Category Archives: Digital Technology and ODR

Cybersettle makes the case for resolving disputes online

Future ahead at CybersettleRichard Susskind, digital technology expert and legal visionary, once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

That’s exactly what Charles Brofman did. He invented the future.

Brofman, a former trial lawyer, is the co-founder of Cybersettle, the world’s leading online claim settlement company. Cybersettle makes use of what is known as online dispute resolution (ODR), a kind of dispute resolution process that utilizes digital technology to settle claims quickly and economically.

In 1996, Brofman had the foresight and rare common sense to create Cybersettle. What sparked this vision? A situation familiar to any trial attorney or mediator who has wrestled with a case that just won’t settle:

Cybersettle grew out of a 1995 encounter between seasoned trial attorneys Charles Brofman and James Burchetta who were representing opposing sides in attempting to settle an insurance claim. Jim, who in this case was representing the plaintiff, had demanded tens of thousands of dollars more than the amount Charlie, the defense counsel, was willing to offer. Both parties were well aware of what amount would eventually settle this case, but neither wanted to compromise his bargaining position – so on to court they went.

In the courthouse, they agreed to secretly write down their bottom line numbers and hand them to a court clerk, who was instructed to give them a “thumbs-up” if they were within a few thousand dollars of each other. If the case didn’t settle, the clerk would destroy the papers and never reveal the figures. He flashed a “thumbs-up.” The amounts were within $1,000 of each other. They split the difference and settled the case within minutes.

Cybersettle was thus born of the desire to help lawyers and others accomplish what sometimes can feel like the impossible: get cases to settle fast and fairly.

So, how does Cybersettle work?

Cybersettle utilizes a patented automated, online, double-blind bid dispute resolution system which allows disputants to resolve claims quickly and confidentially. Optional telephone facilitation is also available when necessary to smooth out communication difficulties and keep settlement negotiations on track, or when parties are close and can benefit from the help of a skilled neutral.

The online service generates high-speed settlements by matching offers and demands. Once the process gets underway, disputants have three opportunities or rounds to settle a claim. One demand or offer is entered for each round; Cybersettle instantly compares the demands to the opposition’s corresponding offer. When the offer is greater than or equal to the opposition’s demand, the claim instantly settles.

Who uses Cybersettle? And why?

Cybersettle has many satisfied customers, as its case studies testify, and has assisted in almost 200,000 transactions, representing $1,457,299,751 in settlements to date, an impressive figure.

Among those who use Cybersettle are attorneys and other legal professionals; insurance carriers and claims professionals; third-party administrators and self-insureds; and government, including municipalities.

But why would they use Cybersettle?

New York City has 11.6 million reasons why. That’s the number of dollars the City saved during its first year using Cybersettle. Faced with a backlog of 40,000 cases, the City needed to take drastic steps. The first city to integrate Cybersettle into its settlement process, New York was able to settle 66% of its cases within 30 days, reduce its backlog significantly, and realize significant cost savings.

For its clients, Cybersettle is virtually a no-risk proposition. The double-blind bidding means that parties can submit their walk-away numbers without compromising their position. This means that there are none of the worries associated with making first offers or other pitfalls of face-to-face negotiation. Most importantly, parties don’t pay unless they settle. I’ll say that again. Parties don’t pay unless they settle. What’s not to love about a system like that?

Speed and 24/7 access — much like an ATM or your favorite convenience store — are other qualities that make Cybersettle so appealing. Trained phone facilitators are also available during normal business hours if parties need the extra nudge to cross the finish line.

Curious to find out how it works? You can take Cybersettle for a test drive.

Final thoughts

Incidentally, Brofman’s talent for predicting the future is not limited to digital technology. Not only did he see the future in ODR, but on a phone call with him back in January, he correctly predicted that the New England Patriots would play the New York Giants in the Super Bowl and that the Giants would win. This is one guy who’s skilled at looking ahead.

Interested in finding out more about Cybersettle? Visit Cybersettle’s web site. And if you’d like to learn more about the brave new world of technology-mediated dispute resolution, read “Settling It On the Web“, an article from the ABA Journal which provides an excellent introduction to ODR.

Head of U.S. Office of ADR Services describes benefits of online dispute resolution

ODRIn an interview with Government Computer News, Daniel Rainey, Director of the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution Services for the U.S. National Mediation Board, makes the case for online dispute resolution (ODR).

Rainey, an internationally recognized authority on ODR, explains how collaborative technology can be used to resolve disputes successfully while saving time and money, as well as to promote online brainstorming and negotiation, streamline the intake process, and facilitate the drafting of agreements once resolution has been reached.

Rainey also discusses the work and upcoming projects of the Interagency Alternative Dispute Resolution Working Group, created to coordinate, promote, and facilitate the effective use of ADR throughout the federal government.

Daniel Rainey | Online system takes a quick route to resolving disputes” is available at the Government Computer News site.

Get fantasy dispute resolution at

SportsJudge.comYou read that headline right.

No, we’re not talking about dispute resolution professionals mediating naked.

It’s actually dispute resolution for fantasy sports disputes. From the site:

In today’s high paced, intensely competitive world, the constant strive for professionalism in fantasy sports is hardly uncommon. Despite this, no one is perfect, and problems do occur. With that in mind, SportsJudge prides itself on providing the most avid and intense fantasy gamers with a dispute resolution method to make sure each and every problem eventually ends with a proper solution.

There’s even a SportsJudge blog.

Hat tip to for the link.

(Don't) rage against the machine: two articles demystify online dispute resolution

Demystifying ODRFor some mediators, whose work depends upon face-to-face conversations, the world of online dispute resolution (ODR) can seem coldly impersonal.

I have heard some argue that our work in fact requires the heat that flesh and blood alone can generate — the warmth of compassion, anger’s fire. And that we inhabit the real world, grapple with real-world disputes which demand solutions that only the real world can hold. Others, not mediators only, have argued that technology has depleted our social capital, fraying the connections between us.

If you’re not sure how ODR fits into your understanding of mediation or the resolution of disputes, then consider these two articles which make the case in different ways for ODR–not as a panacea, but as a legitimate and powerful avenue for justice or problem solving:

A new face for small claims“, an op-ed piece in the Boston Globe by Ethan Katsh and Jeffrey Aresty, which envisions a world in which time and location constitute no barrier to those who seek access to justice in small claims courts, and

Settling It On the Web“, an article from the ABA Journal, which provides one of the best and most thorough explanations of ODR–with an honest acknowledgment of its limitations–that I have yet read.

10th Annual ODR Cyberweek held October 15-19, 2007

10th annual Cyberweek National Center for Technology and Dispute Resolution together with is hosting the 10th Annual ODR Cyberweek, an all-online conference exploring the application of technology to dispute resolution and beyond.
Registration is free for the synchronous and asynchronous events which anyone with a computer and an internet connection can participate in. The program is still under development but further details will be available soon.

Technophobes, have no fear: Cyberweek events are attended by friendly, knowledgeable people from all over the world who are always glad to answer questions. (Good rule of thumb: the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.)

If you’re at all curious to explore the crossroads of digital technology and human interaction, and want to discover innovative ways to resolve disputes and build better access to justice, then by all means join in.

Best of all, you can catch a glimpse of familiar faces in the crowd: watch out for Vickie Pynchon, Gini Nelson, Geoff Sharp, Colin Rule, Robert Ambrogi, and me, just to name a few.

Virtual worlds can serve as convenient locations for real-world meetings

Virtual worlds facilitate social and business networkingRecently I reported that a pair of peer mediation educators were using Second Life, a multiplayer online game and virtual world which allows for player interaction, as a way to create a supportive, safe learning environment for high school students mastering mediation skills to role play together.

Here’s another example of the power of virtual worlds to transform social interactions: in “Get a Second Life Now“, communication expert Neville Hobson describes attending a meeting on avatar-based marketing organized by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

What was remarkable about this meeting is that it was convened not in a real-world conference center but instead took place in a virtual meeting space in Second Life.

Read Hobson’s post for this remarkable description of a meeting mediated entirely through digital technology.

The implications of this are exciting–imagine attending a conference where colleagues gather from around the globe, all without the cost and inconvenience of air travel, car rentals, and hotels (and just think, you’ll never have to worry about losing your luggage).

New blog at the crossroads of information communications technology and peacebuilding is launched

Photo by Katia Grimmer-LaversanneVia my friend Colin Rule comes news of a new conflict resolution blog published by Sanjana Hattotuwa, ICT for Peacebuilding, created as a medium for exploring “the use of Information Communications Technology (ICT) and its possible uses in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.”

Sanjana’s work breaks revolutionary new ground. As he puts it,

ICT is often associated with e-commerce or e-govenrment. A couple of years ago, when I first proposed possible linkages between ICT and peacebuilding, there weren’t many who took me seriously.

That’s changed with time.

ICT4Peace, though as yet embryonic, is soon gaining currency as an important field that’s distinct from other related domains of ICT, such as governance.

I helped setup InfoShare to pursue some of the possibilities of using ICT for peace in Sri Lanka in 2003. The on-the-ground experience of using technology in support of an on-going peace process is one that was without historical precedence or parallel.

Using this experience, I conducted my research in Australia on Computer Supported Collaborative Work (CSCW), ICT and Peacebuilding. Throught my research, I explored ideas to bring together these seemingly diverse fields of theory and practice into a new spheres of collaboration.

At around this time, I was also introdoced [sic] to Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) – another interesting use of technology to resolve commercial disputes. My growing interest in ODR led me to push the boundaries of its theory and application – introducing it to the complex domains of ethno-political conflict and strategically envisioning future scenarios for ODR…

This blog is an attempt to cover issues on a regular basis that are of interest to me and a visionary and practitioner of ICT4Peace.

To view more of Sanjana’s research, visit his website.

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Virtual visitation helps divorced parents keep connected to their children

Virtual Visitation helps parents and kids stay in touch after divorceFor divorced or separating parents, finding ways to come up with a workable visitation plan is tough enough when they live in close geographic proximity to each other. But it can be heartbreakingly frustrating for parents and children alike when many miles or even time zones lie between.

Mediators and attorneys who work with families and couples struggling with divorce may wish to explore Virtual Visitation, which offers innovative ways to stay connected through the use of digital technology.

For a primer on Virtual Visitation, stop by, where you can watch a video to see two examples of Virtual Visitation in action, find information and updates on Virtual Visitation legislation, or learn how to get started with virtual visiting. You can even find a link to Virtual Families and Families, a blog which explores the wide range of applications for virtual visits.

As cautions, Virtual Visitation should be used to supplement, not substitute for, face-to-face, quality time with loved ones. But it can be a great way to remain involved in the daily routines of children and other family members, regardless of time and distance.

In addition, here’s a link to “6 Ways to Make ‘Virtual Visitation’ Work“, which includes tips on creating a web page for your child as a means of sharing ideas and family news.

(Many thanks to Bob Ambrogi’s Law Sites for the link and the inspiration.)


Cyberweek 2005From April 4 through 8, 2005, the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution (CITDR) will be holding Cyberweek 2005, its seventh annual online conference.

According to the announcement released by Ethan Katsh, Director of CITDR, the events and programs planned for Cyberweek include:

  • Release of the new ODR library and database
  • Discussions with leading practitioners and theorists about the present and future of ODR
  • Report on the UN Forum on ODR 2004
  • The 2005 International Competition on Online Dispute Resolution (presently ongoing)
  • Seminar on the challenges in planning and implementing ODR efforts – examples from Sri Lanka, the Phillipines and Great Britain
  • Panel discussion on teaching ODR
  • Seminar on public sector ODR – the University of Massachusetts/National Mediation Board/National Science Foundation project
  • Demonstration of teaching and collaborating in groups with Moodle
  • Simulated dispute resolution processes
  • Demonstrations involving,, and others

Registration is free, and online dispute resolution practitioners, as well as anyone interested in learning more about the online dispute resolution field, are welcome to attend.