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| 1 minute read

Old dogs can learn new tricks

Reading content on the IBA website, it is refreshing to see that many professionals, both young and old, have embraced technology with open arms (perhaps partly because we can't embrace much else!) during lockdown.  

Of course, you may argue, we have had no choice if we want to carry on working - but I think it is more than that. Most of the technology we are using is not new; video calls have been possible for a very long time but few of us used them regularly before the arrival of Covid-19, if at all.  Yet now, nearly everyone reports finding platforms like MS teams and Zoom calls incredibly useful.  Although too many of these calls in one day can be truly exhausting , they have helped us connect further afield, faster, more cheaply and in many cases just as effectively.  I doubt that most of us will go back to the old ways entirely, after the lockdown ends.

Reassuringly, it is clear that there is also an appetite, across continents and across generations, to learn more new skills particularly when it comes to helping businesses to resolve contractual disputes.  As governments encourage parties to negotiate and look for pragmatic solutions, those who advise and support businesses in dispute resolution will need to help management by arming them with the tools they need for effective negotiation.

For those of us who are trained mediators and/or have extensive experience of mediation this will not be too difficult and we know how rewarding it can be to see management getting back to what they do best. The costs of fighting disputes through the courts are high, whether you win or lose, not just in financial terms but also in energy expended and time lost.  Lawyers and experts will need to work together to help their clients achieve the best possible outcomes because there is still work to be done in order to have effective negotiations, such as understanding contract terms, what has been the true cost to the business, and what is the best long term solution.  With the right groundwork and applying the right skills, it is possible to find creative solutions that can preserve important business relationships, enhance reputation and build long-term loyalty.

Alexander Leventhal, Young Lawyers Liaison Officer on the IBA Mediation Committee and a senior associate at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, says that while this may not stop the flood of litigation, it could lead to a more efficient handling of disputes in the longer term. ‘Everyone is learning how to do things that they have been doing all along with technology and other tools that existed all along but [that people didn’t use],’ he says. Thomas Valenti, Vice-Chair of the IBA Mediation Committee and Founder of mediation services provider Valenti Law, believes that mediation could be the answer. ‘....We’ll see more use of mediation because the need is there and companies that are shut down have financial constraints.’ Mediation is of particular benefit in a crisis because it allows disputes to be resolved far more quickly and cheaply ...'


disputes, dispute resolution, mediation, court, contractual disputes, contract, expert