On October 29, 2014, 150 of us, representing many stakeholder groups from more than 20 countries, attended an important convention held in London’s beautiful Guildhall. Called ‘Shaping the Future of International Dispute Resolution’ the convention was inspired by the energetic and far-sighted Michael Leathes and was organised by the International Mediation Institute (IMI), which he pioneered and several other bodies.
We were engaged by the individual voting and interactive technology used to extract and provide real-time data drawn from our input on a number of critical issues. The data that this convention generated suggested that significant gaps may exist between what disputants expect and need and what is currently provided by advisors, provider bodies, practitioners, educators and policy makers.
The outcome was the establishment of an international working committee with the task of planning a most ambitious venture – a series of conferences to be held across the globe known as the Global Pound Conference (GPC).
- What do parties want, need and expect?
- How is the market currently addressing these?
- How can dispute resolution be improved? Overcoming obstacles and challenges.
- What action should be considered and by whom?
Participants were also to be encouraged to work in groups to discuss and develop deeper responses to a series of discussion questions.
March 2016 saw the first conference, held in Singapore, and this was followed by a further 28 conferences spanning the globe and returning to the Guildhall for the London conference in July 2017.
Having had the good fortune to attend the 2014 convention and the GPC sessions in Singapore, Sydney (May 2017) and the finale in London, I have been reflecting on the experiences and the outcomes I found most significant.
It seems timely to provide a final reflection on two questions – what has the GPC Series given us and what may come next? My list below is not exhaustive – I sense many of us are asking and answering the same two questions – it simply identifies what for me are the four most valuable take-aways:
The Global Conversation
The GPC Series got us talking. We are not all saying the same thing and we continue to have significant differences in how we see things and what we want. However the dispute resolution community, and its differing components (identified in the data collection as advisors, provider bodies, practitioners, educators and policy makers) have moved out of their separate compartments and into a community of stakeholders.
The Singapore Report
The technologically advanced and real-time data collection supported the careful and thorough data analysis (undertaken by Emma-May Litchfield and Danielle Hutchinson of Resolution Resources) and an introduction to new data and concepts. See The Singapore Report. For the first time we were able to see the differences in expectation and experience between sophisticated users (with the report coining the concept of ‘dispute savvy’ users) and novices and to move from our anecdotal assumptions of the dispute resolution landscape to a picture based on reliable data. By the time we got to London 2017, panellists and participants, drawn from the largest law firms, and users drawn from major international corporations, were comfortable adopting the language of the report and describing themselves as sophisticated users.
We also had clear information that users are not a single group but a number of different groups ranging from the least to the most experienced who have very different needs and wants.
The hierarchies identified and developed for this report are a powerful tool for future analysis and have significant ongoing value.
Lessons for Lawyers
We now have cumulative data from the core questions of the 29 events. There are numerous differences from the various jurisdictions so the picture is not homogeneous. However what struck me as the most significant consistency in the data comes in the answer to the question about the obstacles to overcoming deficiencies in current dispute resolution processes and practices. The overwhelmingly consistent answer was lawyers (including, surprisingly, even the responses from the group identifying as advisors.)
In London, the responses generated the following Word Cloud which provides a great visual of the message.
The repositioning of ADR
In Singapore, participants and panellists were talking about ADR. By the time we got to London, ‘alternative’ was gone and dispute resolution was the consistent descriptor. This symbolic joining of the stakeholders is a great achievement in itself.
The ‘what’s next?’ discussion
It is appropriate to talk about the London 2017 conference as the end of the beginning. The conversation did not end in London. The last session encouraged us to explore the ‘what’s next’ question and the first step seems to be re-framing the GPC as the ‘Global Pound Community’. We continued our conversation as we left the conference for celebratory cocktails. There were interesting suggestions about revisiting other ideas from the presentation by Professor Frank E.A.Sander at the original 1976 Pound Conference including developing his ‘triage’ concept into a deeper investigation of what ‘guided choice’ might look like.
For all of us in the dispute resolution space this is a great outcome. As a participant I am extremely grateful for the experience.
Congratulations to the far-sighted Michael Leathes for having the dream; the international organising committee for herding the cats internationally; the principal sponsor Herbert Smith Freehills for staying the course and making such a substantial commitment; Jeremy Lack, Global Coordinator, for his tenacity; Powervote for its innovative technology; Danielle Hutchinson and Emma-May Litchfield for bringing to the dispute resolution field research methodologies which have proven so useful in the fields of education and social sciences.
Written by Rosemary Howell.
Dr. Rosemary Howell has experience as a lawyer, strategic planner, teacher and CEO and has served a term as Secretary General of the Law Council of Australia. Her company, Strategic Action Pty Ltd, delivers mediation, coaching, facilitation, strategic planning and training services to a diverse range of business and government clients nationally and internationally. She is a member of The Dispute Group and sits on the Board of Resolution Institute. She is a Professorial Fellow at UNSW in Sydney and a Senior Fellow at Melbourne University, her doctoral work investigated ‘How Lawyers Negotiate’ from the perspective of clients and other stakeholders. Rosemary is a member of the Rules Committee for the ICC International Commercial Mediation Competition and also sits on the International Advisory Board of the CDRC Vienna Mediation Competition and is a member of its Mediation