NLADA and Online Dispute Resolution

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What is NLADA’s role in Online Dispute Resolution (ODR)?

You can read NLADA’s report on ODR, “Ensuring Equity in Efficiency: The Civil Legal Aid Community's Views of Online Dispute Resolution,” here. It is the result of over a year of research as part of our work with the Pew Charitable Trusts.

In October 2019, NLADA started working with the Pew Charitable Trusts as part of their Civil Legal System Modernization Project. As courts increase their use of technology, NLADA is ensuring that the civil legal aid community will have a seat at the table. We’re working to make sure that innovations increase equity and justice, not just efficiency.

NLADA conducted focus groups across the U.S. with civil legal aid lawyers, technologists, civil legal aid clients and community members, and other stakeholders. Informed by this research, we produced the above mentioned report, which outlines the key themes from those focus groups as well as a set of guiding principles.

The purpose of our project is to make sure that courts and developers of ODR systems hear the interests and expertise of the civil legal aid community. We’re hoping our work will help ODR systems be sensitive to and account for the needs of low-income individuals and other vulnerable populations.

In addition to our research, this page provides general information about Online Dispute Resolution (ODR), what it is, and where and how it is being implemented.

What is ODR?

Our court systems often have more cases than they can handle. In most places, even the smallest issues, such as traffic tickets, require people to appear in-person. As we become more connected, ODR can simplify court processes, increasing efficiency and reducing stress to the courts. ODR has the power to create a justice system that is more user-friendly, inclusive, and responsive.

But, ODR presents a number of challenges and potential risks – especially for those who can’t afford a lawyer. Replacing traditional legal processes and protections with an online system could worsen power imbalances. And those who use these technologies may reveal damaging information that negatively affects outcomes not just in that case, but in future cases as well.

ODR brings the court and mediation process online. It is more of a “how” than a “what.” It offers online resources that can handle a case from start to finish. Someone who uses ODR might never have to go into a courthouse. They could use ODR at any time. When they do use ODR, they could access legal information, enter negotiations, speak with trained mediators, and submit agreements.

Courts are thinking about and using ODR in landlord-tenant cases, debt collection, traffic violations, and small claims. See if your state and jurisdiction has any ODR projects here.

Learn more about ODR below:

How does ODR affect you?

More and more courts are starting ODR projects. Soon, people will be able to talk to their landlord, spouse, alleged creditor, and others online. While some people will like resolving their legal issues online, some won’t.

If ODR isn’t developed with a focus on fairness and equality, it could hurt low-income and vulnerable communities.