Law firms team up to launch protocol for legaltech adoption in arbitrations

Latham, HSF and DLA Piper among firms co-operating to outline 'must have' functionality


A new protocol which aims to standardise approaches to preparing for virtual arbitrations has been published, following an industry-wide consultation with arbitrators, arbitral institutions, developers, clients and lawyers. 

The Protocol for Online Case Management in International Arbitration has been devised by representatives from six top firms – Ashurst, CMS, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF), Latham & Watkins and Hogan Lovells.

It aims to provide consistency in online case management processes for virtual arbitrations, whose popularity has increased since the global pandemic.

DLA Piper senior associate Maria Scott, a member of the Working Group on Legaltech Adoption in International Arbitration, said growth in the use of new technologies had led to a need for guidance as to how to store, share and manage data securely. 

Michael Taylor, an associate at Hogan Lovells, added: "Through the final version of the protocol, we intend to help shape discussions around the role of new technologies in the arbitration process. Securing a consistent approach to arbitral procedures and cybersecurity across the industry is vital.”

‘Must have’ capabilities outlined in the protocol include the ability to choose regions in which data is stored, ‘sophisticated’ threat detection and monitoring, a user-friendly interface, searchable text and separate team workspaces.

Among ‘nice to haves’ is AI document review functionality and ‘e-bundling’.

It is hoped the protocol will boost efficiency, encourage mutually beneficial early adoption and reduce potential technical mismatches and glitches. Crucially, the new protocol is jurisdiction-neutral and can be used across all forums and arbitral rules, giving it global appeal. 

With a plethora of multiple standards having been adopted to date, Owen Lawrence, chief executive of the International Arbitration Centre, said the protocol would bring both welcome clarity and a degree of uniformity to all stakeholders, including, importantly, to clients.

Richard Bamforth, head of international arbitration at CMS, agreed saying the blueprint’s goal was to aid clients who were “looking for ever more efficient and cost effective dispute resolution processes”.  

The working group was chaired by Charlie Morgan, a senior associate at HSF. In a LinkedIn post, he wrote: “Respondents to the consultation stressed the importance that the protocol can play in equipping all arbitral participants with a best practice to help them assess the multitude of tools available and select the software most appropriate for their cases."

He added that technology providers had “reaffirmed their desire to continue developing their offerings to meet the evolving needs of arbitration users”.

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