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Kevin Kowalkowski from ImageSoft
Kevin Kowalkowski, ImageSoft

I might be slightly biased, but the “Recovering Lawyer’s Perspective” is my favorite episode to date on The Paperless Productivity Podcast.

Aside from my big break into the emcee world, chatting with Resolve Disputes Online Co-Founder Joe Al-Khayat taught me a great deal about the various considerations that go into building an online dispute resolution platform – and let me tell you: it’s a lot to think about.

Joe and I covered quite a bit of ground in our roughly 26-minute conversation, but there was one key segment that impacted me the most: shaping dispute resolution as an intuitive, convenient space for both the litigant and court stakeholders (i.e., mediators, negotiators, etc.). When the pandemic shut the courthouse doors and ODR surfaced as one of the best options for small claims and monetary disputes to continue on, I (like many) thought this was a fantastic opportunity for the justice space – less foot traffic in the courthouse, more Judicial time for more serious cases, and a significant reduction in default cases.

And while many online dispute resolution platforms are built from this perspective, the truth is that this one-sided blueprint doesn’t do anyone justice.

We candidly named this episode the “recovering lawyer’s perspective” because, in the episode, Joe refers to himself as a “recovering lawyer” alongside RDO’s other co-founders. But you’ll see that, truly, this is a term of endearment – if not for the RDO team’s time middle-manning between litigants and the courts, they could not have branched into this well-rounded niche of ODR. It was from their experience, which was really a prismed looking glass into the challenges of each side of the case, that Resolve Disputes Online has built its reputation for being an authentically neutral third-party platform.

Not cutting themselves (or their customers) short, Joe and his team fulfilled this pledge by taking their ODR platform into uncharted territory and developing the first AI Mediator. And if you haven’t yet been introduced to Molly, let me be the first to say: she’s talented!

Molly, the AI Mediator, is an algorithm-based software who, without human limitations, is available 24×7 – transcending geographical distances and varying time zones to accommodate asynchronous communication between case parties. Developed to manage small claims, landlord-tenant disputes, consumer complaints, etc., Molly is an ideal option for busy case participants who, in between their normal day-to-day responsibilities, want to keep their costs low, quickly resolve low-emotion disputes within hours or just a few days, and, ultimately, stay out of court.

Being able to weed through the same cookie-cutter technologies and share true, industry-shaping innovation (like Molly) with my customers is what makes my career so rewarding – platforms like this are already re-landscaping what it means to “go to mediation” and removing the typical, court-related complexities that deter people from pursuing restitution and the justice they deserve. Mold-breaking technologies, like RDO’s online dispute resolution platform, are the bricks we need to lay if we’re serious about all our conversations to increase access to justice.

No one illustrates this better than The National Center for State Court’s (NCSC) CIO Paul Embley and Consultant Diana Graski, who joined us for not just one, but two follow-up episodes speaking to ODR “yesterday, today and tomorrow.” If you’re interested in learning more about equipping your practice with online dispute resolution by RDO, or hearing use case stories of ODR’s increasing significance in the justice space, I would recommend listening to our entire ODR podcast series that starts with the “recovering lawyer’s perspective,” and ends with the bonus episode that just aired yesterday: “Diagnosing the Heart Problems of Justice.

I’m not sold on quitting my day job to become a full-time podcast emcee just yet but, if I do, it will be for conversations like these, or perhaps finding the best ways to incorporate a Reese’s Pieces into a dessert dish. If you’d like to chat with me about peanut butter and chocolate desserts, or possibly bringing ODR into your court, I’m all ears… and taste buds.

Take care,

Kevin


Worth a Look: A Breakdown of Fiscal Recovery Funds at State and Local Levels

Informed by the House of Representatives and Congressional Research Service, The National Association of Counties (NACo) has publicized a breakdown of the projected recovery funds that will be allocated to each state as well as their individual counties.

These funds, a part of the recently signed American Rescue Plan Act, can be viewed by County-level estimates and state summaries here.


Online Dispute Resolution: Facilitation So Good, its Cases Can Be Criminal!

They call it the “pajama court.”

Online Dispute Resolution, casually referred to as ODR, has been resolving eBay-gone-wrong scenarios for quite some time.The original concept was simple: I buy a blue, ceramic owl from Joe Smith on eBay and, to my surprise, receive a polka-dotted elephant in the mail. Disappointed, yes, but I find myself kind of liking this polka-dotted elephant – maybe I don’t need a blue owl after all. I’d like to be compensated for not receiving what I originally ordered, but am hoping Joe and I can work out a deal so his time and talents on this elephant don’t go to waste. We leverage eBay’s online dispute resolution platform and come to a good-faith agreement on this transaction: Joe refunds half of my money, and I agree to keep good ol’ polka dots instead of the originally-requested blue owl.

Read the Blog Post


ODR Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (Part Two): Shaping Practice and Participants for More Than 30 Years

Did you know that 57 percent of the world’s population (that’s 4 billion people!) live outside the shelter of law? It seems like a steep statistic, until you factor in the costs of missing work for court dates, transportation, childcare and the emotional toll of entering a potentially confusing and hostile environment.

This conversation with Attorney and Founding President of the Collaborative Lawyers of Saskatchewan Brad Hunter is taken directly from our recent, widely popular webinar, “Online Dispute Resolution: Making Justice Effortless and Accessible.” With a specific focus on how ODR has shaped his 30+ legal career, especially in family law, Brad walks us through the key benefits afforded to both participants of the justice system and every type of legal practice. Speaking from decades ago through to today, even pre-pandemic, Brad shares his best practices for adopting online dispute resolution into your service.

Listen to the Podcast


Listening to Public Responses: Chatbots and ODR

When we think about court tech, we so often jump to bridging accessibility between justice and the people. While this is true, we tend to forget one other critically important element: diluting the viscous court process into more fluid interactions. Not only is technology helping citizens make initial court connections, but also shortening the timeline from initiation to case closed.

In addition to frequently overlooking this element, we also easily over-complicate it.

In an effort to untangle these seemingly difficult challenges, NCSC’s CIO Paul Embley interviewed court IT experts from two different states on their simple, yet effective, approaches to fluidity during the 2020 eCourts Conference.

Use Cases from East to the Mid-West:

New Jersey: In the New Jersey court system, a chatbot has provided the court with more insight into the public’s most frequently asked questions while, after some trial and error, also achieving an 80-90 percent success rate from the citizens who engaged with it. Not only did this save constituents from the time and hassle of getting in touch with court personnel, but the court staff received significant time back into their day from not having to repeatedly answer the same questions.

Iowa: Courts in Story County, IA, are also now pursuing interest in a chatbot alongside their online dispute resolution (ODR) efforts to improve the state’s 90 percent default rate on landlord-tenant cases. After talking with property owners, Christy Schreiner says there’s a great deal of interest and several community resources are joining the initiative to engage landlords and tenants through ODR, including funding from the State Justice Institute (SJI).

Read more on these “trending topics,” including the original eCourts sessions, here.


What Can We Do For You?

ImageSoft guides courts through the various challenges of becoming a paperless court. Our industry-leading solutions offer a component model methodology to automated workflows, improved speed and efficiency, reduced costs and proper compliance. 

ImageSoft is ready to help your court system reap the benefits from digital transformation.