IndiaLegal UpdatesOpinion

Attending NLSIU’s Webinar on “Innovations in ODR and Arbitration during the COVID-19 Pandemic”

So, I got to attend a webinar by NLSIU, Bengaluru and Lawctopus on the topic “Innovations in ODR and Arbitration during the COVID-19 Pandemic”. As it was on the topic of ADR and ODR, it definitely caught my attention and I enrolled for it prior.

Background: NLSIU, Bengaluru is a premier law school in India and Lawctopus is an online portal designed to help law students in achieving their career goals. Lawctopus is organizing webinars periodically to help students utilize their time in enhancing knowledge of the different areas/issue relating to law/legal studies.

Date and Time/Venue: 10th May 2020 at 02.30PM IST – via Zoom (Meeting & Webinar App)

Speakers:

  1. Shreya Aren, Associate, International Arbitration Team, Debevoise and Plimpton
  2. Shwetha Bidhuri, South Asia Head, SIAC
  3. Angeline Welsh, Barrister, Essex Court
  4. Nihal Joseph, Associate, International Arbitration Team, HSF
  5. Thayanandan Baskaran, Member, Crown Office Chambers, London

My observation:

It was insightful and an interesting webinar on the topic. As I am in my final year of 3-yr law course, I have a subject ADR, due to which the discussed content was fully relatable, and I could link it to the content given in the textbook. It also helped in engaging me through-out, as it being my interest subject.

Key Takeaways: (as per my interpretation)

  • We all are familiar with the current COVID-19 outbreak situation going on in the country and the whole world. Rather then seeing it as an obstacle in professional life, one can also see it as an opportunity. For instance, an opportunity to cut costs, an opportunity to adapt to new technology, etc.
  • Recent trends in this regard have been encouraging, as people have easily adapted to webinars from the trend of seminars (due to lockdown) which is a good sign.
  • Virtual hearings should be considered by the parties & their attorneys as par with the real hearings. It can lead to quick dispute resolution.
  • In case of the Arbitration mode of ADR, the medium might have been changed to virtual hearings but the metrics is still the same. Thus, the shift to virtual hearings won’t affect the outcome of a case (against genuine interest of parties).
  • For instance, an Arbitrary tribunal is given the power to conduct hearing in the way they want, so any party cannot challenge a verdict based on this ground, that the hearings were conducted virtually.
  • Mostly commercial issues come up for arbitration, which makes it much easy to access the factual and legal issues and lead to a conclusion.
  • A good idea can also be to record the virtual hearings, which will increase the transparency.

[Note: Here, the expert suggested that in usual practice, the arbitration proceedings are not recorded, but can be done if both the parties agree to the same.]

  • Even in such proceedings, an adjournment/extension in time limit should be granted only after considering the factual situation and circumstances of the particular case, as it can be used to delay a case by any party.
  • Mediation procedure using virtual means is a good option during such unprecedented times. (the present COVID-19 situation)
  • There is a positive future for arbitration, as we can see more people shifting to online sources and adopting online ways.
  • Amongst the oral hearing and documents only hearing, first preference should be given to documents only hearing. And if needed the reason should be justified and then online oral hearings can be scheduled.
  • An expert suggested that there are six services provided by the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre, namely: Video Conferencing, Audio Conferencing, Electronic bundle services, Electronic services, Transcription services and Interpretation services.

In case of the Arbitration, not much has changed, as it is always considered the fast, low cost and effective mode of alternate dispute resolution. Here, in the present times, just the mode has changed and the process largely remains the same.

[Note: The above key take-aways is from the article author’s interpretation of the discussion in his own words. It is NOT a substitute to legal advice. In case of a need of legal advice, one should contact a legal expert in their local jurisdiction.]