Expanding Access to Justice through Online Dispute Resolution


At the Seminar in Private Law April 16, 2019, Colin Rule, VP of Online Dispute Resolution at Tyler Technologies, spoke about expanding access to justice through online dispute resolution.

If we were to design dispute resolution system from the scratch, Rule asked, how would we go about doing it? He argued that in the current system, where courts have a monopoly on dispute resolution, conservative approaches to technology effectively strip many individuals of the possibility to effectively resolve conflicts. The court proceedings, Rule told us, look very similar to the way they looked 100 years ago. If we were to compare the technological changes in courtrooms with, for example, changes in surgical wards, the gap is astonishing. However, Rule claimed, it does not have to be this way.

Technology, according to Rule, can help individuals along at least two dimensions: access to courts and alternative dispute resolution. Regarding the courts, Rule spoke about various developments across the world. Those range from full-fledged digitization of some judicial proceedings (exemplified by Her Majesty’s Online Courts in the United Kingdom) to more modest models domestically. Rule told the Seminar about changes in various states that make it easier for the parties to submit/access documents and communicate with one another online. In his view, this is a step in the right direction.

However, Rule continued, the potential of technology to replace the courts as actors in dispute resolution is equally significant. He argued that already today, the vast majority of disputes are solved without parties going to court, through negotiations and informal settlements. Technology can help increase individuals’ access to alternative modes of dispute resolution, like mediation or arbitration. He explained how a properly designed system can assume a position of a “fourth party” in the proceedings. Such a technological “party” could play a significant role in structuring adversarial relations in a way that minimizes negative emotions, and lead to quicker and more efficient outcomes, Rule concluded.

Each spring, the Seminar in Private Law brings speakers from academia and practice to Yale Law School to present papers addressing a common theme. The 2019 Seminar is devoted to asking how technological change restructures the fundamental concepts and categories of private law. The seminar is organized by Daniel Markovits, Guido Calabresi Professor of Private Law, and the Yale Law School Center for Private Law, which promotes teaching and research in contracts, property, and torts at Yale Law School and in the broader legal community.