23rd Apr 2020
In the past few months, Covid-19 has flipped any sense of normalcy on its head and has forcefully disrupted and altered traditional means of conducting business. This pandemic continuously challenges the status quo of every industry on a daily basis, and the legal field is no exception. With unexpected and significant changes, it is inevitable that these should bring with them an array of new questions and, in turn, disagreements. From the consequences of abrupt interruptions to supply chains and the termination of contractual arrangements, to questioning insurance coverage and disputing the applicability of force majeure clauses, this pandemic has given rise to no shortage of disputes.
At a time when the majority of Court workings have halted, albeit temporarily, one may find themselves questioning how best to pursue the resolution of their disputes, whether new or existing. In such cases, there has never been a better time to consider the route of Arbitration. Arbitration is a method of alternative dispute resolution that offers flexibility and efficiency, especially in these times of uncertainty.
At its core, arbitration functions on the basis of the parties’ freedom to choose, from the arbitrator(s) to the applicable procedural rules to the specific issues that can be subjected to this procedure. Fortunately, living in the present digital age enables parties to discuss and decide on all these aspects whilst remaining unaffected by any measures currently implemented for the restriction of physical movement and travel. Electronic signatures can be used to execute arbitration agreements. Pleadings, submissions and relevant documents can be exchanged through electronic means of communication, and arbitral hearings and the provision of evidence can be held remotely via teleconference or videoconference. Some of the most renowned arbitration centres, such as the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce and the London Court of International Arbitration, are already equipped with and provide secure digital platforms for communication and file sharing.
Even where parties have already initiated litigation prior to the spreading of the virus and its consequent restrictions, they could now contemplate entering into an agreement for the purpose of diverting their conflict to be resolved by Arbitration, rather than waiting for Courts to resume. It is worth noting that the current suspension of most Court proceedings will inevitably burden their already heavy caseload further, a fact which serves to bolster the appeal of arbitration.
Regardless of whether you have already entered into an arbitration agreement which has come into effect or are just now considering arbitration as an alternative means of dispute resolution, please do not hesitate to contact our firm for further guidance and any assistance as to your next steps.