Beyond the Pandemic: A U.K. Research Center Issues Disputes Guidelines

By Jacqueline Perrotta

In response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the British Institute of International & Comparative Law (“BIILC”) developed the “Breathing Space” series to discuss the impact of the pandemic on the legal and business world, and reflect on preserving commercial relationships further promoting economic sustainability.

The BIILC is a center for research projects, seminars, and publications to advance and develop the understanding of international and comparative law in the U.K. and globally. As part of the Breathing Space series, the first and second “concept notes” focused on the legal and business communities’ reliance on private law and how disputes arise during the pandemic, particularly the burden on the courts, and how dispute resolution can be used to foster rather than impede economic recovery. 

Last September’s third concept note in the series outlined the best practices for dispute resolution, continuing the discussion of how business uncertainty and the effects of the pandemic inhibit economic growth.

Using the guidelines as a different perspective from which to view legal and business disputes in light of the pandemic, BIILC is encouraging efficient dispute resolution, keeping existing relationships intact and strengthening new commercial partnerships.

The guidelines outline three main concepts: (A) interactions between contractual parties; (B) dispute resolution considerations, and (C) ADR and legal proceedings, focused on efficient proceedings and resolution using ADR techniques or other available procedures.

Subpart A, interactions between contractual parties, highlights the conduct of contractual parties and the goal of supporting the relationships by discussing and balancing each parties’ perspective. Subpart B, dispute resolution considerations, focuses on the behaviors geared toward resolving disputes and preventing further aggravation by appointing appropriate parties and addressing each sides’ limitations. Finally, Subpart C tackles dispute resolution through official procedures and efficient resolution, using ADR techniques such as mediation or arbitration.

Meant to supplement a business’s existing practices rather the supplant them altogether, the guidelines are a reminder that maintaining meaningful commercial relationships is essential to the success of the overall economy.  

Helen Dodds, co-drafter of the BIILC guidelines, says the aim is to provide a “menu to help make sensible choices,” and should be referred to generally when tackling disputes and coming to resolutions between parties.

By tailoring the guidelines and revising them slightly to make them more applicable globally, BIILC has provided a simple but effective reference tool. While the focus is on commercial contracts, the guidelines can also apply more broadly to commercial torts matters.

Many U.K. firms and organizations have commented on these guidelines and their potential across legal and business communities, Dodds says, noting the importance behind implementing these best practices and making the guidelines as universal as possible.

The guidelines can be applicable in any culture, jurisdiction, or legal system, says Dodds, who is a member of the Commercial Dispute Resolution Taskforce of LawtechUK, which works on digital initiatives to benefit the U.K. legal services sector. She also is former Global Head of Legal, Dispute Resolution, at Standard Chartered Bank.

The catalyst for the guidelines was the pandemic, but looking forward, the goal is to have the guidelines used broadly and globally, collating the ideas and practices in a succinct and cohesive document.  Dodds says that the guidelines assist in promoting good choices so that business and legal communities can contribute to economic recovery by promoting less confrontational dispute resolution, ultimately preserving commercial relationships and decreasing the costs of disputes.

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The author, a J.D. student who will enter her second year this fall at Brooklyn Law School, is a 2021 CPR Summer Intern.

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