How has arbitration been affected by COVID-19?

How has arbitration been affected by COVID-19?

As kitchen tables become workstations (resulting, the author has noticed, in an increased consumption of biscuits) we have all had to become familiar with and reliant upon technology to conduct our working lives.

In the world of international arbitration where the disputing parties, their lawyers, experts and arbitrators are often based in disparate locations, we are familiar with having to use technology to manage dispute resolution processes. However the additional challenges that the pandemic has imposed has shown that arbitral institutions have been able to weather this storm well, and adapt to a more digitised processes, through (for example) the more widespread use of video hearings and online portals for starting claims and the uploading of documents.   

Yet, with a global economic downturn looming, parties about to embark on arbitration as the mechanism for resolving a commercial dispute, may now opt for an alternative to one of the institutional regimes. In recent months there has been an increase in the number of on-line arbitration services being offered by a variety of different sources promising quicker and cheaper routes to resolution. For the right types of disputes, such services are likely to be attractive to commercial parties and their in-house advisors who may be under pressure to keep cost and disruption to their business to a minimum.

In a recent article published on Practical Law’s Arbitration blog, Michael Stocks comments on how the coronavirus pandemic has caused arbitration institutions to make their practices even more agile than before, and whether we are about to see the landscape of arbitration change given the emergence of these so-called “off the shelf” arbitration services.   

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