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Law firms collaborate on industry first to accelerate tech adoption

DLA Piper is amongst six international law firms which have developed a Protocol to help deliver a globally consistent approach to the use of online case management platforms in international arbitration. It is anticipated that the Protocol will be of significant value to arbitration practitioners, parties to international arbitrations and to arbitrators as they adapt to the increasing use of technology in dispute resolution, a development which has been accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Protocol, which is a product of collaboration between DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Ashurst, CMS, Hogan Lovells and Latham & Watkins, has been in development since May 2019. It aims, amongst other things, to improve arbitral participants’ ability to meet their obligations relating to data handling and cybersecurity in a way which is both practical and cost effective. It is also intended to facilitate efficient and secure document sharing.

The initiative to produce the Protocol reflects a common need that had been identified by lawyers who are engaging directly with a changing legal landscape in which the use of technology and digitisation are assuming ever growing prominence. Particular features of that in international arbitration include the greater focus which Arbitral tribunals are having to give to cybersecurity and data protection, the recognition following the pandemic that much if not all of the arbitral process can be done virtually and the revisions which arbitral institutions are making to their procedures as, for example, they look at the ways in which they can operate through online data hosting platforms.

With this Protocol the six firms have worked together to produce guidance that will help to foster greater understanding of those and other issues, and assist the arbitration community to take a consistent approach. It is of global application, deliberately flexible in approach, and relevant to all forms of international arbitration. In addition to providing guidance to parties to an arbitration, their lawyers, tribunal members and arbitral institutions, it is hoped that it will also contribute to the way in which technology developers and providers tailor their legal tech offerings and develop new products.

Maria Scott, Senior Associate at DLA Piper, and member of the Protocol’s working group, commented: “DLA Piper is proud to be a part of this collaborative initiative, which aims to drive real and beneficial change in the way proceedings are managed around the world. This fits well with our firmwide radical change agenda which addresses the increasing role that technology and innovation is playing within the legal sector. It was, therefore, a natural step for us to work with other firms to develop this comprehensive and practical guidance to assist arbitral users in navigating the online case management options available to them when seeking to store, share and manage data securely.”

Charlie Morgan, Senior Associate and Digital Law Lead (UK) at Herbert Smith Freehills, who chairs the collaborative working group, added: “This protocol will help drive discussion and consensus within the arbitration community and with relevant technology providers about the need for and functionality of online platforms in arbitration. Given the fantastic input from various arbitral participants to date, this guidance will support more informed, streamlined and effective decision-making about the adoption and use of online platforms in international arbitration. It will also herald the development of more sophisticated platform options that continue to meet the evolving needs of arbitration users.”

James Carter, Partner at DLA Piper, also commented: “The guidance set out in the draft Protocol will help to drive the effective and consistent use of sophisticated new technologies in international arbitration in a way which not only delivers efficiency of process but contributes to the confidence which parties have in arbitration as a method of dispute resolution. If it is to remain such a popular method of dispute resolution, international arbitration must adapt and embrace new practices, particularly as regards the use of technology. This Protocol will materially contribute to that by providing valuable guidance to users of international arbitration around the world.”