Just like every other industry on the planet, the legal industry was crippled when shutdown orders spread across the country. Courts closed for weeks, if not months, and those involved in trials, hearings, and other legal proceedings were left in limbo, wondering when they would have their cases heard or decided.
While some courts, in limited circumstances, began to use virtual or “call-in” systems to handle legal proceedings, most courts are still overwhelmed and booked for many months out. Additionally, because of the constitutional right to a speedy trial, criminal matters take the highest priority and civil matters are severely postponed or stayed. Where does that leave a party that needs to resolve a civil legal matter quickly and efficiently?
The fact is, the solution was under our noses the whole time. ADR, or alternative dispute resolution, has long been an alternative to time-consuming and expensive courtroom litigation and trials. There are many types of alternative dispute resolution including:
- Structured Negotiations;
- Mediation (and its various iterations);
- Arbitration; and
- Judicial Reference.
ADR always occurs outside of the courtroom and, conveniently, with today’s COVID-cautious times, ADR is more convenient and relevant than ever, as it can take place virtually via video, email, or phone.
What Virtual Arbitration Looks Like
Arbitration is usually agreed to between the parties or dictated by their contract. There is a private judge or arbitrator who, after hearing both sides of a dispute and evaluating the evidence submitted, issues a final and binding award to one party.
Specifically, with Brief, each party initially uploads its evidence, testimony, claims, defenses, and rebuttals. After this process is complete, all of the submissions are submitted to our E-judge to be evaluated, reviewed, and analyzed. Barring any additional questions from the E-judge, a ruling is rendered in favor of one party or the other, and a binding award is issued to the parties. Simple, quick, efficient, easy, and cost-effective.
At Brief, we specialize in monetary disputes such as breaches of contract, loan defaults, and other financial matters between lenders and borrowers, declaratory relief matters, and other common law monetary disputes. In connection with a loan default, rather than taking each loan default to court (we’re referring to financial institutions that have hundreds of defaults at a time), it can often be easier and more time- and cost-effective to arbitrate with Brief’s flat rate and streamlined process and timeline.
How ADR Services Shine During COVID-19
So why are ADR services the legal heroes of the pandemic? Here are a few reasons why corporations and businesses prefer to use alternative dispute resolution rather than going to court.
1. The Courts Are Overwhelmed
Even under normal circumstances, civil courts are backed up. Add a pandemic to that, and you have some, like Los Angeles County, as an example, that won’t have civil jury trials until 2021 or later.
What are lenders with defaulted loans to do? Wait years to litigate and hope that they get a fraction of the loan value, after court costs and legal fees?
On the other hand, online arbitration is available now. Websites like Brief are operating and scheduling arbitrations now, not months from now. Plaintiffs can file their complaints and have them resolved within weeks, not months or years.
2. Cases are Confidential
Hearings and trials in the court system are public records, but not every corporation, business, or party wants the fact that they were involved in a legal matter (even if they were the plaintiff) to be public information, particularly when there is less consumer confidence in brands in general, thanks to the pandemic.
Arbitration, on the other hand, is confidential. The record is sealed. For many, this is a major benefit, win or lose.
3. Virtual ADR is Safer
We’re all looking for ways to keep healthy with an invisible enemy that has, to date, impacted nearly 9 million people in the U.S. alone. Much of our normal activity has ground to a halt. The “new normal,” as is so often coined, looks little like life did a year ago.
But rather than writing off defaulted debt, lenders have the option to pursue a claim…without sitting in a courtroom or in an arbitrator’s office with other people who might be carrying the coronavirus. Working virtually, through video, email, and phone ensures that business gets taken care of while the health of participants is paramount.
4. It Provides Revenue for Legal Professionals
With some courts closed, many lawyers may find themselves with less work and idle time. Online dispute resolution offers qualified legal professionals the opportunity to take on ad hoc work as an E-Judge that fits their schedule and provides them with revenue. (Interested in becoming an E-Judge? Learn more.)
There’s no predicting what’s next with this pandemic, the unpredictable economy, or the overwhelmed legal system, but with such an affordable and expedient option to dispute resolution, we expect to see more companies and individuals turn to ADR and companies such as thinkbrief.com.