The Chair of the Canada’s Civil Resolution Tribunal in British Columbia, Shannon Salter, spoke with leaders from Australia’s legal community about successful online dispute resolution (ODR). Shannon explained that dispute resolution must involve the development of new processes. The processes should focus on the needs of users rather than simply adding technology on top of existing systems.

Shannon, who was made an adjunct fellow of the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre at Victoria University in 2018, made the comments at a public lecture in Melbourne in November as part of the Cowen Centre’s ODR: State of the Art Symposium.

Her presentation entitled “Compulsory ODR: The Canadian Experience” provided some key lessons for Australian ODR practitioners based on Canada’s successful development of its 24/7 online dispute resolution service.

Themes

Key themes included the need to consider that many people are accessing ODR processes outside of traditional business hours, the importance of involving users in the testing to develop simple processes, and the need to focus on the public rather than the IT.

She said one of the surprising outcomes of the introduction of ODR in Canada has been the opportunity to radically re-think a range of processes; reminding Australia’s legal leaders of the importance of not simply adding technology to existing processes.

Ahead of her presentation, Salter told Lawyers Weekly that “Like other jurisdictions in the Commonwealth, British Columbia has an access to justice crisis. It could be expensive and complicated and time-consuming to resolve disputes in the court system”.

She told the publication: “to have a peaceful way for people to resolve their problems” is “really foundational to having a strong civil society.”

The presentation came two years after Shannon revealed details of the Canadian pilot during the Cowen Centre’s Law and Courts in an Online World Conference, and many attendees were keen to hear about the success of the pilot and the transition to an ongoing operation.

Key lessons

Other key lessons from the introduction of ODR in Canada include the need to develop tools which can help avoid full-scale dispute resolution. In her monthly blog post for October, Shannon revealed that the solution explorer, which allows people to explore potential avenues for solving their disputes before becoming involved in formal online dispute resolution was used more than 48,000 times while only 485 new disputes were logged.

Watch the plenary video on YouTube to learn more about Shannon’s work.