Interview by Jennifer Lim, Josh Lee, and Ong Chin Ngee | Edited by Josh Lee

Organised by Malaysian legal tech startup CanLawLexTech Conference 2018 is an APAC-wide regional legal technology conference taking place from 25 to 26 October 2018 in Kuala Lumpur. LexTech Conference 2018 aims to drive legal tech adoption in the region and strengthen the regional legal tech community. In the lead-up to LexTech Conference 2018, the LawTech.Asia team will be bringing to you regular interviews and shout-outs covering prominent individuals who are involved in the conference.

LawTech.Asia spoke with Aditya Shivkumar, Co-Founder of Resolve Disputes Online (“RDO”), about smart contracts and online dispute resolution (“ODR”) – a topic that Aditya will be speaking on at the LexTech Conference.

What are smart contracts, and what sort of transactions can it be used for? How specifically do you think smart contracts can be applied in ODR?

Smart contracts are not your conventional paper-based contracts. It actually consists of lines of code. There are multiple coding languages for smart contracts, such as Solidity or Bamboo (if one is executing a smart contract on the Ethereum network). Smart contracts utilise blockchain technology. The former is the front-end, while the latter is the back-end. 

Image Credit: Blockchain Technologies

At this point in time, it is not usually advisable to utilise smart contracts for complicated transactions, especially those that involve intangible obligations. However, smart contracts are effective to ensure the performance of simple transactions, such as a transfer of money. It also offers an immense amount of security, as it is virtually impossible to compromise.

In respect of ODR, smart contracts have the potential to facilitate quicker real-time settlement between parties. For example, during an online mediation session, parties could prescribe a list of terms in their settlement agreement, and once certain conditions are satisfied, the contract could be executed automatically, without the need to track the satisfaction of the terms. This could drastically increase the efficiency and reliability of the ODR process.

What are the major trends in ODR today?

Companies are moving towards the creation of a one-stop shop for clients and the end-users. Artificial Intelligence is being utilized to predict how disputes are being resolved, increasing work efficiency, and helping parties to move closer to settlement. We see more practitioners embracing technology, not simply because it is there, but because it helps to promote productivity. The future of ODR is that of a combination of human interactions and machine-learning.

We see more practitioners embracing technology, not simply because it is there, but because it helps to promote productivity. The future of ODR is that of a combination of human interactions and machine learning.

What are the challenges that the ODR sector is facing today?

First, it is difficult to change a person’s mindset to accept a virtual platform rather than physical interaction. People want to see the lawyer in the flesh and communicate with him/her in real life. It takes time to shift such a mindset. 

Second, people are afraid of change and are reluctant to devote time and resources to implement new software and upgrade existing technologies. Technology is constantly changing so there is a need to stay updated with the times. Companies are not entering the ODR sector, as this is a sector where identifying the sweet spot requires years of experience and an ecosystem that can cater from an e-commerce store to a sole practitioner to even the courts. This is one key challenge that companies face within the ODR sector. 

What advice would you give to lawyers or law students?

Lawyers of the future should not just know the law. They should also know about technology and how it works. This may include learning how to code – but not just to code for coding’s sake, but to get a better intuition of what technology can (or cannot) do.

LawTech.Asia readers are entitled to an exclusive promo code that provides a 10% discount off a ticket for LexTech Conference 2018. Subscribe to the LawTech.Asia mailing list to receive your promo code today.

(Featured Image Credit: Resolve Disputes Online)