The Paris GPC drew a huge crowd, with approximately 300 attendees, and was jam packed with discussions from 8am until 8pm. Taking place during Paris Arbitration Week, with numerous events held across the French capital, there was a strong emphasis on arbitration alongside other ADR mechanisms.
Expertly organised by Diana Paraguacuto-Maheo, Partner at Ngo Jung & Partners, who served as the President of the GPC Paris Organising Committee, it was the biggest GPC event in Europe to date. With speakers and delegates from all stakeholder groups, and from many different countries. Users were especially well represented, making up 24% of all attendees.
The conference had a slightly different structure to other GPC events, running panel discussions on the Core Questions in the morning and offering a choice of workshops in the afternoon ranging from digitalisation of dispute resolution or optimisation of dispute management, to the role of experts in dispute resolution processes.
Much to discuss
Following some initial technical blips, the event flourished into active debates and discussions, with panelists comparing aggregated data from previous events to key trends in France. A number of issues were widely discussed throughout the day, such as education and cultural aspects of dispute resolution, as well as the role of the courts in promoting mediation in France.
What was particularly evident throughout the day was the strong interest from the wider legal profession, especially from the French judiciary. There was a wide consensus for enacting more effective policies to further promote ADR, particularly in regards to arbitration – with panelists emphasising the pivotal role of lawyers in developing arbitration and its use.
Many panelists believed more encouragement from courts, providers and advisors is necessary to promote mediation as an alternative or in combination with other proceedings – as well as the creation of specialist chambers to facilitate these processes. One panelist stressed the need to combine adjudicative and consensual dispute resolution mechanisms on the national level, by stating: “The rule of law and consensus should not be the two extremes of the spectrum, but two sides of the coin.”
Aside from more general support of ADR mechanisms, the need for cultural change on both a national and a corporate and social level was also widely debated.
Another key topic was the use of mandatory mediation clauses – many speakers felt that these would defy the very purpose of mediation. Some felt that the forced nature of such clauses would be ineffective – due to the potential unwillingness of the parties to come to a compromise.
One panelist noted that simply going through the motions before moving on to an adjudicatory process was highly ineffective – stating that the parties must come to the process voluntarily and with the aim of finding a mutual solution. However, others believed it was a good way to introduce mediation into the dispute resolution process as a whole.
Education and innovation
An issue that came up a number of times was the role of education in widening the use of ADR, with several speakers noting that the promotion of dispute resolution mechanisms is simply not enough. Many panelists spoke of the need for more general training in negotiation and ADR processes in law schools and universities. The emphasis on creating a litigation culture at law school could be at the root of limiting progress in the field, with many law students being unaware of ADR altogether. One panelist noted that young lawyers must be taught how to effectively manage disputes rather than how to fight them.
Another panelist went further, suggesting that training should start in primary school with a focus on on non-violent communication. Fostering a culture of respect and effective conflict resolution at a young age, which continues at higher education levels could be a key driver in effecting cultural change across entire societies.
Technology and innovation was also high on the agenda, with afternoon workshops dedicated to discussing digitalisation and dispute resolution of the future. Speakers discussed the growth of online dispute resolution (ODR), as well as the global trend towards the use of consensual dispute resolution mechanisms – issues that will be more widely discussed in Paris again next month at the International Chamber of Commerce‘s ODR Conference on the 12 and 13 June.
The event showed a growing demand for more constructive debate and engagement within the wider legal community, bringing together all stakeholder groups to identify gaps and facilitate better communication between them. With such a wealth of information, the Paris GPC appeared only to scratch the surface of a much wider debate on culture, efficiency and general development of dispute resolution – something that will take far longer than a day to address. Hopefully for France and other countries, this is only the beginning.
Written by Natasha Mellersh.
Natasha Mellersh is the editor of the GPC Blog, she is currently also pursuing an LLM in Public International Law at Leiden University in the Netherlands. She was previously the online editor of CDR Magazine and a senior editor at LexisNexis.