T.S. Eliot called April the “cruelest month” but for those of us in the field of Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), it’s been a time for rejoicing. Last Friday night, Ethan Katsh, the Father of ODR and Chairman of the Modria Board of Advisors, received the 2017 D’Alemberte-Raven Award, which is the highest award in the field of dispute resolution. Past winners include former Assistant Secretary of State Richard Holbrooke, Maine Senator George Mitchell, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, and Attorney General Janet Reno. The inclusion of Ethan in this pantheon of leaders is recognition of a lifetime of innovation and leadership, but it is also an acknowledgement from the face-to-face ADR field that ODR is here to stay. (You can view Ethan’s acceptance speech here.)
On March 15th Ethan released his latest book (co-written with Orna Rabinovich-Einy) entitled Digital Justice. Digital Justice presents ODR as a means of expanding access to justice to citizens for whom the courts are out of reach, enabling them to find help via a smartphone or web browser. The book focuses on five primary areas where ODR is likely to be transformative in resolving disputes: eCommerce, healthcare, social media, labor, and the courts. The book also peers into the future to see what innovations may be coming soon, with a particular focus on dispute prevention, which is something that the face-to-face ADR field (which is usually reactive to disputes as opposed to proactive) has traditionally found difficult to effectively undertake.
Among its many contributions to the field of ODR, the book:
- Identifies how the increasing ease and speed with which consumers are able to purchase goods and services in the sharing/collaborative economy exposes them to increasing numbers and types of disputes
- Explains why traditional legal channels will not be able to adapt to our new online economy, creating a “Digital Justice Gap”
- Offers extensive case studies on eCommerce, health care, social media and employment, describing the “Internet of Disputes” and how ODR is an essential response
The publication of Digital Justice, in conjunction with the launch of The New Handshake and the upcoming ODR Working Group meeting in Paris, the momentum behind ODR has never been stronger. ODR is now a hot topic in legal tech conferences and access to justice communities around the world. As Lord Justice Fulford, the Senior Presiding Judge of England and Wales, has put it, “ODR will be an integral part of the going [court] digitalization process. It is absolutely necessary for the survival of the justice system in the UK.” Powered by new scholarship and advancing technology, 2017 promises to be the big breakthrough year for ODR in the courts.
Here’s more about Ethan’s contributions to the ODR field, from the ABA announcement:
“Katsh is widely recognized as the founder of the field of online dispute resolution (ODR). Along with Janet Rifkin, he conducted the eBay Pilot Project in 1999 that led to eBay’s current system that handles over sixty million disputes each year. With Professor Rifkin, he wrote Online Dispute Resolution: Resolving Conflicts in Cyberspace (2001), the first book about ODR. Since then, he has published numerous articles about ODR and co-edited Online Dispute Resolution: Theory and Practice, which received the International Institute for Conflict Resolution book award for 2012. Professor Katsh is a graduate of the Yale Law School and was one of the first legal scholars to recognize the impact new information technologies would have on law. In The Electronic Media and the Transformation of Law (Oxford University Press, 1989) and Law in a Digital World (Oxford University Press, 1995), he predicted many of the changes that were to come to law and the legal profession. Professor Katsh has served as principal online dispute resolution consultant for the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS), a federal agency mandated to provide mediation in Freedom of Information Act disputes. During 2010-2011, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Haifa. In 2014-2015, he was an affiliate researcher at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Professor Katsh was principal dispute resolution advisor to SquareTrade.com and is Chairman of the Board of Advisors of Modria.com. His principal current research concern involves issues related to health care and, more particularly, to disputes over electronic health records. In 1997, with support from the Hewlett Foundation, he and Professor Rifkin founded the National Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts. Professor Katsh has been co-principal investigator in several National Science Foundation funded projects, most notably ‘The Fourth Party: Improving Computer-Mediated Deliberation through Cognitive, Social and Emotional Support.’ The frequently mentioned metaphor of technology as a Fourth Party was first proposed in Katsh and Rifkin’s Online Dispute Resolution (2001).”
Today, we at Modria not only celebrate Ethan’s significant contributions to the field of ODR, but the breakthroughs he has enabled in global business, government and the law.