Tuesday, November 24, 2020

ADR, Pandemic and ...Robots?

A few years ago I had the chance to read a book titled “The Robots are Coming!: The Future of Jobs in the Age of Automatization”, written by Andrés Oppenheimer. In this book, Mr. Oppenheimer stated what the future of several jobs and professions would look like due to the automatization of several activities.

Through the book, the reader learns that a lot of jobs are being supplemented or replaced by robots and technology. Current examples are: self-checkout cashiers in the supermarket; ordering restaurant food through electronic apps; and translators, because translation apps are getting more precise and specialized day by day.

The examples mentioned above do not seem all that new. Actually, since the pandemic and restaurants being closed or operating in a limited capacity, it has become the most common method for us, for example, to order food electronically if we do not want to go out.

The surprise in the book came when I got to the chapter on the future of lawyers.

Yes. Lawyers may be replaced little by little by robots. Several examples of how this is happening currently are well detailed in the book. However, even though the book suggests that some activities performed by lawyers that require expertise and high technical knowledge are going to be supplemented in the near future, I believe that the future may be here already.

If we pay attention to the way we transitioned our daily activities as a result of the pandemic to the way we do them now, we realize that such transition was almost automatic.

Almost every hearing was moved from physical attendance to remote. Arbitrator, expert, and witness visits to construction sites are changing from physical to remote as well, using drones and BIM modeling technology, and we can follow the project with that tool in real time.

Witness hearings are being conducted by Zoom, Teams, or similar software.

Due to the pandemic this new reality came much faster than we believed before and this situation has made necessary that lawyers advise their clients to transition from common court litigation to methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution that could provide easier, faster, cheaper and most of all, safer and possibly more secure ways to resolve disputes.

In that regard, it is worth mentioning that there are a lot of International Institutes that address this current demand like the International Chamber of Commerce, which in its Rules for Arbitration proposes that communications be exchanged via email (Article 3 of the ICC Arbitration Rules), and also suggests that the case management conference be held remotely (Article 24 of the ICC Arbitration Rules).

Locally for me in Mexico, the CAIC (Centro de Arbitraje de la Industria de la Construcción – Arbitration Centre of the Construction Industry) also suggests that communication be by any technological means.

As the world and our reality moves forward, we as lawyers should adapt accordingly. A good start would be advising our clients to use the ADR Institutions, whether international (like the ICC) or domestic (like the CAIC), that offer a service that fits the current reality, until robots come to resolve the disputes themselves.

Author Juan Pablo Sandoval García is an Associate at COMAD, S.C. (www.comad.com.mx). His email address is jpsandoval@comad.com.mx.

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