Canadian Lawyer InHouse

June/July 2020

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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18 TOP 10 ARBITRATION CHAMBERS AS THE judicial system faces long-term uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are turning to arbitration as a faster, more efficient route than tradi- tional courts for resolving disputes. Many firms among Canadian Lawyer's Top 10 Arbitration Chambers continue to see a demand for their services, despite the economic downturn. "There is a definite opportunity for the expanded use of arbitration during this difficult time," says Barry Penner, managing director at British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre — one of the top 10 arbitration chambers. "Courts across Canada have severely curtailed operations, yet at least some business is still proceeding, and that means there are occasionally disagree- ments about how to interpret contracts, so resolution is required." BCICA, which will soon be rebranded as the Vancouver International Arbitration Centre, notified the legal profes- sion that business will continue during the pandemic, so cases continue to roll in. The arbitration chamber recently established a new division that specializes in internet domain name disputes. In addition to speed, arbitration also offers the advantage of privacy because court proceedings are often open for the public and journalists to witness. "Many businesspeople and lawyers don't want their internal matters aired for public consumption, and arbitration brings a privacy component," says Penner. Even when social distancing measures are relaxed, arbitration may still be a more favourable option for the foreseeable future, according to Joel Richler, arbitrator and mediator at Arbitration Place and Bay Street Chambers, which are both among the top 10. "When courts do re-open, they will be very congested, so I think that will inevitably result in lawyers recommending clients try to get their cases resolved more efficiently," says Richler. He says the standard commercial case wait list will likely increase to five or six years from three years as courts scramble to clear the post-pandemic backlog. Virtual hearings are becoming increasingly popular as they allow parties from different geographical areas to meet while adhering to social distancing requirements. Like many firms, Arbitration Place has been exploring virtual proceedings, and several online cases are planned for the summer months. Working with technology has presented challenges, including difficulties sharing spreadsheets, internet disruptions due to the pressure on the bandwidth and ensuring that that all partici- pants have access to broadband and adequate Offering efficiency at uncertain times: Top 10 Arbitration Chambers In-house counsel pursue arbitration to avoid significant delays in court proceedings "The major thing people are looking to do is figure out ways to make the process streamlined, less expensive, faster and more expedited." Allan Stitt, ADR Chambers

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