Resolving Disputes Online

Technology has rapidly changed how companies conduct business. They store more records, operate more efficiently and telecommute like never before. It looks like technology and specifically the Internet, is starting to change how companies settle their disputes. Litigation can be incredibly draining on a business and many companies budget for $1 million a year or more just to manage business disputes.

Many companies turn to mediation and arbitration as alternative dispute methods but scheduling and getting all the parties together in one room can be difficult. Enter the Internet and its impressive power to connect people from all over the world. Online dispute resolution (or "ODR") has been a tool since the 1990s but the Internet was never fast or reliable enough for it to operate as a real alternative to face-to-face meetings.

A number of ODR tools have sprung up that offer a variety of services from data and negotiation facilitation applications to video. Many ODR companies will allow the various participants to submit information and a "bid" to settle the dispute. This information is communicated to the other parties and once all the information is inputted, the ODR tool can make a recommendation for a compromise. Many companies also offer direct video to video feeds so that the various parties can interact as if they were in the same room.

ODR works by resolving disputes quickly. Inputting data and computing compromises is a quick way for companies to resolve their disputes amicably. But the usefulness of ODR declines as the case becomes more complex. Uploading documents and gigabytes of information is still often too much for these ODR platforms to handle in an efficient manner. So while it is useful for some disputes, it isn't a cure all for every dispute.

If you are engaged in a contract dispute then you may want to speak to a commercial litigation attorney. Your overriding goals, unlike in personal injury, are to preserve your business and possibly even your business relationships. A lawyer can help you think clearly and work toward those goals. Contract disputes are often not personal and only resulted because of bad luck or bad timing. By working with an attorney you can hopefully resolve the dispute before it costs your business more than it should.