GPC Voting Trends: Strong Preferences For Prevention And Non-adjudicative Processes

The publication of two recent Summaries of GPC voting patterns through the end of 2016 gives us the data to venture some preliminary observations about trends for the future of dispute resolution.

The voting so far on two critical Core Questions indicates somewhat surprising but consistent emerging preferences for cooperation and prevention processes, and for flexible, non-adjudicative rather than adjudicative processes.

Preventative vs adversarial

Session 4 at all GPC Conferences held so far addressed the general subject of “What Action Items Should Be Considered, and By Whom?” Core Question 4.5 (the last and arguably the most important Core Question of all) specifically asked “What innovations/trends are going to have the most significant influence on the future of dispute resolution?” The two top preferences were:

1. “Greater emphasis on collaborative instead of adversarial processes” (top choice of all categories except Parties); and

2. “Changes in corporate attitudes to conflict prevention” (top choice of Parties).

Session 3 at every conference addressed the subject of “How can dispute resolution be improved?”  Core Question 3.2 specifically asked: “To improve the future of commercial dispute resolution, which [of 6] processes should be prioritized?”  The three top preferences were:

1. “Pre-dispute or pre-escalation processes to prevent disputes” (unanimous top choice of all five categories of delegates);

2. “Combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes;” and 3.”Non-adjudicative dispute resolution methods.”

Expect the unexpected

Some of these voting results may seem surprising to most lawyers and even dispute resolution professionals – certainly ‘prevention’, ‘pre-escalation,’ and ‘pre-dispute’ are not mainstream dispute resolution topics – yet these results comport with such time-honored precepts as ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,’ ‘a stitch in time saves nine,’ and ‘blessed are the peacemakers’.

Preventive and pre-escalation processes frequently may be the most affordable, transparent, and inclusive methods for dealing with a broad variety of legal and business risks.  The GPC voting results are surprising only in that these tools have been relatively neglected for many years.  Their effectiveness and efficiency, however, are well established.

Promoting prevention practices

The challenge for the Global Pound Conference and for the dispute resolution world is that because of the limited conversation about prevention and de-escalation, few persons are trained in either their unique mentality or their mechanics.

This paucity of information may be reflected in the responses to a third question:  Session 4 Question 2 (4.2), asks “What is the most effective way to improve parties’ understanding of their options resolving commercial disputes?”.  The respondent groups strongly and uniformly called for “Education in business an