. And whereas before it would take time to create slides to give a visual representation of certain information, AI will be able to quickly generate such materials in a variety of interesting ways that you may not have considered.

In your perspective as a Knowledge Development Lawyer, how can law firms leverage technology to stay updated with the latest legal developments and enhance client services?

Staying updated on legal developments is essential in delivering excellent client services. Several online legal research databases (like Westlaw and LexisNexis) now have AI-powered tools so that not only can you access copies of legislation, caselaw and articles, but the AI will summarise them for you, with citations. This lets you quickly review a broad range of legal materials on a specific legal issue in a way that simply was not possible just a few years ago.

Institutions are also making more resources available. For example, the ICC dispute resolution library is fully digital, giving access to its store of published awards and procedural decisions. The ICC has also developed an AI to assist with retrieving and presenting relevant information, available in both English and Arabic.

Law firms remain a source of public legal knowledge, as more recognize the importance of being thought leaders and demonstrating their expertise through the publication of articles and updates on LinkedIn.

This all means that there are more ways to learn (and learn more quickly) about legal developments than ever before, but lawyers have to continue to work to assess the information for quality and accuracy, and to identify what is of particular interest to their client base.


Reproduced with the permission from Legal Community MENA. This exclusive interview with Suzan Taha was first published in Legal Community MENA – Breaking Barriers: The Tech Revolution in Arbitration. For further information, please visit: Home – Legalcommunity MENA

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