Only a couple years ago, despite the inklings of an emerging virus halfway around the world, few could have predicted the advent of a global pandemic based on a variation of the virus that causes the common cold.  But here we are, slowly coming out on the other side.  Some industries flourished during the pandemic (e-commerce comes to mind), while others floundered (understandably the hospitality industry felt acute effects of lockdowns and quarantining). In the middle of the spectrum, sits the legal industry. While e-filing and e-discovery had become common practice, a broader adoption of technologies that facilitate all facets of legal services felt distant from firm hallways and courtrooms.

As the pandemic took hold in early 2020, the federal and state court systems ground to a halt.  The majority of substantive court hearings were still held in-person or with nominal dial-in appearances, and there remained a strong adherence to paper documentation. In short, courts were simply ill-equipped to handle the same volume of cases. In no way is this meant to disparage the state and federal court systems, however, it did expose the fragility of relying on traditional procedures.

The pandemic challenged all industries in unprecedented ways and many creative solutions were born from the necessity to innovate. However, the reality is it is difficult to move court dockets into a virtual world and having courts where serious decisions are rendered, is still essential to the function of our democracy. Putting big decisions and the highest courts aside, most disputes have the advantage of turning to arbitration or mediation for resolution.

Arbitration and mediation forums have fared nominally better as organizations have cobbled together tools like Dropbox, email, and video conferencing in an effort to cater to those confined by quarantine mandates, and now in response to the rise of WFH.  None of these tools are uniquely designed for the legal industry, and certainly are not ideal when applied in a patchwork of utility. Not only can it make a process disjointed, but it can also increase risks related to confidentiality, cybersecurity, and due process.

During the pandemic, legal professionals needed to be resourceful, agile, and progressive in finding new and inventive alternatives to facilitate dispute resolution. This meant adopting and embracing new technologies that were originally thought to be temporary fixes, but as the pandemic raged on, the tools we used to resolve conflict that first seemed novel, began to become expected as a new standard. Now we have the opportunity to enhance innovations created in the past couple years and fully embrace a digital evolution in the law.

The fact is, despite a plethora of hiccups, the pandemic demonstrated that virtualization works, even in its most rudimentary forms. As our society continues to stabilize, there may be areas where we revert to doing things the old way. We don’t think the reliance on in-person courtrooms will be one of those. Just imagine what we can do now that we know we are capable and well-equipped to handle disputes virtually. Given the sheer pecuniary size of the domestic legal market, there is a unique opportunity for the legal industry to become a true innovation engine. At New Era ADR, we believe we need to learn from how we adopted during the pandemic and continue to improve upon the existing technology available. It took a global pandemic, but digital revolution has come to the legal industry; it’s time we embrace it.

More New Era Insights

Learn About Alternative Dispute Resolution

Hear stories from inside the court system and learn more about how ADR mediation and technology is offering a new path for dispute resolution.

50 Years of Title IX: Where Do We Go From Here? 

50 Years of Title IX: Where Do We Go From Here? 

If you’re a Title IX Coordinator, you know two things for sure:  You are the point-person for federal compliance.  And, that compliance is always changing. When interviewing for my Title IX Coordinator role I was told over and over again that the position came with...

The Gig Economy Needs a New Era of Arbitration

The Gig Economy Needs a New Era of Arbitration

A decade ago, significant litigation concerning the classification of gig workers began to surface. Recently there’s been renewed debate about the role of arbitration in the “gig” economy. Just this month, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court heard a case on...

The Title IX Coordinator Resource Guide

The Title IX Coordinator Resource Guide

Recently we sent out a survey within our Title IX Newsletter, asking Coordinators to share a little about your role. In an effort to help create a community, we thought it'd be helpful to pass along some of the shared resources, as well as some of the challenges of...

ODR is a Tool for Consumers to Resolve Disputes Quickly

ODR is a Tool for Consumers to Resolve Disputes Quickly

In this article we discuss how Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) is an easier and more efficient way to solve consumer disputes. 80% of the Global Population Uses Smartphones In 2011, Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership determined that 35% of...

Get Started

Get Instant Access To Rapid Dispute Resolution

Create your free New Era ADR account and accelerate the resolution of your disputes.

Create My Account