Articles filed under ODR

Nick Holmes discovers SeeYouOutOfCourt; considers the demise of and the continued survival and prospering of Out-Law; calendarises Law Via the Internet 2020; and surveys developments in online divorce.

In its Report to the Civil Justice Council in February 2015, Online Dispute Resolution for Low Value Civil Claims, the ODR Advisory Group, chaired by Prof Richard Susskind recommended the establishment by HMCTS of an online court for low value civil claims, called HM Online Court (HMOC). This would overcome the fact that current practice and procedures were “too costly, too slow, and too complex, especially for litigants in person.”

This court service would be in three “tiers”. The first, “online evaluation”, would help users identify their problem, be aware of their rights and obligations and understand the options available to them.

Next, “online facilitation” would involve online mediation and negotiation, supported, where necessary, by telephone conferencing. Some “automated negotiation” might be involved.

If not resolved by mediation, “online judges” would decide suitable cases or parts of cases largely on the basis of papers submitted to them electronically, again supported, where necessary, by telephone conferencing.

Although its terms of reference were restricted to civil claims under the value of £25,000, it suggested that the jurisdiction of HMOC “should also be extended to suitable family disputes and to appropriate cases that come before today’s tribunals.”

For many mediators, “online dispute resolution” is simply using online technology such as Skype or Zoom as the medium for real time discussion or exchanging emails for asynchronous discussion. Whilst these are helpful in bridging the geographical gap, the more exciting developments are around the development of artificial intelligence to actively assist the parties to reach an agreed resolution that might otherwise not be achieved or be achieved only after a lengthy and costly negotiation “dance”.

In an earlier contribution to the Newsletter I made the point that the partly hidden “A” as in Online Alternative Dispute Resolution, which tended to focus ODR’s perceived remit on out of court solutions such as mediation and arbitration, was beginning to disappear altogether as more focus was made on introducing ODR into the justice system itself. How is that progressing?

eu odr service

The country may still be unclear as to its future relationship with the EU and the Single Market, but such has been the scale of non-compliance by businesses of all shapes and sizes with the new ADR regulations, as well as the total non-enforcement by the authorities, that it seems many think we are already out.

This article first appeared in Legal Web Watch April 2016. Legal Web Watch is a free monthly email service which complements the Internet Newsletter for Lawyers. To receive Legal Web Watch regularly sign up here.

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ODR versions

Since ODR began to be discussed, developed and applied, which was as long ago as towards the end of the last century, it has commonly been thought of that there was an invisible “A” in the acronym so that ODR really referred to Online Alternative Dispute Resolution. That was understandable given that all instances of ODR, such as at eBay, were outside the mainstream resolution services at the courts or tribunals. That is changing.

2015 was the year when finally the “A” was thrown out, or at least, if it remains, can stand for “appropriate”.

Handshake by Aidan Jones

Professor Richard Susskind OBE is well known within the legal profession for his numerous books predicting a dramatic transformation in legal practice, and calling for an overhaul of 21st century lawyering.

In February 2015 he made national headlines for his proposed eBay-style scheme for online dispute resolution (ODR) and the recommendation that HMCTS introduce a new, internet-based court service, known as HM Online Court (HMOC), to be launched in 2017. As Chair of the Civil Justice Council’s ODR Advisory Group and IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice, he had been tasked with finding a way to resolve low-level civil claims more cheaply.


Family law today is a cottage industry. Despite new entrants looking to offer national, commoditised legal services, most family law services continue to be offered and delivered in the traditional way by a large number of solicitor suppliers.

In 2013 there were about 13,500 solicitors practising family law in England and Wales – about 11 per cent of the total. Many of them are sole practitioners or work in small firms.

Most provide excellent, bespoke legal services to their local communities and long may they continue to do so. However, there is a risk for the public of lack of consistency which comes from this type of delivery model – a lack of consistency in relation to quality but also costs. This can cause confusion and can be disempowering for individuals who are seeking legal advice and support at a difficult time in their lives.

2012 was a big year for online dispute resolution (ODR) culminating in the introduction of the world’s first piece of legislation specific to ODR.

Ten years after the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe launched the annual International Forum on ODR, the shaping by online technology of a global justice system is coming of age and finally beginning to prove the prediction of Professor Richard Susskind in his keynote speech at the 5th International Forum on ODR in 2007, that the technology will “fundamentally change the way litigators function and become mainstream”.

In addition, we saw the launch of a new ODR provider called Modria spun out of eBay and PayPal, bringing together under one roof some of the leading experts and proponents of the subject and also the publication of two comprehensive books.

Like the paperless office, online dispute resolution (ODR) was an early goal of those embracing online communication. Unlike the paperless office, however, whose arrival has been somewhat delayed by the principle that anything made easier, eg printing, will be done many more times than otherwise would be the case, ODR has indeed arrived. “Where is it?” you may ask. All around. Stop looking for a product and think, instead, about the definition.