It’s a Wrap: Global Pound Conference Concludes

By Lyn Lawrence

The Global Pound Conference Series: Shaping the Future of Dispute Resolution and Improving Access to Justice (see http://bit.ly/2v4dX4V) came to its conclusion after the last local event was held in London on July 6, 2017.

The purpose of the GPC Series was “[t]o create a conversation about what can be done to improve access to justice and the quality of justice around the world in commercial conflicts and to collect actionable data,” according to the GPC’s Singapore Report from its March 2016 kickoff event (available at http://bit.ly/2voNWfU).

The GPC Series was inspired by the original Pound Conference, held in Minnesota in 1976, and the positive effect it had on improving access to justice. At its conclusion almost 41 years after the original, the GPC Series held events in 29 cities worldwide, attended by more than 2,000 participants and supported by global sponsors (which included the CPR Institute, the publisher of this blog).

A detailed discussion on the inception of the GPC Series and the New York event can be found in the following articles published in CPR’s Alternatives, “Attempting to Define the Practice, Pound Conference Organizers Launch a Worldwide Series on ADR Common Ground,” 33 Alternatives 11 (December 2015) (available at http://bit.ly/2e1WaXW) and “A Look Back On, And Forward To, the Global Pound Conference,” 35 Alternatives 1 (January 2017) (available at http://bit.ly/2t2r4Sr).

THE DATA

The data collected throughout the GPC Series belongs to the International Mediation Institute, a nonprofit mediator accreditation organization based in the Hague, Netherlands, that founded the GPC series. After each local event, an Academic Committee processed the results, which are available at http://bit.ly/2tWPo9z.

The Academic Committee also created accumulative results as the events had been concluded. At the time of posting, the most recent results consisted of data collected at the inaugural Singapore conference up until the June 29 Johannesburg conference (available at http://bit.ly/2tWYQKp), excluding only the final event in London on July 6.

Each local event had an identical set-up with the same GPC Series core questions (available at http://bit.ly/2tVFabk), divided among four sessions, and headed by a panel of professionals in dispute resolution.

The data was gathered from participants grouped into stakeholder categories. They were asked to answer the core 20 multiple-choice questions using a GPC Series Event Application that was downloaded by participants on their own electronic devices.

Before the conclusion of each session, the stakeholders were divided into groups to answer four open text questions. Many of these questions were formulated at the 2014 London pilot event (available at http://bit.ly/2ulNsdx). The results were tallied on the spot, and then displayed on a screen and discussed by the panel and conference attendees.

WHAT WAS LEARNED?

Academic Committee Chairman Prof. Barney Jordaan was cautious in adding in the Singapore Report that, “While all care was taken to ensure the integrity of the data gathering process and rigour in the formulation of the survey questions and the analysis in this Report, the Series is not intended to be primarily an academic project nor does the data gathering process represent a pure data collection environment. Any use of the GPC data must be undertaken with these limitations in mind.”

Considering these qualifications, such as the varied number of participants in each stakeholder group, there are a few noticeable highlights from the accumulated results–particularly, where there was a split or unanimous agreement among the stakeholder groups.

All four sessions had a different focus area ranging from parties’ needs and expectations to how the current commercial dispute resolution market addressed these needs and expectations. Keeping with the theme of the event, there were also several questions on steps that can be taken to improve the current dispute resolution market for commercial disputes.

The majority of the stakeholder groups voted that financial interests were the primary consideration for parties and providers alike. This is consistent with the local events that were held in the United States, particularly the New York event. Stakeholder groups were also in agreement that “external lawyers” would be the most resistant to change in commercial dispute resolution.

There was a three-way tie when it came time to deciding where “policy makers, governments and administrators” should focus their attention when improving access to justice. Receiving 46% of the votes each were the “use of protocols promoting non-adjudicative processes,” “pre-dispute or early stage case evaluation or assessment systems using third party advisors who will not be involved in subsequent proceedings” and “making non-adjudicative processes (mediation or conciliation) compulsory and/or a process parties can ‘opt-out’ of before adjudicative process can be initiated.”

With only two percentage points separating the results on the role lawyers should play in commercial disputes, advisers and adjudicative providers voted that lawyers should speak and/or advocate on a party’s behalf, while parties, non-adjudicators and “influencers” voted that lawyers should work “collaboratively” with the parties and “may request actions” on their behalf.

Stakeholder groups were mostly in agreement when it came to answering the remaining core questions; see the aggregated results at the link above.

WHAT IS NEXT?

The data from the conferences was consistent through the local events, but it is unclear how the final report will develop these findings.

Those who were unable to attend any of the local events have the opportunity to complete the core questions online until July 31. (Available at http://bit.ly/2voPRkz).

The GPC Series website, at http://globalpoundconference.org, encourages individuals to complete the core questions online as it will form part of the GPC Series data.

Once the final report is released, it will be interesting to see the final results and the impact it will have on improving dispute resolution. In addition, this GPC Series was limited to commercial disputes—perhaps the creators will expand into other areas in future projects.

One of the event organizers indicated recently the potential importance and use of the data in growing ADR. “The core questions ask these stakeholders to provide their input on the same topics,” noted former International Mediation Institute chairman and current board member Michael McIlwrath, adding that the “answers to these questions arrive at a time in which civil justice around the world is facing a moment of transformation. And international arbitration is now experiencing changes that, in our view, would have been considered heretical or at least highly unorthodox just a decade ago.” See Michael McIlwrath and Phil Ray, “The Global Pound Conference Reaches Its Conclusion: User Focus Is Now Mainstream,” Kluwer Arbitration Blog (July 5, 2017)(available at http://bit.ly/2sGmTzX).

The author is a CPR Institute Summer 2017 Intern.

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