ADR Committee promotes cultural exchange with international guests

Issue March 2008 By Bill Archambeault

The MBA’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee fostered a cultural exchange at its Feb. 19 meeting, hosting two international visitors working to expand online alternative dispute resolution in Asia.

Eiichiro Mandai, senior researcher for EC Network in Japan, and Daewon Choi, chief of the ICT Policy Section for the United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, were introduced at the ADR Committee’s meeting at the MBA’s Boston offices by Ethan Katsh, director of the National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Katsh explained that Mandai was seeking advice on implementing alternative dispute resolution for a proposal he was submitting to the Japanese Ministry of Economy as a member of a discussion group. He has been working for the Nippon System Ware Co. Ltd., which has been producing TV conference systems and is proposing ways to use them to introduce ADR to Japan’s justice system.

“ADR has not been accepted as positively (in Japan) as it has been in the last few decades in this country,” Katsh said.

Japanese culture generally shies away from confrontation, Mandai said, noting that there are only 25,000 lawyers in Japan, which contributes in part, to significant court delays.
“People have to spend a lot of money and wait a very long time” to resolve their court cases, he said.

In the proposal he is drafting, Mandai said he is suggesting that the Japanese government adopt online dispute resolution as an alternative to trying cases in court. One major obstacle, he said, is familiarizing Japan with the concept of ADR.

“I want to propose a video conferencing system to the government,” he told the ADR Committee. He also explained that there are plans to try video conferencing for trial scheduling on a limited basis.
ADR Committee member Robert J. Ambrogi, who ran the meeting, said that establishing ADR can be challenging.

“I think you’re going to find there’s no simple answer (on how to proceed with setting up ADR),” he told Mandai.

Choi explained that he is responsible at the U.N. for establishing policy for Asian countries, noting that online dispute resolution has been used since 2001, and that it has become an important tool for settling disputes and e-commerce. He said he’d like to promote online dispute resolution outside the U.N. “to promote peace and resolve disputes online.”

Committee members said they thought that relying on video conferencing to conduct ADR was a poor substitute for conducting sessions in person, though video conferencing is making advances as a result of technological improvements.

Committee member Jeffrey M. Aresty, who invited Mandai and Choi to the meeting, likened the advent of video conferencing to the growing pains experienced when the fax machine was first introduced. “I think this period of transition is going to be a challenge for all of us,” he said.

After the meeting, Katsh said it was a coincidence that both Mandai and Choi were in town and available to attend the meeting. Katsh said he’s worked with Choi for eight years on ADR issues.
“The technology gives us the opportunity to have a relationship with people wherever they are,” Katsh said.