Immediation is an Australian online dispute platform that aims to help you save time and money by taking disputes out of the courtroom and into a virtual environment. Hive Life sat down with founder Laura Keily to find out about a future where disputes are conducted out of court.
On average, small business owners in Australia spend AUD 130,000 annually resolving disputes, a significant cost for any SME. That’s why, two years ago, Laura Keily decided to set up the world’s most comprehensive, web-based dispute resolution platform, Immediation, shaking up the legal scene by providing a quicker, cheaper and more amicable alternative to court. “Litigation can be very acrimonious. Disputes are a part of business, but they don’t need to be warfare. We approach them as a commercial negotiation, where the primary purpose is discussion, not aggression,” she explains. “Our goal is to help clients resolve disputes more quickly, and more effectively, and we use technology to facilitate that process.”
The current Australian court system, based on its British counterpart, comprises a complex web of federal courts, state courts and tribunals. Laura, who has a background as a barrister and acquisitions lawyer, has witnessed many business relationships break down due to the hostile, time-consuming nature of litigation. “At the moment, litigation is all done in the physical world. A lot of the engagement is focused on going through court steps. There is a big process called ‘Discovery,’ where the court orders you to produce everything that’s ever been written about the claim, so time and money is just wasted. Very little of the information gathered in these processes makes a significant difference. If we strip that back and focus on making commercial arrangements instead, we can bring parties to the settlement table more effectively,” she says. “The whole point of the platform is that it’s taking the legal-speak out of it and saying, ‘We don’t have perfect information, but we can resolve a dispute without it.’ That’s where a lot of the cost reduction comes from.”
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The web-based platform has 90 panel experts with notable figures from the legal profession such as five former judges, covering diverse areas of law. Developed in conjunction with their pilot clients Uber, Coca-Cola Amatil and L’Oréal to name a few, what’s unique about them is their pricing scheme based on value, rather than the traditional way of charging by the hour. “We’re trying to break the traditional model of the time-based pricing of lawyers and base it on the value you’re fighting for. It’s a fixed fee, always reasonable, and proportionate to the claim,” explains Laura. To start the process, all the claimant has to do is file a claim on the platform, answer some questions and upload evidence. “It’s very fact-based, non-aggressive and not about distributing blame. From there, if we think the evidence is being presented in a suitable way, we then invite the respondent onto the platform via email. The other party can respond with their own evidence and perhaps even file a counterclaim. We then decide on an expert, and, if both parties agree, a calendar date is set within 30 days for the mediation.”
On the day of the mediation, both affected parties and their mediator enter a virtual courtroom as well as any experts, witnesses or lawyers they would like to invite via email. “The mediation is conducted as it normally would in the physical world. We talk to both parties and help them understand each other’s positions,” furthers Laura. “In the meantime, the mediator also has the power to put parties in private rooms because they might need them to have a chat with their lawyers. And if, after a few hours, they’ve reached an agreement, our platform takes all the heavy lifting out of documenting that. They can create an enforceable agreement with a click of a button and sign it on the spot!”
Next up, Laura is looking to expand her reach beyond Australia. “I want to move into London. It’s a bit ambitious in a very risk-averse legal market, but there’s been interest. I think Immediation also has particularly good applications in the family law market as well. Being in an online environment is very beneficial for those who are in fear of the other party, or don’t want to disclose their location. Immediation can create that sense of separation for them.” And, does anyone stand to lose from the migration of legal services to an online platform such as hers – such as the lawyers themselves? “There’s a hugely underserviced part of the market for people with smaller claim amounts that can now take action. In that respect, it might actually generate more work. And, in the long term, it’s unsustainable if the market remains as it is and if lawyers continue to charge what they charge. I don’t think the clients can afford it. Our platform will free up the court system so it can function more effectively and deal with the things it needs to. Ultimately, LegalTech will make an impact and people in the legal profession need to adapt.”