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Michael Taylor, Associate at Hogan Lovells & Rachel Barnes, Head of Collaborations at Ashurst

In 2019 six law firms came together to collaborate on a challenge increasingly put forward by the arbitration bodies.  That of identifying and using a platform to enhance security around international arbitrations.  This was not a problem that a single firm could solve on their own, it was a market wide challenge and required a team approach.  A multi-disciplinary team.

Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, Hogan Lovells, CMS, DLA Piper and Latham & Watkins came together to form the Working Group on LegalTech Adoption in International Arbitration. On 1 July, the Working Group launched a public consultation for its Protocol for Online Case Management which looks to allow for a consistent approach to the adoption and use of online case management tools in arbitration.

We spoke to two members of the group, Michael Taylor from Hogan Lovells and Rachel Barnes from Ashurst, about their experience of collaborating together as part of the Working Group on this initiative.

How did you get involved?

Michael: Hebert Smith Freehills approached Hogan Lovells in Spring 2019 about being involved in the Working Group and collaborating on the Protocol. When the firm told me about the idea of the Working Group and its goals, I thought it had great potential to have a significant impact on the arbitration landscape and was keen to be involved.

Rachel: I was leading Innovation at HSF when the arbitration team came to me with the challenge.  At first, we investigated the available platforms to see whether there was something which met our needs, but quickly found out that this wasn’t going to be straightforward.  Nor was it something that we could develop ourselves, as it needed to be a neutral platform.  We could see that the ideal route was to bring together a working group to address this challenge together.  I reached out to my innovation network, who put me in touch with the relevant people in their firms, and the working group was born!  HSF, Hogan Lovells, Ashurst, DLA Piper, CMS and Latham & Watkins.

How did you find working as part of the Working Group?

Michael: I have really enjoyed working with the rest of the Group and collaborating with members of other firms on a shared goal. It has been a great experience and shows what can be achieved when firms collaborate together on projects. The Protocol is only the start for the Group so I am excited to work with everyone going forward on new projects!

Rachel: What I found really interesting about the group, is that we came together to discuss identifying (or building) a platform, but very quickly we agreed that we needed to take a step back and map the various arbitration processes and then highlight the particular areas of concern around security in the process.  DLA Piper brought in their process mapping experts, who skillfully extracted the necessary information.  Using the mapping and areas of concern to review the available platforms enabled a much more fruitful discussion with the vendors.  Only then did we come to realise that the other requirement gap was an online arbitration protocol, which brought together all the varying advice into one place.

Do you think collaboration of this sort is the way forward and, if so, why is it important?

Michael: Absolutely. The Working Group is an example of long term collaboration with a goal to change and improve the way we practice arbitration for the benefit of all parties involved – parties, counsel, arbitrators, and institutions. As we have shown, collaboration of this sort between firms doesn’t have to be project specific, it can be longer term and have broader goals. In fact, that is how we will best achieve long-term change. This kind of long-term collaboration is a key to improving arbitration in the future – the more the arbitral community works together to work on potential innovations in the industry, the faster the pace of change and development will be.

Rachel: I have been championing collaboration, particularly between coopetition for a while now.  I think it’s absolutely crucial to the development of a broader legal ecosystem in which we can come together to solve non-proprietary challenges.  Why reinvent the wheel when we could come together and solve problems together.  To me, this working group, and the enthusiasm and dedication that they have shown to developing something for the greater good of the legal sector, has been truly inspirational. I’m such a strong believer in the benefits of collaboration, that when Ashurst , through the firm’s NewLaw offering Ashurst Advance, created a new role, entitled Head of Collaboration, – a first in the industry – I jumped at the chance!

So, you suggested this is a long-term collaboration, what does the future hold?

Michael: There are few ideas in the pipeline but we are certainly all keen to ensure we collaborate and work together further in the future. There are still plenty of areas in arbitration where consistent and efficient use of technology can make a difference and I am looking forward to working with the rest of the Group to work on further innovations in this sphere.

Rachel: The fantastic thing about this group and the output of this group is that it has demonstrated how successful these collaborations can be.  The protocol is phase one.  Some of us are also trialing a platform which came closest to our needs.  Then who knows… the group could leverage the momentum and the positive interaction we have had with the arbitration bodies globally, to redesign the arbitration process itself…?

Tell us about the Protocol

Michael: The Protocol (which readers can find here) is an initiative of the Working Group which provides guidance to parties, counsel and arbitrators on setting up and using online case management platforms through which to conduct some, or all, elements of their disputes. Users of arbitration are increasingly globalised and located in different jurisdictions. We are constantly using technology to keep in touch with our clients as well as communicate with opposing counsel and tribunal who may be located across the globe. We are all therefore increasingly reliant upon digital technologies as a means of efficient communication. Despite this, a consistent approach to the adoption and use of online case management tools in arbitration remains lacking, and a number of the tools that are being adopted internationally sometimes fail to meet the needs of the multiple stakeholders in the arbitral process. The Protocol aims to fill this void.

You mentioned the Protocol has been developed by a Working Group – tell us a bit more about it?

Michael: The Group is made up of members from six large international firms who are all committed to driving forward the adoption of technology in arbitration. We know that there are significant time and cost efficiencies that can be made throughout the arbitral process through technology and believe that cross-firm collaboration is the best way for us to effect the change that will assist firms and client and increase the appeal of arbitration globally.

 

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Rachel Barnes

Rachel is Head of Collaborations, Ashurst Advance. Previously Rachel was Innovation Lead, UK, US & EMEA at Herbert Smith Freehills. Rachel has spent time exploring the broader innovation and start-up space, spending time consulting for Janders Dean, Innovation Beehive, a variety of start-ups and also managing an HR Tech focused start-up incubator. Prior to that, she had a varied and fruitful 11 years at BNP Paribas running consecutively, the Innovation, Transformation, Client Relationship Management teams in Global Markets.

 

Michael-TaylorMichael Taylor

As part of the Hogan Lovells International Arbitration team, Michael has worked in both the London and Paris offices. He assists clients with complex, high-value disputes across multiple jurisdictions. He has experience of disputes across a wide range of industry sectors such as energy, consumer and life sciences and including arbitrations under the rules of the ICC, LCIA, ICSID, LMAA and SCC. He speaks French, Spanish and Portuguese and is a dual citizen of the UK and Brazil.