In a world of constantly evolving technology and digitalization, the legal profession also evolves and practitioners’ expectations of efficiency and digital tools influence the rise of LegalTech.
Technology has introduced searchable databases for court decisions; artificial intelligence that enables selecting arbitrators, writing an arbitration clause, or reviewing case documents quickly; and sharing case files online, among many other innovations in the legal field. Technology and digitalization particularly significant for arbitration because it enhances the distinctive qualities of arbitration as a dispute resolution method, namely cost and time efficiency.
The Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce (“SCC“), one of the most well established arbitration institutions that recognized technological advancement as an undeniable fact, introduced the SCC Platform and brought a different dimension to the use of technology and digitalization in arbitration.
What is the SCC?
The SCC is an organization established in 1917 that provides efficient dispute resolution services for both Swedish and international parties. The parties can solve their commercial and investment disputes at the SCC. Every year parties from as many as 30-40 countries use the SCC’s services. Turkey is well acquainted with the SCC; the institution’s 2017 statistics show that the SCC heard eight cases from Turkey that year. In addition, the SCC has a unique role in resolving investment disputes between investors and states. Today, the SCC is the world’s second largest institution for investment disputes after the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes.
According to the SCC’s 2018 statistics, a total of 152 cases were registered, half of which were international disputes involving parties from 43 countries. As an institution consistently preferred by parties, the SCC took an important step in innovation by introducing the SCC Platform.
The Introduction of the SCC Platform
The SCC Platform, launched in September 2019, is a digital platform that enables the parties, the SCC and the tribunal to share case-related documents such as communication with the SCC, procedural orders, parties’ submissions and exhibits. Since the launch of the SCC Platform, 76 cases and roughly 400 users were registered on the system. The platform is mandatory for any communication involving the SCC but only encouraged for communication between the parties and the tribunal after referral.
It is a secure and efficient communication medium for all participants. The SCC platform provides different utilities:
- Parties can share, upload, view, download and print files.
- Parties can review the full list of participants in the arbitration and their contact details.
- The folder structures are pre-loaded onto the platform.
- There is a calendar displaying the relevant arbitration dates and deadlines which provides an easy overview of the procedure.
- There is a notice board for the tribunal to communicate practical information to the parties.
- There is an archiving service for the arbitral tribunal to keep case documents for one year after the arbitration ends.
Although the SCC Platform is an innovative step, the SCC is not the first institution to establish a case management platform. The American Arbitration Association, World Intellectual Property Organization and the Russian Arbitration Centre at the Russian Institute of Modern Arbitration also have case management platforms. Moreover, in 2005, the International Chamber of Commerce launched a similar platform called NetCase, a case management website for participants that allowed participants to communicate and share information quickly and securely using the internet. However, NetCase is not in use today.
Online file sharing brings to mind privacy and data security, but the SCC says that it has a security system that can handle the problems of privacy and data security. The SCC Platform uses a cloud-based secure file sharing service that is used and trusted by more than 250 law firms. All files are kept in cloud-based storage in high-security facilities with separate back-up facilities at different locations. All data is encrypted using military-grade encryption and all files are scanned for malware and viruses when uploaded.
An Environmentalist Approach: The SCC’s Arbitrator’s Guideline
The SCC Platform is user-friendly and efficient. However, more importantly, the SCC Platform is also environmentally friendly: by digitalizing the arbitration procedure and documentation, the SCC Platform saves a considerable amount of paper and ink.
The SCC’s concerns about the environment are voiced in the recently published and revised Arbitrator’s Guidelines (“Guidelines“) of October 2019. The Guidelines focuses on fair and efficient arbitral proceedings, but apart from that, the Guidelines has an innovative aspect with regards to the treatment of reimbursable travel expenses. The SCC aims to encourage arbitrators to expense the costs of carbon offsetting their arbitration-related flights and hopes to encourage arbitrators to use online services to compensate for the climate change impact of arbitration-related travel.
The SCC’s Secretary General remarked, “Perhaps we cannot all effect major change, but if we all do something, change will happen faster. And at this point, fast is exactly what we need.” With the new Guidelines, the SCC takes great strides to protect the environment.
The most common characteristics of arbitration are flexibility and time and cost efficiency, and in order to maintain and enhance these appealing characteristics, both the practitioners and the arbitral institutions must strive to be up to date with technological developments. Arbitral institutions in particular should provide technological services to ease practitioners’ lives, and proactively support arbitration in a manner that reflects the demands of our century. This innovative attitude is important for the integrity and sustainability of arbitration – navigating the future of arbitration in the age of acceleration requires a path-breaking mindset.