Legal Business Blogs

Vision of the future? Former eBay dispute resolution team heads to Europe

An online dispute resolution (ODR) technology business spun out of eBay is setting up in the UK after receiving a $5m investment from venture capitalists.

Silicon Valley-based Modria, which provides technical solutions for the resolution of around 60 million disputes a year, will be launching its European arm following investment led by early-stage IT venture capital firm Foundry Group.

Former head of the dispute resolution team at eBay and PayPal, co-founder of Modria and now COO and chairman of the board Colin Rule said: ‘Companies like eBay have long known the importance of converting disputes into fair and swift outcomes as a means of growing their business. Now, businesses in other sectors, from insurance companies to healthcare and government agencies, are climbing on board.’

Modria’s European operation will be headed by Liverpool and the Wirral-based solicitor Graham Ross, a long time pioneer of ODR in the UK, who founded Lawtel and wrote QUILL, the first combined accounting and time recording package for solicitors.

‘We’re very focused on how technology can drive a much better form of justice where these issues can be resolved in a fair and satisfactory way than has been in the past,’ says Ross. ‘Large proportions of people want justice for whatever issues they have because they’ve met barriers such as the cost of litigation, the knowledge needed for it, and if they can’t afford advisors.

‘We agree with the way people like [Professor] Richard Susskind are looking at this – that technology is not there to damage or attack the traditional ways of doing things of the profession, it’s quite the reverse, it’s going to be a help to the professions to expand on their role within justice but moving the barriers to justice.’

He adds: ‘Those lawyers who reject technology to protect what they see as their space will ultimately find it tougher. Those that embrace it will ultimately gain from adopting new techniques. In all these things, there is the role of the professional advisor and representative lawyer. We’re ensuring the 95% of disputes that may not actually always need high-level, high-cost professional representation can get through at an accessible level.’

It follows Supreme Court president Lord Neuberger’s calls to the Ministry of Justice in June to make greater use ODR systems in the courts as part of a wider speech on judges, policy and cutting costs for the Institute of Government.

This was previously highlighted by the Lord Chief Justice’s IT adviser, Professor Richard Susskind, who wrote in his book Tomorrow’s Lawyers that ODR ‘will become the dominant way to resolve all but the most complex and highest value disputes.’

The company’s first court project in Europe commences this month in two courts in the Netherlands in which the Modria’s technology will be used along with a travelling judge to resolve neighbour disputes in a scheme run in partnership with the Hague Institute for the Internationalisation of Law.

Last month the European Parliament put in place the EU regulation on ODR and directive on alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which will, when in force, actively encourage consumer use of ODR by requiring websites selling to consumers to carry an ODR link.

Ahead of these developments, which will also require Ombudsmen and other consumer ADR services to enable the use of their ADR services through ODR, Modria has launched an innovative ODR service in partnership with the consumer protection authority in British Columbia, Canada.

The UK government has accepted Modria as an approved cloud service supplier to national and local government and other publicly funded bodies through the Cabinet Office’s GCloud system.