Computers

XCIII: Keeping An Open Mind - My Problem With Legal Online Dispute Resolution

Online dispute resolution is exactly what it sounds like: it is communication online or over the phone wherein judges and lawyers facilitate the resolution of disputes between parties.

My biggest problem with this is that we already live in a world where laziness and a failure to do one’s job is the status quo. Taking the “personal” out of the mediation or arbitration experience, in my opinion, would simply do a disservice to clients everywhere.

BUT, I CANNOT PRETEND LIKE THERE AREN’T MANY BENEFITS:

The biggest benefit is that, for those who cannot make it to the courthouse for arbitration, or to the mediator’s office for a mediation, they can literally just find a space with Wifi and get the dispute resolution that they seek.

Another benefit to Online Dispute Resolution is that it frees up the courts a bit. Although there are separate moving pieces for everything, judges, lawyers, and mediators are busy!

Being able to settle cases or resolve matters while on the go could free up time for attorneys and mediators, so there’s potentially more benefits there. I just have a hard time looking past the negatives of ODR.

One last positive is for the people who are out of the country and need to “attend” a proceeding. Instead of making them travel across the world, they can simply travel to a quiet spot with wifi and connect with their mediator, attorney or judge.

So, I can’t say that ODR is all bad, but I definitely look at it with extreme reserve. I just believe that we cannot take the “personal” out of the legal experience and still do a good job at being advocates for our clients.

LAW IS A CUSTOMER SERVICE FIELD WHETHER PEOPLE KNOW IT OR NOT.

Lawyers rely on their clients (in many cases) to keep their businesses going. This means that they are in the business of people, i.e. customer service. If your client isn’t happy about the fact that she can’t reach you at all, then she’s going to spread the word and before you know it, you’re known as the attorney who was too busy for her client.

In law, reputation is everything, so it would behoove any attorney to realize this and act accordingly.

Keeping the clients first means that you are communicating effectively and when needed. It means that you are there to answer their questions, no matter how small. When you sign a client up, you are signing up for the contact even if it seems like overkill.

Yes, the majority of this contact will be done over the phone, but I know from experience that the clients look forward to those moments where they get to actually sit down with the attorney and talk face to face. For some reason, these are the only times that they feel that their needs are being met and that they are heard in a realm that many of them have no clue about.

ALL I’M SAYING IS THAT…

We need to keep the part about lawyering where the lawyer actually cares, tries to communicate with his/her clients, and is about more than just a check.

I’ve seen it in my years of being a law clerk that there are attorneys whose only concern is the check, but I have faith because I literally worked at a firm where every single lawyer cared about their clients (good and bad) and cared about getting the best break for their clients beyond the check.