The Global Pound Conference (GPC) Series held its final event on the 6th of July in London’s Guildhall. Following 29 events across the world, the project has collected a wealth of dispute resolution data which will be analysed over the coming months. The London GPC saw all parts of the dispute resolution community come together to discuss and vote on a number of core questions, which encompassed significant trends and shifts in dispute resolution.
Barristers, solicitors, judges, independent mediators, academics, in-house lawyers, institutional representatives and other disputes professionals were all in the same room taking part in this global conversation. In many ways it is remarkable that there is still so little data available in the area, especially with increasing suspicion of, and calls for transparency in, international arbitration. The GPC aspires to change that, as well as contributing to dialogue on access to justice and the future of dispute resolution; most importantly it gets all protagonists in a room and encourages the exchange of ideas and experiences.
Data gathered on dispute resolution issues
The GPC events have made a particular feature of technology. Attendees vote on a number of core questions on dispute resolution through a specially designed app. When you find 150 delegates on their phones, tablets and laptops it is by no means a bad sign! Round tables allow all participants to discuss their views in small groups and provide comments for each session, which are then discussed by a panel of experts along with the voting results.
The data from each local event is then added to the global results, where it can be compared by country, region or on an international global level. Although the Global Pound events are described as conferences, perhaps a more fitting description is that of a workshop or an interactive brainstorming session which has the added value of collecting crucial indicators to help to analyse trends and identify gaps on a global scale.
London ready to embrace change and remain relevant
The London event began with two inspiring speeches. Forward thinking judge Lord Justice Briggs spoke on the subject of technology in the legal sector, followed by moving words from Dr Andrew Parmley, Lord Mayor of London (Mayor of the City of London), on the unique position of London as an centre for cultural diversity both historically and beyond Brexit.
The mood was reassuringly positive, despite the current challenges faced by the UK's legal community as a whole both on a domestic and international level. It was very clear at the GPC event that London is ready to embrace change but is very much seeking to remain relevant and competitive in the international legal market. A message that does not come without significance, in light of the growing disputes hubs in Asia attracting parties away from the more traditional centres and the Brexit negotiations currently underway.
The panels identified and discussed key trends in the data, comparing the results of the day to those of the existing global data and identifying differences. Like other GPC conferences around the world, the data collected in London in July showed a significant gap in perceptions between parties and lawyers in regards to the role played by lawyers in choosing different processes.This global trend has been key in highlighting the different perspectives within the legal community and the importance of communication between all stakeholders.
Access to justice was also an important topic of discussion. The recent Grenfell Tower disaster provided a bleak example, the circumstances of the blaze which swept through a residential housing block in West London, killing dozens of people, have raised some harrowing questions of access to justice both before and after the tragedy.
Focus on available dispute resolution tools
However, there was also a strong focus on available tools to promote better access to justice on the domestic and international level. The audience identified technology, namely online dispute resolution, as well as offline ADR mechanisms and education as key solutions. One panelist also noted a generational shift and greater awareness of ADR tools among students and young practitioners as a driver for change.
The final panel wrapped up the GPC Series experience over the last 18 months, discussing innovations in dispute resolution and drivers for change. The panel also recounted important lessons learnt in the course of this groundbreaking project and highlighted how the GPC data is already providing vital information on the type of changes are being sought rather than relying on assumptions.
Bringing the event to a close, the question on everyone's lips was - “what next?”. Primarily, the vast data that has been accumulated must be analysed within the next few months. In addition to the data, the heated discussions and legacy of bringing together stakeholders from all over the world across professions and industries – will remain, both online and offline through articles and social media. This is not the end but rather the beginning of the global conversation.