Use of arbitration platforms moves closer to ‘industry standard’

Plans to standardise the approach to online case management in international arbitration are a step closer to reality, after a draft protocol received positive feedback from an industry-wide consultation. Today, an updated version of the Protocol for Online Case Management in International Arbitration has been published, reflecting the benefit of input from a wide spectrum of arbitrators, arbitral institutions, technology developers, parties to arbitrations, and their lawyers. 

Developed by a group of lawyers from six international law firms, the Protocol aims to facilitate efficient and secure document sharing, and improve arbitral participants’ ability to meet obligations relating to data handling and cyber security, by setting out, in one place, relevant and practical guidance. The Protocol, which is the product of a collaborative working group involving individuals from Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, CMS, DLA Piper, Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins, aims to promote a globally consistent approach to online case management processes. It is anticipated that the Protocol will be of significant value to arbitration practitioners, parties to international arbitrations and to arbitrators as they adapt to the increasing use of technology in international dispute resolution, a development which has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.  

The consultation, which closed at the end of October, reveals broad support from across the arbitration community. Key findings include:

  • a desire to encourage efficiency in approach through use of end-to-end case management software, in particular when adopted in the early stages of proceedings;
  • recognition that a standardised approach should reduce the potential for technical mismatches  and resulting information-sharing difficulties;  
  • a determination to ensure emerging technologies can be harnessed to boost efficiency and encourage innovation, for the benefit of all arbitral participants; and
  • a commitment to ensuring best practices with respect to cybersecurity.
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“We are delighted to see the support the Protocol received during the consultation phase.  Online case management is no longer a luxury – it is necessary for effective case management and can also improve outcomes in cases.  The Protocol provides a clear and neutral path for the greater adoption of a standardised approach to online case management in international arbitrations.  It is my hope that the Protocol will become a key case management tool in international arbitration,” says Kushal Gandhi, Partner at CMS, who has been part of the working group alongside Richard Bamforth, Head of Arbitration at CMS.

“The overwhelming support we have received for this project is testament to how important such a protocol is to the future of international arbitration. The protocol creates an industry standard for the use of online platforms and illustrates how the arbitration community is harnessing the advances in technology to ensure arbitration remains efficient, effective and flexible. The launch of the protocol reflects the exciting technological transformation in arbitration and its success provides an example of what can be achieved through collaboration. We hope the protocol provides valuable guidance for tribunals, practitioners, institutions, parties and technology companies globally. The group is not stopping here and looks forward to working together on future opportunities to enhance international arbitration. ” says Myfanwy Wood, Partner in the International Arbitration team at Ashurst and member of the Protocol’s working group.

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The Protocol, which has been in development since May 2019, is of universal application and designed to be flexible so as to be of assistance in all kinds of international arbitrations, regardless of jurisdiction, subject matter or applicable rules. In addition to setting out guidance for parties to an arbitration, their lawyers, arbitrators and arbitral institutions, the working group also hopes that the Protocol will assist technology developers and providers to tailor their existing products and to identify areas for future development. 

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