2012: The Move to Online Dispute Resolution

As a new year begins there is always a clamor to know what is in store for the next 12 months. Some will look at last year and make a string of resolutions and predictions. While I do not pretend to be Carnac the Magnificent of Johnny Carson’s days, here is my take on the trends in 2012 that will shape ADR and ODR.

1. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR):

Advances in technology will make ODR a more viable solution for the parties and neutrals alike. Technology has reached a level of general acceptance and will gain widespread recognition as an aide to make dispute resolution faster, cheaper and more widely available. Not that everyone will race online to settle to an entire resolution process, but widespread adoption of parts of the process will continue to increase. This is largely because:

  1. Improvements in web-conferencing technology, such as Skype, IOCOM’s Visimeet and Apple’s FaceTime, will enable better online video communications.
  2. Improved online case management services will enable files to be stored online in a more secure and confidential way.
  3. Neutral Listing serviceswill enable neutrals to market themselves.
  4. PaaS and SaaS will see an expansion with existing and new online providers.
  5. Institutional Control will be readily recognized as unfair and biased, if, for no other reason, because they appear to control the outcome.


The speed of technological change is now “warp speed”. According to Joshua Topolsky editor-in-chief of the Verge “What will happen over the next few years in user interface design and decentralized cloud systems will make the previous 20 years seem tame by comparison. We’ve crossed over from a long, slow evolution to an explosive revolution in what a computer is and how you use it — and there’s no looking back.” But Topolsky is not alone as the financial community is planning ahead and quantifying activity for the next several years. As the biggest maker of networking equipment, Cisco has a good view of what the future of the online data boom looks like. It even employs a "Chief Futurist" to help guide its business.

According to analyst Lauren Kusick of Stansbury Research, Cisco is laying out the numbers for 2015 (less than four years away). By 2015:

  1. Internet traffic will quadruple, reaching 966 exabytes of data per year. (An exabyte is an amount of data roughly equal to a billion medium-quality movie downloads.)
  2. There will be a total of 15 billion network-connected devices in the world (two per person).
  3. Internet users will reach 3 billion – roughly 40% of the global population.
  4. Average broadband speeds will increase fourfold from current levels.

Those are just the basic "big picture" numbers. Cisco also confirmed the enormous trend in mobile devices – gadgets like smartphones and tablet computers. In 2015, traffic from wireless devices will exceed traffic from wired devices. (Today, wireless makes up just 37% of traffic.)

  1. Global mobile data traffic in 2015 will be 26 times higher than 2010.

These enormous growth rates are happening because of two factors. First, the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. Nearly one billion people accross China and India are using the Internet. Meanwhile, the fastest growth is in Latin America, where traffic is expected to increase at an annual rate of 50% over the next four years.

The second big factor is video. Unlike the average Microsoft Word document, videos are huge files. Internet video is currently about 40% of online traffic. That percentage will rise to more than 60% by 2015 – and perhaps demonstrate the universal appeal of real time pictures.

Dave Evans, Cisco's "Chief Futurist", summed up the explosion in traffic by noting that it took 200 years to fill the U.S. Library of Congress. He pointed out that Internet users now create the equivalent amount of digital data every two minutes. In February Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, announced that “The PC is Dead”. This increasing digitalization of our lives will affect the way we settle disputes.

2. Mediation and Arbitration:

  1. Both mediators and arbitrators will become more creative and aggressive in adopting Internet online marketing principles.
  2. Neutrals will adopt new communication technologies of the Internet age to prevent the parties from coming to a stale mate.
  3. Neutrals will look for new secure ways to protect the confidentiality of the parties and the process.
  4. Ethical restrictions will continue to grow as courts exert more control over certification and even licensing


3. Courts and ADR:

  1. Pressure from court case management programs will continue to press parties to genuinely participate in ADR.
  2. Courts will exert more control in terms of certification of pre-court ADR activities
  3. Courts will continue and expand mandatory CLE requirements for mediators to maintain certification.

All and all 2012 appears to stand ready to sling shot ADR and ODR to new record numbers of the highest form of dispute resolution – party directed resolution.


Hon. Arthur Ahalt

Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt (Ret.) is an internationally recognized advocate of technological solutions for the judicial and legal community. He pioneered advances in online case management and online dispute resolution. Judge Ahalt is currently serving as a recalled Judge in the State of Maryland, and is the chief executive… MORE >

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