Directions to innovation: South by Southwest

In a digitised world, courts will still be key for delivering justice as they are the only institutions that have an adequate answer to the element of “make me”. An element part of most many disputes: often one person wants to change something in her relationship with someone else while this other might benefit form the status quo and needs to be nudged towards changing the situation. Courts can do that as they are back up by state coercion.

I have been invited to speak at South by Southwest (SXSW), the conference where Twitter got big, Foursquare got launched, and people like Mark Zuckerberg, Malcolm Gladwell and Al Gore tend to deliver keynotes. Together with Colin Rule of Modria and Beth Trent of CPR, I will explore Justice 2.0. I bring the perspective of dispute resolution technology as a solution for the legal problems of everyday life on the stage.

Our recent trend report “Trialogue” indicates how the future of courts actually can be bright again. A big challenge for our courts is to make full use of the opportunities modern technologies offer them.

Together with the Dutch Council for the Judiciary, our team at HiiL co-created a completely online procedure for neighbour disputes, where both parties and judges login to an web-based problem-solving platform. The new Signpost to Justice platform offers a similar environment, initially for people who are breaking up. Difference is that a large group of legal professionals offer their services on this platform. Unbundled, for a fixed fee, on a pay as you go basis. M-Sheria builds on this innovation but adopts SMS technology so slum dwellers in Kenya get access to justice.

For me, these kind of online platforms are a core element of Justice 2.0. They bring together disputants in a problem-solving interface where they find technology-based support tools. And find unbundled, online support of legal professionals. With an online option of a neutral decision by an adjudicator. All just one click away.

Judges, lawyers and mediators need to be service-oriented as the next generation citizens will demand that the justice sector keeps up with the pace of technological developments. Innovating justice thus is not only a matter of innovating procedures, but also of innovating professionals.

I love to explore how this connects to the experiences in ODR that Colin has and the business dispute resolution experiences of Beth. I am looking forward to our session on Justice 2.0, which is facilitated by Joseph Markowitz, scheduled for 10 March this year and part of an extremely rich programme in Austin, Texas.