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All female panel offers online dispute option

Rachael Bicknell: ‘access to justice has been problematic’

Six dispute resolution specialists have teamed up to offer what they say is a first-of-its-kind fully online service.

It is aimed at providing an alternative to taking matters through the courts and is launched at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic driving demand for technology-led alternatives to traditional face-to-face dispute resolution and court processes.

The all-female panel of mediators and arbitrators have joined forces with Edinburgh based dispute resolution business, Squaring Circles.

It is being delivered through purpose-built ODR technology, which has only recently become available to the sector in the UK.

The team has been assembled by Rachael Bicknell, founder and director of Squaring Circles. She is joined by Angela Grahame QC, former vice dean of the Faculty of Advocates; Susanne Tanner QC, director of Ampersand Advocates; Gillian Carmichael Lemaire, a member of the Paris Bar; Sheila Webster, partner at Davidson Chalmers Stewart; and Pamela Lyall,. Scotland’s Mediator of the Year 2014.

As the pandemic took hold, it became even clearer that ODR would need to be at the core of the future of dispute resolution

– Rachael Bicknell

Ms Bicknell said: “I started to develop the idea of providing online civil and commercial dispute resolution services in the autumn of last year.

“For years access to justice has been problematic for many businesses and individuals in Scotland. Litigation, even for sizeable claims in the commercial courts with judicial case management and specialisation, is often disproportionately expensive, slow and uncertain.

“For many business disputes the involvement of lawyers, often leading to the adoption of court processes, means that costs can quickly approach or exceed the value of the claim. Legal costs for commercial disputes will often run to six or even seven figures and frequently result in parties spending as much time arguing about the costs as they do over the claim.

“As the pandemic took hold, it became even clearer that ODR would need to be at the core of the future of dispute resolution.

“As we enter what is predicted to be the biggest recession in hundreds of years, litigation is going to be a non-starter for an even greater proportion of companies and individuals who do business in Scotland.”

Ms Tanner said “Online dispute resolution is a natural evolution of alternative dispute resolution processes rather than a knee-jerk reaction to the global pandemic.

“Once social distancing restrictions are lifted, ODR will be used in combination with face-to-face dispute resolution processes, to offer a unique, flexible and cost-effective solution tailored to the needs of the parties, even in high value and complex disputes.”

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