Building a Boot Camp for New York’s New Presumptive ADR

By Yixian Sun

The New York State Unified Court System introduced presumptive alternative dispute resolution, with a focus on court-sponsored mediation, last year. 

Under this statewide initiative, parties in a wide range of civil cases–from personal injury to matrimonial cases, to estate matters and commercial disputes, and more–will by default be referred to mediation as the first step in the case proceeding in court.

In response to the Covid-19 outbreak, New York State Chief Administrative Judge Lawrence K. Marks boosted last year’s efforts by recently issuing Administrative Order 87-20, authorizing judges to “refer matters for virtual alternative dispute resolution, including to neutrals to court-established panels, community dispute resolution centers, and ADR-dedicated court staff.” (See the order at https://www.nycourts.gov/whatsnew/pdf/AO-87-20.pdf.)

On June 10, the leadership of this court initiative conducted a webinar to update the legal community with the past achievements, recent developments, and future implementation plans of the presumptive ADR systems. The webinar was sponsored and hosted by the ADR program at New York Law School.

The panel included Danielle Shalov, an adjunct professor of the New York Law School and the director of NYLS’s Mediation Clinic; Lisa Courtney, the Statewide ADR Coordinator for the New York State Unified Court System; Joan Levenson, the principal law clerk to New York County Administrative Judge Deborah A. Kaplan, New York County, Civil Branch, and counsel to the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice; Jean Norton, the ADR Coordinator for the Supreme Court of New York County; and Daniel Weitz, the Director of the Division of Professional and Court Services for the New York State Unified Court System. (For a comprehensive list of staff contacts in the ADR Office, see http://ww2.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/contactus.shtml)

This video event attracted a diverse audience. Many participants noted in response to an informal survey at the program’s outset that they were interested in mediation and joining in the court rosters, but had not mediated before. The webinar’s primary focus, therefore, was largely on helping the participants build their capability and capacity on presumptive ADR.

“ADR,” traditionally known as alternative dispute resolution, now stands for “appropriate dispute resolution” as well. The message is clear. As Courtney pointed out, different resolution methods are suitable for different cases. After all, in most contexts, parties have been going through a hybrid process, where litigation and negotiation happen in turn until a resolution is reached.

This reality serves as the background against which courts in New York State are trying to switch the default to the less adversarial dispute resolution methods from litigation.

Presumptive ADR is not only about enhancing effectiveness and efficiency, noted Courtney, but also about promoting a greater sense of procedural justice. The initiative calls for a redefinition of a successful dispute resolution–a process where parties are given a chance to express their feelings and have their personal experience understood by the neutrals.

Dan Weitz explained that the basic infrastructure of presumptive ADR was developed through a process of collaborative program design, where various stakeholder groups, including local judges, court administrators, and bar members gathered to devise a set of protocols that would govern the program at the local level.

Two issues emerged the most controversial.  One is the nature of referral–should the ADR method be selected by parties’ voluntary choice or under judges’ discretion? The second is how to increase ADR program use at grassroots levels.

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Lisa Courtney led the participants through the history of the still-new court orientation of presumptive ADR. In Spring 2018, Chief Judge Janet DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Marks announced the formation of a Statewide ADR Advisory Committee chaired by John Kiernan, who at the time was the New York City Bar Association president, a partner in New York’s Debevoise & Plimpton–and also immediate past chairman of the board of the CPR Institute, which publishes this blog.

In early 2019, the ADR Advisory Committee issued its first interim report. The Committee recommended that the New York State court system significantly expand its statewide infrastructure for developing court-sponsored ADR; promulgate statewide uniform rules; increase connections with Community Dispute Resolution Centers; encourage and educate about court-sponsored mediation; and develop mechanisms to evaluate and monitor individual programs. (See at https://ww2.nycourts.gov/doc/18791.)

New York Chief Judge DiFiore embraced the interim report, and the initiative, wholeheartedly. In February 2019, DiFiore immediately announced the Presumptive ADR Program as a part of her Excellence Initiative. Soon after that, DiFiore and Chief Administrative Judge Marks charged the Deputy Chief Administrative Judges, Judge George Silver for New York City and Judge Vito Caruso for outside New York City, to implement the Presumptive ADR program. Throughout summer 2019, district administrative judges around the state worked with their court staff to develop and refine plans to realize this vision.

Since then, the NYLS seminar panelists reported, a massive training was conducted involving more than 550 attendees, including more than 300 court staff. The trainings varied. Some were 90 minutes, some were day-long settlement skills workshops; some required 24-hours over multiple days, and still others were comprehensive 40-hour, multi-day sessions.

The trainings were designed as an integral part of the stakeholder engagement.  For court staff, the efforts were designed for infrastructure building, to construct ADR confidence, familiarity and trust in public employees who would send the parties to mediation and other ADR services. The training also served to address the concerns of litigators and mediators who might have felt that they would no longer perform familiar tasks in a familiar forum.

Meanwhile, protocols and templates were drafted, an ADR SharePoint Intranet site was created for judicial districts to learn from each other’s experiences, webinars were hosted, and an ADR case management database was built to track efforts at local courts. The official ADR page of NYS Unified Court System can be at http://ww2.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/index.shtml; it’s an information hub for those who are interested in learning about and using New York state presumptive ADR services.

In the July/August 2019 Edition of Alternatives, the CPR Institute described the early details of the presumptive ADR program, citing Kiernan’s comments, that court-sponsored mediation “is a great vehicle proven to deactivate [litigants’] adversary synapses and activate their problem-solving synapses before they send a lot of time and resources fighting the dispute.” See “‘Presumptive Mediation’: New York Moves to Improve Its Court ADR Game,” 37 Alternatives 107 (July/August 2019) (available at https://bit.ly/2Cb2h8g).

Earlier this year, this CPR Speaks Blog reported the latest progress in the implementation of this initiative. (See at https://blog.cpradr.org/2020/01/27/progress-report-new-york-courts-presumptive-adr-settles-in/)

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Understandably, the NYLS panelists acknowledged, resistance continues to exist, and there are ways to deal with it. One solution discussed by the panel is to start in places with pre-existing infrastructure. For courts that are already equipped with rules and rosters, the task is to enhance use and to grow the presumptive ADR program to include more case types. Judicial districts were also invited to conduct a self-examination to find out in which areas the presumptive ADR efforts would be most useful in deploying to ease the caseload. The essence of reform, after all, is to address the real concerns of stakeholders, the panel pointed out.

This statewide effort to promote usage of ADR methods has been receiving massive support from the county level—even before May 2019 when the official announcement to implement presumptive ADR program was made.

Panelist Joan Levenson introduced the “Presumptive Early Mediation Program for Non-Commercial Division Commercial Cases” as a successful and illuminating example of the county court’s undertaking. This program was launched in May 2017 and called for automatic referral for certain types of commercial cases to mandatory mediation. It has been expanded ever since and graduated from its pilot status.

Cases involved usually have an amount of controversy under $500,000—contract cases below New York County commercial division jurisdictional limits (statewide limits available here) —which make up the majority of the New York County civil branch’s caseload.

Under this program, after filing a request for judicial intervention and before meeting the judge, counsel and parties will attend a preliminary conference held by New York County Supreme Court Senior Settlement Coordinator Kevin Egan. In this conference, parties discuss the discovery needed to conduct a fruitful mediation.

Then, a mediator from the commercial division roster will be assigned, and the mediation scheduled, usually within 30 days after the end of the exchange of information. Consequently, around 60% of the cases will be settled.

Not every pilot program turned out to be impressive. In 2014 to 2016, the New York Supreme Court—the state’s trial court—had launched a “One-in-Five Pilot Project.” As the name suggested, every One-in-Five cases was sent automatically to mediation.

Joan Levenson raised two reasons to explain why this project did not work. First, many referrals were not appropriate for mediation, and thus not enough cases were generated. Second, attorneys were allowed 120 days from the filing to choose a mediator or have one assigned. In many cases, the counsel simply did not respond.

But important lessons were learned, Levenson reported. First, arbitrary selection of cases for mediation does not always work. Second, to move things forward, the court needs to set a shorter period for the mediation to take place.

Another challenge faced by the courts seem to be the overzealous representation. Fortunately, panelist Jean Norton noted, many attorneys, after attending mediation with clients for several times and seeing the positive consequences, have become much more supportive of ADR. Even those who do not support ADR wholeheartedly will accept it for the clients’ interests. The key, she said, is to push the attorneys to transform the traditional mindset, and to rethink about how they can support their clients in a most constructive way.

Joan Levenson added that the 40-hour mediation training changed many litigators’ views. In fact, said Norton, the New York County Supreme Court’s matrimonial mediation rosters include some well-known matrimonial attorneys who used to object completely to the idea of mediation, but ended up joining the roster after developing a better understanding of mediation via training.

Indeed, the New York State Court System requires those who want to become mediators take a series of trainings before getting on board. As moderator Danielle Shalov described, the requirement is designed as a mix of a unified boot camp plus personalized mediation-related experience.

Under Part 146 of the Rules of the Chief Administrative Judge, “Mediators who wish to qualify for appointment to a court roster must have successfully completed at least 40 hours of approved training,” including “At least 24 hours of training in basic mediation skills and techniques,” and “At least 16 hours of additional training in the specific mediation techniques pertaining to the subject area of the types of cases referred to [the mediators].” (Part 146 details can be found at http://ww2.nycourts.gov/ip/adr/Part146.shtml.)

Besides the training, Part 146 also calls for “recent experience mediating actual cases in the subject area of the types of cases referred to [the mediators].” Lisa Courtney explained that this requirement is flexible. Those who are interested can join formal apprenticeship, seek for informal mentorship, or participate in co-mediation.

It is up to the discretion of the local administrative judge to decide what kind of experience fulfills the requirement, what additional qualification is needed, and who is finally placed on a mediation roster.

Finally, mediators should attend “at least six hours of additional approved training relevant to their respective practice areas every two years.” Specific design of such training falls within the discretion of local ADR coordinators, since each court has its unique demands.

Attorney-advocates are welcomed to get involved and increase their familiarity with mediation as well. Last year, Levenson said, a CLE program called “ADR options in New York County” attracted a great litigator attendance.

Trainings are also available for specific practice areas. For instance, as Norton mentioned, the New York County Supreme Court has offered domestic violence training for mediators in matrimonial cases.

* * *

Once they have gathered enough technology support, courts are prepared to resume trainings interrupted by the coronavirus. Norton named a list of opportunities in the New York County Supreme Court: mediator orientation, trainings to transport previous best practices for future court mediations, and short sessions designed to ease the burden of 40-hour training and to highlight necessary skillsets.

What’s more, to address a diverse composition of case types and parties, courts at state and county levels are working together to build a sufficiently diverse roster.

According to Dan Weitz, the court system is connecting with as many diverse bar associations as possible in recruitment of mediators, and has included cultural competency is included as a part of the mediator training.

A diversity statement has been added to the mediator application process, added Lisa Courtney, through which applicants can demonstrate how can they contribute to a more diverse roster with their personal identities, cultural backgrounds, life experience and language skills.

And court staff are a wonderful resource, Courtney said.  She noted that many court attorneys have diverse backgrounds and close connections with the local community. They can serve as trusted neutrals as well.

At the county level, the recently-launched Presumptive Matrimonial Mediation Program serves as an illustration. To deal with the highly personal issues, the New York County Supreme Court devised an extensive recruiting processes to attract mediators and attorneys with diverse backgrounds, foreign language skills, and family law expertise.

Covid-19 disrupted the original implementation plan. But Norton explained that since traffic and location is no longer a problem for Zoom mediation, neutrals with diverse backgrounds that meet the parties’ needs but live far away have become more accessible.

Despite the pandemic, the presumptive ADR initiative has continued. Jean Norton admitted that there is a learning curve for virtual mediation. Whereas it is hard for mediators to conduct their first mediation on Zoom, the experience improves with more practice.

In the matrimonial context, the concerns are different. Parents don’t want their children overhearing their divorce mediation, and mediators have to plan for a variety of factors and emergencies. It is also harder to physically separate hostile parties, so mediators have to think creatively to prevent conflicts from escalating in a single space. At the same time, virtual mediation means no time wasted on transportation and no alternative babysitting arrangement needed.

* * *

A final point: New York does not have statutes to order people to pay their mediators, but there are ways to help the mediator’s hard work get rewarded, explained Statewide ADR Coordinator Lisa Courtney. Under the May 1 Administrative Order 87/20 noted above, courts can order parties to participate in a short, initial mediation session. When parties see the value in such processes, they may continue under an agreement to pay.

As many elements of the presumptive ADR initiative, this is how fundamental changes have been brought: invite stakeholders to participate, let them see the real benefits, and build a trusted relationship.

* * *

Editor’s Note: A video of this event can be found at https://bit.ly/3ehMenh. For details of a court-approved Part 146 Initial Mediation Training, hosted by the New York Law School, https://bit.ly/2ChuAlu. 

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The author, a second-year Harvard Law Student, is a CPR 2020 Summer Intern.

Acting Naturally in a Virtual Office

By Heather Cameron

On Thursday, May 28, 2020, the CPR Institute hosted the second in its series of presentations on conflict in closed spaces entitled “Positive Culture in the Virtual Workspace.” The webinar was led by James Traeger, Director, and Carolyn Norgate, Principal Consultant, of Mayvin, a U.K.-based management consulting firm focusing on organizational development and design.

Mayvin has been operating as a “virtual” organization since long before the COVID-19 outbreak forced so many businesses to move online, the principals explained in the CPR-sponsored webinar. James and Carolyn, however, said they prefer to think of it as “remote,” rather than “virtual” working because the interpersonal connections built and maintained are still very much real.

Started in 2010 on the heels of the financial crisis, Mayvin works with organizations to help foster development and by increasing leadership’s understanding of the interests, motives, concerns, and inspiration driving their people.

The increased emphasis on flexible and virtual working James said he noticed when he co-founded the firm has only become more critical now as so many organizations have had to quickly adjust to a completely remote way of doing business.

This new environment, he said, requires a laser-like focus on business needs and the relationships required to deliver results.

Carolyn kicked off the substance of the webinar by leading participants in a process called “structured reflection.” She directed participants to reflect on what brought them to the session, to write down their thoughts, and even to reflect on different questions that may occur to them in the moment.

After a quiet minute or so, she instructed everyone to put their notes aside and look out the nearest window, focusing on what was drawing their attention, bringing their thoughts back to what they were seeing any time they started to wander.

Next, everyone was to draw a line under their notes and write down whatever they were now thinking about. Finally, participants were directed to look out the window one more time for a “grateful minute,” noting what they appreciated about the scene before them.

Carolyn explained that this exercise in shifting focus is a strategy Mayvin uses with clients to help them “slow down to go faster.” The idea is that by taking quality time to reflect, the individual may be able to problem-solve using different, more artful ways of thinking.

Conscious reflection, she said, can also play a vital role in developing a healthy, productive culture in a purely virtual organization by making space for innovation and interpersonal connection.

At its founding, the presenters explained, Mayvin was set up as an experiment aimed at shifting the mindset that an office is needed to have a real organization–an idea proving more relevant now than ever. As many are now realizing while isolating, social-distancing, and working remotely, the lack of a physical office can lead to unanticipated practical concerns: For example, how do you use technology to effectively stand in for water cooler chat, five-minute conversations over a coffee break, impromptu one-on-one check-ins, and all the other interpersonal interactions that create the “relational glue” required for an effective organization?

One practical solution Carolyn and James offered was the use of what they call a “noticing channel” on Slack or Microsoft Teams–a line of communication between employees completely separate from work-related discussions and emails that functions like a virtual form of casual conversation around the water cooler.

Mayvin also uses a random channel where employees have posted photos of at-home projects, family members, and even photos of themselves as teenagers. The idea is to maintain the type of non-work-related interpersonal connections that happen organically in an office even while everyone is working remotely.

The key take-aways, they said, for successfully navigating the shift to online and remote work include treating it as an experiment and remembering it’s all about mindset. Hold the tech lightly, they said: Remain nimble when determining what works and what doesn’t, always aiming to stay focused on what is working.

Where possible, they advised, use tools people are already comfortable with, helping them apply those familiar tools to new scenarios. Give people time and support to work through the change curve, making space for employees to air their fears and concerns and work through their feelings.

James likened it to choreography or setting a stage in theater. He encouraged the use of gallery view in video conferences so everyone occupies the same amount of space.

In smaller meetings, he suggested asking that everyone unmute themselves to allow for more natural interactions. Use the type of structured reflection Carolyn led the group through to shift mindset between meetings.

Create the glue that allows virtual workspaces to work well, they said, remembering that there’s more room for misunderstandings in virtual spaces. Preventing misunderstandings helps prevent disputes and enable purpose.

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The author, a second-year law student at Fordham University’s School of Law in New York, is a Summer 2020 CPR Institute intern.

A Letter from CPR President & CEO, Allen Waxman

It has been a month since my last update to you, and certainly much has happened during this strange and challenging time. I hope that you are finding ways to tend, not only to the health of your businesses and professional lives, but also to yourselves personally. While honoring our responsibilities to our companies and clients/customers, I believe it is of paramount importance during this time also to be gentle with ourselves and each other. If it feels difficult, it is because it is difficult! We are trying to take the same counsel at CPR.  Our staff has all been working remotely, and finding ways to connect with each other over diverse platforms.  I now know the look of the kitchens, living rooms or guest rooms of each of my colleagues.  That takes us to a whole new level!

At the same time, I am so very proud of our staff in being true to our mission – managing conflict to enable purpose.  We have continued to offer insightful programming on how to prevent and resolve disputes most effectively during this time while also providing our dispute resolution services.  Your engagement and support (financial and otherwise) for us is more important than ever to enable us to pursue our mission.  Thank you.

I thought I would take this opportunity to review with you some of our activities over the last month.

CPR DISPUTE RESOLUTION REMAINS OPEN FOR BUSINESS

CPR Dispute Resolution continues to operate seamlessly, offering our full suite of dispute prevention and resolution services. Given the backlog in the courts, the time for ADR is now.  DRS’ services, rules and protocols, and Panel of Distinguished Neutrals can help resolve matters efficiently and effectively.

Arbitration – For parties in disputes during COVID-19, you may want to consider converting a pending court case to a CPR Administered Arbitration, or entering (with the other party) into an arbitration clause more appropriate under the circumstances. In both cases, you will need to enter into an arbitration submission agreement with your counterparty. Model language for doing so can be found HERE.

Mediation –CPR’s Mediation Services are also available to assist businesses in these difficult times. You can find more information on these services HERE. In addition, CPR has just announced the upcoming launch of a new COVID-19 Flat Fee Mediation Program, in collaboration with Legal Innovators and FTI Consulting, to resolve disputes below $5 million. That program is being kicked off with a free May 13 webinar.

Dispute Prevention – We have launched a new Dispute Prevention Panel, comprised of neutrals who have the experience to facilitate resolution of a dispute before it becomes a legal conflict.  You can find more information HERE.

Because our offices remain closed, new filers should continue to submit electronically at cprneutrals@cpradr.org, and all payments should be made via credit card or wire transfer (please specify in your cover email how you would like to pay); paper filings cannot be accepted. To send files via Voltage encrypted email, please email herickson@cpradr.org to be authorized.

NEW PROGRAMMING

We recently hosted one of many programs that are part of our COVID-19-related focus, titled “Stability in the Pandemic: Personal, Professional and Global Targets.” This webinar featured renowned academics Lela Love, Professor of Law and Director of the Kukin Program for Conflict Resolution at Cardozo Law School, and Sukhsimranjit Singh, Assistant Professor of Law and Practice and Managing Director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University Caruso School of Law. The speakers discussed holistic methods to approach conflict while social distancing, touching on key mediation strategies and self-care techniques to create a positive and conflict-free living and work space. A recording will be available soon and can be found in our “ADR in the Time of COVID-19” section, along with numerous other resources, HERE, and I encourage you to explore and check back often for updates.

SOCIAL DISTANCING – BUT STILL SURGING AHEAD ON ALL FRONTS

CPR continues to forge ahead and grow in numerous other ways I am delighted to share with you.

New Partnerships – CPR recently announced a strategic partnership with the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), through which IADC named CPR as a recommended ADR services provider. The IADC will be promoting CPR membership, DRS services, and arbitration and mediation rules to its 2,500 members, which in turn will gain access to valuable CPR benefits, resources and discounts, including CPR membership and other joint programming opportunities. And this collaboration is bearing almost immediate fruit, in the form of our upcoming joint webinar, “Resolving Legal Disputes in the Era of COVID-19.”

Support for Remote Video Arbitrations – Ever responsive to the changing legal landscape, CPR quickly convened a task force that created an Annotated Model Procedural Order for Remote Video Arbitration Proceedings. The model order puts into one, user-friendly document the best practices that the arbitration community needs to navigate remote video hearings. This new model procedure is a perfect example of what CPR can do and does regularly – harnessing the rich insights and vast experience of its membership to create timely and cutting-edge resources that both benefit users and enhance the capacity for ADR, in general.

The Drive for Diversity Continues – Since my last update, CPR also took a further step toward promoting diversity in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) by launching a new clause to be used by parties who wish to pre-commit to a diverse panel of neutrals in a future dispute to be resolved by arbitration. Read the full press release HERE.

New Data Security Resources – CPR continues to take steps to help parties and neutrals address the challenges of maintaining data and cybersecurity in ADR matters. In our new website section, you will find information relating to communicating with CPR on case-related matters, cybersecurity in arbitration and other ADR proceedings, data protection and the CPR online dispute resolution platform, as well as other technology tools and member discounts for e-filing services.

Networking for Neutrals – CPR has continued its role of providing service to the ADR community by convening three Neutrals Forums in different time zones to provide a space for the exchange of questions, learning and best practices for remote proceedings during the time of COVID-19. Participants were able to discuss issues that have arisen or are anticipated to arise in such proceedings such as the potential for witness coaching and the handling of exhibits during such procedures. The CPR Annotated Model Procedural Order was circulated to attendees and several of its provisions highlighted. Neutrals, please watch your email inbox for future invitations.

A RICH SCHEDULE OF UPCOMING PROGRAMMING

Our events calendar continues to be as relevant as it is robust. Upcoming virtual events include:

New events are scheduled regularly, so be sure to check our website Upcoming Events section regularly for new offerings.

STAY SAFE AND STAY STRONG

This has been a trying but also a productive time.  Keep engaging with us as we navigate this new normal together.  We in the CPR community are a resilient and resourceful bunch, and I am confident that, with generosity and patience, we will continue to overcome these challenges together.

As always, please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or just let me know how you are doing. (Instead of hitting reply, please drop me a note at awaxman@cpradr.org to make sure I see your message quickly.)

Warm regards,

Allen Waxman

CPR’s Arbitration Committee Tackles ADR Video Conferencing 

By Michael Hotz

The International Institute of Conflict Prevention and Resolution’s Arbitration Committee  hosted an online event early this month to tackle questions from neutrals and advocates designed to help them properly use video conferencing to conduct alternative dispute resolution hearings remotely.

The event was a continuation of a series of discussions hosted by the CPR Institute examining remote mediation and arbitration practices and addressing issues neutrals are encountering conducting remote hearings.  For a roundup of earlier CPR events, see this April 2 CPR Speaks blog post. The CPR Institute’s information clearinghouse on the virus and its effects can be found on its website at the link for ADR in the Time of COVID-19.

The April 7 teleconference was moderated by White & Case New York partner Jennifer Glasser, who is vice chair of the CPR Institute’s Arbitration Committee. Three panel members included: Daniel González, a Miami-based partner at Hogan Lovells; Samaa Haridi, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ New York office, and Jorge Mattamouros, a partner in White & Case’s Houston office.

Mattamouros began by discussing his video hearings experiences. The case he explored was a hearing in a large Brazilian M&A dispute. The hearing was mostly conducted in Portuguese, but also had English language witnesses. It began before the COVID-19 pandemic, so the process had to change in response to the health and safety measures implemented internationally.

Transitioning to remote hearings was made easier, Mattamouros explained, as the parties already had established a protocol for electronic conferencing. First, the parties conducted the opening presentation, and fact witnesses’ examination and cross examination, before travel bans in the United States and Europe.

Then the parties returned home and the hearing continued online using Zoom for the examination of the expert witnesses. Mattamouros noted that platforms like Zoom have chat functions that, if not turned off, allow the witnesses to receive messages during examination. Other neutrals, the panel noted, have used WebEx or other remote conferencing platforms.

The key benefit to being able to use telecommunication services to do arbitration was the ability to conduct hearings across the globe. This is especially relevant for smaller matters, as the amount disputed doesn’t necessarily merit traveling internationally.

Panelist Samaa Haridi discussed how technology allowed her to conduct an arbitration as tribunal chair remotely from New York, despite time differences, with the parties and co-arbitrators in Dubai and London. The timing was a key issue, as it required that the parties coordinate and that the arbitrators arrange a schedule that didn’t impose too great of a burden on any one party. In her hearings, Haridi explained, it often required that she start her day earlier than usual.

Glasser observed that remote hearings may require shorter hearing days but more total hearing time, both to accommodate time differences with parties across the globe but also because it is more difficult to keep the arbitrators and parties engaged when interacting virtually.

Haridi agreed that it was harder to keep people focused when they weren’t conducting in-person meetings. This required the neutral to adjust expectations of what could be accomplished each day.

In one semi-remote hearing Haridi participated in as arbitrator, the parties  were together in one location, and two of the arbitrators were in different cities. And while the third arbitrator was located in the same venue as the parties, he sat in a separate room to maintain an appropriate balance considering the virtual participation of the other tribunal members.

To ward off potential challenges to the award on the basis of perceived lack of neutrality or unequal access to information by the arbitrators, Haridi recommended having the neutral participate in a separate room from the parties in cases such as hers where not all of the arbitrators are able to sit together with the parties in one location. This maintains the appearance of impartiality.

Daniel González stated that he has participated in remote hearings for many years, such as examining a witness by video while the neutral and parties are together in another location.  While remote hearings in the age of Covid-19 present the new challenge of all participants joining remotely from different locations, and technology is rapidly evolving to meet this challenge, it is the human factor and interaction that has not changed over time and must be carefully considered as it will present special issues for the arbitrators, the cross examiners and the witnesses on how they can carry out these virtual hearings.  For example, one challenge the program panel members agreed on is the ability to use and assess body language.

For example, during cross examination, it is difficult for the lawyer to gauge the tribunal’s reaction or for the witness to know if they are effectively conveying information to them.

Hogan Lovells’ Haridi mentioned that the lack of body language also made it harder to evaluate the credibility of a witness. This is one critical issue that led Jorge Mattamouros to state that in-person meetings were still preferable.

Another issue the panelists discussed was the sharing of documents. Remote hearing technology allows for the presentation of documents through the video conference platform.  This feature was used in all of the remote hearings conducted by the panelists.

The panel then discussed how to ensure the efficient presentation of evidence in document intensive cases that are being heard remotely.  Mattamouros commented that he combined all of the exhibits into one master PDF so the parties, tribunal, and witness could easily navigate to the relevant document and page number being referenced without losing time to find and toggle between different documents.

González noted that vendors that handle the organization and presentation of the record in conventional settings were available for virtual sessions as well. Using a third party alleviates the burden on counsel to manage the technology and document presentation.  He argued that it was best to use whatever method the tribunal was comfortable with.

The participants then discussed fairness in arbitration.

Samaa Haridi commented that the use of online hearings could create additional challenges in enforcing an arbitration tribunal’s award. A party who dislikes the ruling could challenge the award by claiming there was no due process.  It remains to be seen how courts deal with such challenges.

White & Case’s Jorge Mattamouros noted that the party’s lack of consent didn’t always establish a lack of due process. That would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

The discussion noted that there is broad leeway granted to arbitrators and mediators when establishing a fair process. Acquiring consent is a simple way of reducing the likelihood that a party can challenge the outcome successfully, but it is not the only one.

Moderator Glasser concluded by asking for the panel’s views on the future of remote hearings after the Covid-19 crisis.  The panel agreed that remote hearings are likely here to stay in some form, such as convening initial case management conferences by video rather than meeting in person.

They also agreed, however, that human interaction is a critical part of a hearing and that in-person hearings will not become a vestige of the past.  Ultimately whether to hold a remote hearing will be a fact-specific inquiry depending on the circumstances at hand.

Glasser brought up the problem that, as more arbitration is moved online, newer attorneys may get fewer stand-up opportunities to make oral argument or cross-examine witnesses. In a standard face-to-face processes, the attorney in charge can allow the novice lawyer to take control more often, as they are still in the room and provide correction and assistance instantly. In the online forum, they do not have that ability, making it much less likely that anyone would be willing to risk their case to give the newer attorney some experience.

* * *

After the discussion of the benefits and issues with virtual arbitration procedures, CPR Institute Senior Vice President Olivier P. Andre discussed the need for those using document transfer or other communication platforms to ensure that they comply with relevant privacy laws.

Without proper cybersecurity, the process can leave parties’ documents vulnerable and potentially subject the neutral to lability. He recommended consulting the CPR/FTI Consulting Cybersecurity Training, the draft ICCA-IBA Roadmap to Data Protection, and the International Council for Commercial Arbitration-New York City Bar Association-CPR Institute Cybersecurity Protocol for International Arbitration. These resources are designed to provide guidance on how to manage the risks associated with cybersecurity and privacy regulations.

* * *

CPR Arbitration Committee Chair Hagit Elul, a partner in New York’s Hughes Hubbard & Reed, announced that the committee was planning on creating an industry-specific project by corroborating with other CPR Institute industry committees such as the pharmaceutical, finance, energy, and construction committees.

The committee also discussed the CPR Institute’s Annotated Model Procedural Order for Remote Video Arbitration Proceedings, a new best-practices document for navigating arbitration hearings electronically.  The document was since released by CPR on April 21, and the details can be found on CPR’s website here.

 

Michael Hotz is a CPR Institute 2020 Spring Intern. His account relies on post-session comments from the participants.

COVID-19 & CPR Administered Arbitration

CPR DR Logo_Black Text

The COVID-19 health crisis is causing unprecedented disruptions and damage to the world’s economy and business relationships. Many commercial disputes are surfacing as parties find it impracticable or impossible to perform their contractual obligations.  At the same time, the crisis is also considerably slowing down the resolution of pending court cases, exacerbating the already significant backlog of cases in many courts.

In this context, we would like to remind you that CPR Dispute Resolution and its Case Management Team remain available to assist businesses in these difficult times.

To avoid any delays in the resolution of your dispute, you may want to consider converting a pending court case to a CPR Administered Arbitration.  If your contract already provides for arbitration as the dispute resolution mechanism, but your arbitration clause is no longer appropriate under the circumstances, you may also want to consider using CPR administered arbitration.  In both case, you will need to enter into one of the following arbitration submission agreements with your counterparty:

For a US domestic Dispute:

“We, the undersigned parties, hereby agree to submit to arbitration in accordance with the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (“CPR”) Rules for Administered Arbitration (the “Administered Rules” or “Rules”) the following dispute:

[Describe briefly]

We further agree that we shall faithfully observe this agreement and the Administered Rules and that we shall abide by and perform any award rendered by the arbitrator(s). The arbitration shall be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1 et seq., and judgment upon the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof. The place of arbitration shall be (city, state).”

For an international dispute:

“We, the undersigned parties, hereby agree to submit to arbitration in accordance with the International Institute for Conflict Prevention and Resolution (“CPR”) Rules for Administered Arbitration of International Disputes (the “Rules”) the following dispute:

[Describe briefly]

We further agree that we shall faithfully observe this agreement and the Rules and that we shall abide by and perform any award rendered by the arbitrator(s). Judgment upon the award may be entered by any court having jurisdiction thereof. The seat of the arbitration shall be (city, country). The language of the arbitration shall be (language).”

Why use CPR Administered Arbitration?

Quality

  • Quality comes from experience – Over the years, CPR’s Distinguished Neutrals have handled more than one trillion dollars in disputes
  • Parties remain in control of the process
  • Peer-reviewed and innovative rules
  • Cases managed by highly experienced, accessible and multilingual attorneys

Efficiency and Lower Costs

  • Time is money – CPR’s Rules have been designed to increase efficiencies, lowering overall costs, benefitting all parties
  • Easy commencement process – No cumbersome paper filing requirements
  • Rapid appointment of the Tribunal, typically within 2-4 weeks
  • Efficient timeline with built-in benchmarks and accountability
  • CPR is a savvy yet unobtrusive administrator, which maximizes direct tribunal-party interaction
  • Mediation/settlement encouraged at any stage
  • Administrative fees based on a scale of amounts at issue, capped at US$34,000, split among the parties, for disputes over US$500 millions
  • Arbitrators free to set up their fees on a case by case basis but must disclose their rates up front during the selection process

Integrity

  • Arbitrators must be independent and neutral
  • Arbitrators must disclose potential conflicts of interest and their availability up front during the selection process
  • Innovative and award winning “Screened Selection Process” for party-appointed arbitrators – Arbitrators are appointed without knowing which party made the selection to enhance neutrality and independence
  • Broad confidentiality applies to all participants: parties, arbitrators and CPR
  • Tribunals must apply the rule of law
  • Awards must be written and reasoned and they are reviewed for format, clerical, typographical or computational errors before being issued by CPR
  • Arbitrator challenges are decided by an independent Challenge Review Panel

CPR’s Panel of Distinguished Neutrals comprises those among the most respected and elite arbitrators in the US and around the world. It includes prominent attorneys, retired judges, academics, as well as highly-skilled business executives, legal experts and dispute resolution professionals who are particularly qualified to resolve all business disputes including those involving multi-national corporations or issues of public sensitivity. Focusing in more than 30 practice areas, CPR’s esteemed arbitrators have provided resolutions in thousands of cases  worldwide. Click here for more information about CPR’s Panel of Distinguished Neutrals.

FAQs

  • How do I file a case?  To file a case, email your Notice of Arbitration to cprneutrals@cpradr.org.  Include contact information for all parties, including e-mail addresses. You will also need to pay a US$1,750 non-refundable deposit by wire or credit card.  As soon as you file your Notice of Arbitration, CPR will contact you.
  • What are the key features of the 2019 CPR Administered Arbitration Rules? You can click here to learn more about the key features of the rules.
  • How do I find out more about the administrative fees? For the full schedule of fees, visit our website here.
  • How are arbitrator challenges decided? Challenges on the ground of independence and impartiality are decided pursuant to the CPR Challenge Review Protocol.
  • How to I contact the case management team if I have additional questions? Contact Alveen Shirinyans at ashirinyans@cpradr.org or Helena Tavares Erickson at herickson@cpradr.org

CPR Takes to the Web As ADR Continues in the Face of the Coronavirus Crisis

By Anne Muenchinger, Federica Romanelli & Michael Hotz

CPR on Monday hosted an online event, ADR in the Time of COVID-19: How Neutrals & Advocates Can Use Zoom for Mediations & Arbitrations, a 90-minute training dedicated to helping neutrals and advocates use the Zoom Professional online meeting platform, and how to integrate online tools into alternative dispute resolution practices.

Chicago-based attorney Thomas Valenti, an arbitrator and mediator who heads his own firm, and is a member of CPR’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals, conducted the session.  Held via the platform he was discussing, Valenti showed more than 200 participants the ins and outs of Zoom Professional and how to adapt it for ADR-centric tools such as preliminary hearings, screening arbitration expert witnesses, and private party-mediator caucuses during interparty negotiations.

Monday’s lunchtime session was a follow-up to a March 17 online CPR Institute Mediation Committee where committee members, including Valenti, compared online platforms and electronic mediation techniques.

Details of both sessions are below, as well as information about an American Bar Association online ADR program held last week.

* * *

At the March 30 program, Valenti led a discussion centered around security issues, a key concern for neutrals in using online tools.  Valenti explained the many Zoom features that control access to information, including “end-to-end encryption” of meetings; identification processes; password protection for meetings; waiting rooms that control meeting attendance; the ability to lock meeting rooms once all parties are present, and auditory signals when someone enters or leaves the room.

Valenti discussed essential resources for guidance in the process of moving to an online forum, including  the ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Protocol on Cybersecurity in International Arbitration, which provides a framework for information security measures for individual arbitration matters. He also noted Zoom’s own white paper and documents on the subject.

Valenti strongly advised using the Protocol’s Schedule A, which contains a “Baseline Security Measures” checklist and provides neutrals with the right questions about their online practice. The spirit of the Protocol, he said, is to offer a framework within which neutrals can make decisions and best adjust online tools to their individual practices and client needs.

Valenti noted the CPR Institute’s participation in the Protocol’s construction by its Working Group. CPR representatives included Senior Vice President Olivier P. André, along with Hagit Elul of Hughes Hubbard & Reed, and Micaela R.H. McMurrough, Covington & Burling, both New York-based partners at their respective firms.

Several Zoom features were explained and demonstrated, including breakout rooms, which can be used for private meetings and caucuses; screen sharing and white boards, which allow for information display or form filling on the spot, and document annotation by all attendees.

A recording of the session will be available soon on the CPR Institute’s new website Resources coronavirus clearinghouse page, ADR in the Time of COVID-19.

Valenti warned that users must recognize the potential shortcomings of online ADR. The assessment of body language will be limited, and there are no guarantees that there is no one sitting off camera or that the meeting is not being recorded.

Meeting participant Dean Burrell, of Morristown, N.J.’s Burrell Dispute Resolution, suggested a tactic he uses to deal with potential issues: He said he asks the parties to scan the room every so often to confirm no one else is present.

Another concern often raised is whether the session is being recorded; Valenti pointed out, however, that this concern is similar to any other mediation or arbitration with the use of smartphones. Hosts should acknowledge that the process is not perfect, but that risks can be minimized.  He said hosts should ask participants if someone else is in the room and not to record the session.

But beyond the  COVID-19 crisis, online ADR practice provides a useful tool for reducing costs and improving efficiency.

For arbitrators, online tools such as Zoom can help them stand out among tech-averse peers, and market themselves as having the ability to continue to push matters forward.

For mediators, online tools should be an addition to an experienced mediator’s set of skills, and can easily be used to set up documents, type in agendas, and set goals during a session. Hosts can also pass control to another party, and use different colors to identify each participant.

Valenti’s demonstration featured a video with Giuseppe Leone, founder of Virtual Mediation Lab, and showed that online mediation is not a new phenomenon. But the COVID-19 crisis is providing the ADR world with an opportunity to move itself forward with technology—not just as a substitute, but as a way to improve its practices.

Valenti recommended that the session host prepare all necessary documents beforehand and have them available on the host computer before beginning the online session, ready for display and sharing. Additionally, mediators should be more conscious about time when conducting an online, as the experience initially will be different from one in a physical space.

Hosts should also be conscious of the level of skill and familiarity that parties and counsel have with these online tools.

Valenti suggested using the initial pre-hearing conference, as set out under CPR Institute Administered Arbitration Rule 9.3, and in the 2019 CPR Rules for Administered Arbitration of International Disputes as an opportunity to test each participant’s level of comfort.

So an easy way to introduce online tools is to switch from a phone call to a video conference for the initial prehearing.

* * *

The genesis of Monday’s CPR members and neutrals-only Zoom training was CPR’s March 17th Mediation Committee meeting.

The Mediation Committee meeting featured two speakers–Kathleen Scanlon, Chief Circuit Mediator for the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, and James South, Managing Director, Senior Consultant and Mediator for the Center for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in London—who presented their perspectives on a variety of mediation issues, including a comparative look at mediation practices on either side of the Atlantic, before focusing on mediating during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Committee then heard how CAMP (the Second Circuit’s mediation and settlement program), CEDR, CPR and the New York District office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission are dealing with mediations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kathleen Scanlon began by discussing the benefits of Sonexis (see sonexis.com) as a conferencing system.  She explained that it delegates pin numbers to each participant and allows the mediator to create private rooms for each party and join them as needed. Parties can then notify the mediator when they want to talk with the mediator.

She said there hasn’t been too much difference, anecdotally, between the success rates of mediating in person and with teleconference. Still, the video/audio approach leads to more accidental interruptions. It also decreases the ability to read body language, which can affect trust. The teleconference process also can be more tiring for the mediator to manage.

CEDR’s James South then stated that he uses Zoom.  Meeting participant Thomas Valenti agreed, also recommending the business version of Zoom to conduct more complicated mediations—which prompted the Monday, March 30 session he led, discussed above.

The Mediation Committee meeting participants, who like the March 30 session also participated by Zoom, agreed that it is critical that the conferencing technology used complies with privacy and confidentiality rules like Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (best known as the GDPR). It also was recommended that the parties should consult the ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Cybersecurity protocol.

James South noted that many mediations had been going on normally during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, but that he expected that to change over time. He said he has found that parties have been flexible, and been willing to move to video conferencing. He noted that he is unsure if this will survive the crisis, or is only due to the current state of affairs.

South, however, was confident that any reduction in mediation will return to normal levels.

* * *

Committee members then had a lengthy discussion of the issues surrounding the health crisis.  CPR Institute Senior Vice President Helena Tavares Erickson commented that she had provided to members of CPR’s Panels of Distinguished Neutrals a list of services that they could use to mediate effectively during the crisis.

Erickson noted that CPR Dispute Resolution Services offers its neutrals the option of using a secure document exchange, which allows for online text chat in different chat rooms. (For CPR Institute Dispute Resolution filing details, see www.cpradr.org/dispute-resolution-services/file-a-case.)

Meeting participant David Reinman, who is supervisory ADR coordinator of the New York District’s U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office, reported that his unit has a program that is currently handling all mediation by video or phone. The EEOC also is allowing parties to reschedule if they insist on in-person mediation. Parties who need translators or other special accommodations may invoke applicable proceedings, too.

Tom Valenti asked about screening procedures when conducting in-person mediations. It was noted that many law firms are forcing people to sign waivers stating that they hadn’t been in at-risk places. Given current advisories and shutdowns, however, it’s unclear that such waivers are effective. If parties want to continue doing face-to-face mediation—which has ceased entirely in many shutdown locations for the duration of the emergency–best practice would be to state that they haven’t been in contact with anyone who is infected.

Meeting participants noted, however, such mandatory declarations on disclosing other parties’ infection status could potentially violate HIPAA rules.

Various other online platforms and training options were compared among the participants near the meeting’s conclusion.

* * *

Beyond CPR’s online training event and meeting, and the resources noted, including the new CPR Institute website Resources clearinghouse page, ADR in the Time of COVID-19, others in the legal world and the dispute resolution community have tackled the move online.

For example, the American Bar Association webcasted a panel of experts on continuing with mediations, arbitrations and similar ADR commitments while coping with coronavirus.

The 90-minute March 20 web panel, “ODR in the ERA of COVID-19: Experts Answer Your Questions,” featured panelists including Hamline-Mitchell School of Law Prof. David Larson; online dispute resolution pioneer Colin Rule, who is a Stanford Law School lecturer, and University of Missouri School of Law Prof. Amy Schmitz. It also was hosted on Zoom.

The panelists shared a presentation while providing useful links on a side chat and taking Q&A from the attendees on another window—an electronic version of social distancing that has been repeated, and is rapidly become an ADR standard operating procedure.

The panel provided a list of advice for neutrals wanting to add tech tools to their toolbox.  It focused on accessibility; preparing lists; ensuring a competent approach; accessing live assistance as needed; analyzing online providers (see, e.g., http://odr.info/provider-list/); taking stock of the role for non-verbal communication; assessing whether the disputants will communicate synchronously; confidentiality; considerations for designing an ODR system; ensuring fairness; and ethical considerations.

The ABA panel concluded on ODR resources, providing the following links:

  • Cyberweek 2019; the NCTDR hosts Cyberweek annually at its website.
  • com, a collaborative resource guide.
  • Amy J. Schmitz and Colin Rule, The New Handshake: Where We Are Now (June 27, 2017). International Journal of Online Dispute Resolution 2016 (3) 2; University of Missouri School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-18. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2991821

* * *

Muenchinger is a CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern, and an LLM student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City, focused on the March 30 session discussed in this article.  The section on the CPR Mediation Committee meeting was prepared by CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern Michael Hotz. The section on the ABA seminar was prepared by CPR Institute Spring 2020 intern Federica Romanelli. Alternatives’ editor Russ Bleemer assisted with the research and writing.

 

 

Update Regarding COVID-19 & CPR Mediation Services

The COVID-19 health crisis is causing unprecedented disruptions and damages to the World’s economy and business relationships. A great variety of commercial disputes are surfacing as parties find it impracticable or impossible to perform their contractual obligations. In all likelihood, this crisis will result in a surge of litigation and will also considerably slow down the resolution of pending court cases. In fact, many courts around the world have stopped holding jury trials which will create a considerable backlog for many pending cases. These unprecedented delays should encourage parties to consider alternative dispute resolution.

Last week, we shared with you the launch of a new Dispute Prevention panel, comprised of neutrals who have the experience to facilitate the resolution of a dispute before it becomes a legal conflict. At the same time, we also want to remind you that CPR Dispute Resolution and its Mediation Services are also available to assist businesses in these difficult times. As you know, mediation is a flexible, nonbinding dispute resolution process that uses a neutral third party- the mediator – to facilitate negotiation between the parties and help them find a mutually satisfactory solution to the dispute. The mediator has no authority to impose an outcome on the parties and controls only the process of the mediation itself, not its result. The process is typically faster and more cost-effective than binding dispute resolution processes, such as litigation or arbitration.

CPR’s Mediation Procedures have been drafted by dispute resolution experts and have been used to resolve hundreds of cases over the past three decades. They offer flexibility while providing ground rules for the conduct of the mediation. For example, they provide rules to select the mediator, exchange information between the parties or to preserve confidentiality. All our mediation procedures are available here.

CPR’s Panel of Distinguished Neutrals comprises those among the most respected and elite mediators in the US and around the world. It includes prominent attorneys, retired state and federal judges, academics, as well as highly-skilled business executives, legal experts and dispute resolution professionals who are particularly qualified to resolve all business disputes including those involving multi-national corporations or issues of public sensitivity. Focusing in more than 30 practice areas, CPR’s esteemed mediators have provided resolutions in thousands of cases, with billions of dollars at issue worldwide. Click here for more information about CPR’s Panel of Distinguished Neutrals.

FAQs

How do I commence a mediation with a counterparty with which I have a dispute?  You will need to execute the following mediation agreement with your counterparty:

“We hereby agree to submit to confidential mediation under the CPR Mediation Procedure the following controversy: [Describe briefly]”

What if it is an international dispute? You will need to execute the following mediation agreement with your counterparty:

“The parties hereby agree to submit to mediation under the CPR International Mediation Procedure the following controversy: [Describe briefly]”

What if it is an employment dispute? You will need to execute the model submission agreement in Appendix 1 of CPR Employment Mediation Procedure

What is the cost? 

  • You do not need to pay any filing or administrative fees to use CPR Mediation Procedures. However, if the parties cannot agree on a mediator – or if they would like to benefit from CPR’s expertise in identifying a qualified mediator for the dispute – you will need to pay US$ 1,500 fee (the fee is split among the parties). Click here for more information on how CPR’s experienced case management team assist the parties in selecting their mediator.
  • In addition, you will need to pay the mediator.  Most mediators charge an hourly rate.

What if my dispute is below US$ 500,000?  You may consider using CPR’s flat fee mediation program.  Under the program, the dispute will be mediated for a flat fee of $3,500, to be split among the parties ($2,500 when a CPR member is involved in the dispute).  This amount will entitle the parties to one day of mediation (up to 10 hours, including preparation). Thereafter, an hourly rate of $350 will apply.  Mediators are directly appointed by CPR, after the parties have agreed upon a date and venue.

How do I request CPR’s assistance for the selection of the mediator? To obtain the appointment of a mediator, send your request via email to CPRNeutrals@cpradr.org with the contact information for all parties, including email addresses.  You will also need to pay a $750 non-refundable deposit. Payments can only be accepted via credit cards or wire transfer. Please specify in your cover email how you would like to pay. Click here for more information.

How to I contact the case management team if I have additional questions? Contact Alveen Shirinyans at ashirinyans@cpradr.org or +1.646.753.8230 or Helena Tavares Erickson at herickson@cpradr.org or +1.646.753.8237

CPR COVID-19 Update

The COVID-19 virus has affected all aspects of our daily lives, and we at CPR continue to monitor developments that affect our staff, members, neutrals and those to whom we provide services. We are assessing the situation daily and monitoring all recommendations from the World Health Organization, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local authorities. We encourage you to do the same.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS

CPR has communicated with the appropriate parties about best practices and recommended safety guidelines, both with regards to our personal habits and CPR’s physical office space.

We do ask that our staff and any visitors exercise caution and good judgment and not come into our office when they are sick or experiencing symptoms such as runny or stuff nose, fever, cough, shortness of breath, sore throat, body aches, chills or fatigue. If there is any doubt, we advise erring on the side of caution and would be happy to assist via phone or other (e.g., videoconferencing) means.

CPR PROGRAMMING AND EVENTS

While some events scheduled for the near term are, out of an abundance of caution, in the process of being rescheduled, others have already been seamlessly transformed to online proceedings. For some time now, all CPR committee meetings already have offered a virtual component (i.e., with video or audio conferencing) so that programming will not change for the immediate future – and there are some great meetings scheduled, on timely topics.

For example, next week our Mediation Committee will be hosting a panel discussion on comparisons between domestic and international mediation. Our panelists have updated their presentation to include a discussion on how mediators are adapting to the coronavirus outbreak in the United States and abroad. We are also going to hold our Employment Committee’s Post-Epic Systems panel discussion at the end of March via video conference as well. Given that CPR’s membership spans the world, our members are able to participate remotely – and robustly – in committee programming. 

BUSINESS AND DISPUTE RESOLUTION SERVICES CONTINUITY

CPR has planned and prepared for situations such as these. Our New York office remains open and operational. However, should the need arise, our staff is prepared to work securely and remotely.

In the event it becomes necessary for us to temporarily close our physical office, rest assured that CPR Dispute Resolution can and will operate virtually, offering our full suite of dispute prevention and resolution services without interruption.

“ALTERNATIVE ADR” – ONLINE AND OTHER RESOURCES

As more and more companies restrict travel and communities restrict travel and large gatherings, questions have also arisen as to alternatives to face-to-face arbitration hearings or mediations. We urge parties and neutrals to discuss these issues as they arise, and CPR has taken steps to help parties and neutrals address these challenges. Specifically, we have arranged for CPR’s neutrals to have access to a secure online platform for the management of mediations and single arbitrator cases.

We also encourage anyone utilizing video or online venues or processes to review The ICCA-NYC Bar-CPR Protocol on Cybersecurity in International Arbitration (2020 Edition).

Please let us know if you have any questions or concerns, or if there is an issue here we have not addressed. We are all part of the same dispute prevention and resolution community, and look forward continuing to support one another as we navigate this situation, together.  Please stay safe and healthy.