Responding to online complaints lands a lawyer an 18 month suspension

 James C. Underhill Jr., an attorney in Colorado, has found himself in hot water after a fee dispute with clients went wrong.
A married couple that retained the lawyer’s services claimed that the fee collection that Mr. Underhill enforced was not what they had all verbally agreed to. When Mr. Underhill insisted on this new structure of payment, the couple left the lawyer and posted negative reviews for him on a review site.

Instead of taking it in stride, or countering the negative reviews with positive ones, Mr. Underhill struck back. As their lawyer, Mr. Underhill was privy to private conversations and information over the course of representing the couple. He used this information to publicly shame the couple in postings on the internet. He then sued the couple for defamation. When he lost his first suit, he waged a second one claiming that the couple had made other defamatory complaints about him on the internet.

This case(the full decision is posted at the end of the article here) has brought up how the law is affected by technology in a variety of ways. If a client had made a complaint 30 years ago, Mr. Underhill would have been able to expose attorney client information at the state bar. This has been allowed because attorneys must be able to protect their reputation. 30 years ago, this couple’s only way to lodge a complaint would have been by going to the state bar. Now, the result for Mr. Underhill is an 18 month suspension.

In these times, the internet offers a much quicker and more effective way of getting a complaint noticed. The law, unfortunately, has just not caught up with technology yet. In the meantime, lawyers will have to walk a fine line. They must recognize that although they will be judged in a more traditional setting, they have to operate in a world optimized for communication that the law is not able to regulate with the same veracity.

Article via AboveTheLaw, 8 September 2015

Photo: Night Work via Thomas Heylan[Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


ODR 2014 Forum

An International Conference on Online Dispute ResolutionODR2014 will bring together the technology and dispute resolution communities, legal practitioners, mediators and other ADR professionals, academic researchers, financial institutions, ecommerce companies and social media companies, members of judiciaries worldwide, and social justice advocates using innovative technologies to leverage change. ODR2014 is the thirteenth ODR Forum and the first to be held in the United States. The ODR Forum has previously been held in:

Geneva (2002 and 2003); Melbourne (2004); Cairo (2006); Liverpool (2007); Hong Kong (2007); Victoria (2008); Haifa (Israel) (2009); Buenos Aires (2010); Chennai (India) (2011); Prague (2012); Montreal (2013)

For more information, visit odr2014.org.


Shaping the Rule of Law, Trust And Resolution in The Online Justice System

By Jeffrey M. Aresty

President, Founder, Internet Bar Organization

The changes resulting from the rise of the Internet are taking hold, and the legal community has yet to catch up to the way the world is now interacting. As our modes of business and daily interactions take place increasingly over the Web, the world is beginning to define the ways in which those exchanges will be characterized. This presents a new range of challenges for us in the legal field and as a global community, but it also presents an opportunity. Bringing the rule of law online will be an essential part of determining how we shape the future of global normative behavior and present an opportunity to redefine what we believe to be the right way to act, based not only on the multiplicity of laws as they stand, but rather based on a new organic democracy that will define itself in an harmonized way. The ability to negotiate, reach consensus, and resolve disputes online will be an essential set of skills for all who participate. But why does this new system of norms need to be defined in an haphazard fashion as countries everywhere come up with their own sets of laws to govern online behavior, leading to conflict and confusion?

Individuals from the online dispute resolution community have met regularly to examine the newest technologies and issues that are affecting justice in online interactions, and come this year to the United States to discuss topics like the role of privacy, identity and trust on the internet, and how they relate to justice.

This is where the role of trusted online communities comes into play. And one of the biggest factors in trust in online interactions is verification of and trust in identity. Just as a democracy depends upon the right of each citizen to their vote, access to justice for each individual in a globally based justice system depends upon being able to verify who is accessing the system, and making sure that the system is trustworthy in all respects, from the users to the design itself. Many individuals have spoken on the need to develop an “identity” layer of the internet that verifies user identity on top of the interactive web as a step toward solidifying trust in exchange and communication online. I believe this is the case, and that it will go hand in hand with the creation of what I call a “justice” layer — a new definition of normative behavior for how we relate to one another, including trust in identity. This will be supported not only by the legal complex, but also by global consensus and collective action toward what we define as justice. The resolution of disputes online will become a knowledge set that the legal community and others will need to understand.

But for every answer, there appear to be many more questions, particularly when dealing with the cultural technicolor fabric of our planet. For example, how do we balance the necessity of democracy through digital identification with, as the European Commission has defined, the right to be forgotten? How much control can and should we have over the information compiled online about our person? How much control should our government have?

Innovation has been helping to address some of these questions. Start-ups likeQredo and Wickr are taking steps to develop technology that will allow users access to secure platforms and close to complete control over their online identity and information. Checks and balances, peer review and transparency will also play a part in any viable system.

The creation of a technology-enabled system of effective democracy will require all segments of society to participate. Industry has the opportunity to play a leading role in helping shape a “justice layer” of internet communication on top of the internet communication protocol it helped to build over 20 years ago. It will also require the participation of academia, a non-fearing legal system, and the global community as a whole to create a truly “we the people” system of online governance.

Published originally by the Huffington Post.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles.


Tech for Justice Hackathon a Great Success!

Hosted by IBO (parent of The Center), Modria, and Code for America, and in conjunction with the ODR2014 Conference,  the first ever dispute resolution hackathon was held the weekend of June 21-22nd tackling problems within 4 thematic areas, and producing prototypes that will be curated and presented to audiences at ODR2014’s UC Hastings event, where winners will be announced. The hackathon took place at Code For America‘s San Francisco Office.

The idea of a legal ‘hackathon,’ is a new one. To date, only a handful of legal hackathons have taken place in the United States, and none have specifically addressed dispute resolution.

The themes that were hacked include:

  • collaborative economy
  • cyberbullying & harassment
  • healthcare dispute management
  • environment
  • landlord & tenancy

Teams produced  5-15 minute presentations on the various themes and proposed a tech solution, how it addresses the issue, and its potential for scaleability.

Platforms included iOS; Mobile Web; Web; Mac Desktop; Windows Desktop
The Judges were:
Steve Baloff Advanced Technology Ventures (and Founder of Travelocity)
Tomio Geron Head of Content and Research, Exitround
Jason Mendelson Foundry Ventures
David Beyer Amplify Partners
Jeffrey Allen Graves & Allen
Ben Parr Co-Founder & Managing Partner of DominateFund; Former Co-Editor of Mashable
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British Columbia Introduces ODR for Consumer Disputes

The Consumer Protections bureau for British Columbia has begun offering a pilot version of their Online Dispute Resolution platform, with the goal of improving the efficiency and lowering costs of settling disputes.  ODR is a way of conducting arbitration and mediation through the web, with all of the resources kept in a digital format, allowing for simple and asynchronous access, and efficient negotiation from anywhere.

The program is currently free, can be accessed at any time, and allows Consumer Protections BC to step in as a neutral third-party in specific situations.  Depending on the success of this program, plans are in the works to extend ODR to the Civil Resolution Tribunal to handle small claims cheaper and faster than if they were to go to court.  Success of the program in BC would provide a nice proving ground for the platform, to which other jurisdictions could look when developing their own ODR methods.