Legal Services and Dispute Resolution
Many initiatives have
been launched to make the dispute resolution process faster, more efficient and
inherently unbiased, including attempts to take the process online. For
instance, the online legal assistance service Rocket Lawyer allows instant online creation of legal
forms and documents, in addition to offering a secure storage facility,
e-signatures and lawyer reviews. LegalZoom is a similar online venture providing
personalized online legal services and legal documents for small businesses and
families. However, the utility of these platforms has remained confined to
tailor-made documents and services that primarily focus on contacts drafting,
issuing legal notices of disputes and filing of the necessary responses.
Another area where
disputes are common is within the gig economy marketplace and on payment
processing platforms such as Freelancer, Fiverr and PayPal. Though such portals have their own dispute resolution methods,
they operate in a centralized manner with a limited number of in-house decision-makers
operating opaquely. They are also often accused of missing the fair and
necessary assessment required with regard to the quality of work done.
Despite all such
offline and online attempts to improve the legal service and dispute resolution
processes, the core issues around dispute resolution methodology (including time
delays, high cost, centralization and the high possibility of biased decisions)
remain largely unattended.
a Blockchain-Based Dispute Resolution System Help?
With the growing
adoption of blockchain technology, distributed ledgers are emerging as
disruptors across a variety of service sectors. Many attempts are being made to
put legal and dispute resolution services on a blockchain to harness its significant
benefits. Such blockchain systems can provide decentralized and timely
decision-making, low procedural costs, transparency and high probability of
Mattereum, which offers
legal-technical interface, connecting digital assets on a blockchain with goods
and services of the real world, claims to be the first “Internet of Agreements”
(IoA) project for legally enforceable smart contracts. Agrello allows a user to easily create and manage
smart-contract-based legal agreements by engaging the automated, artificial
intelligence (AI)-powered counselors. Jury Online also uses smart contracts and additionally offers a panel of
independent, verified arbiters to create a better dispute resolution system.
JUR, supported by its native token, is another
attempt to build a dedicated consensus- and blockchain-based platform to offer
legal and dispute resolution services with an aim to improve on the traditional
ways in which contractual disputes are resolved. Beyond offering facilities for
creating smart legal agreements (SLAs), JUR offers additional services. A user
can make secure escrow deposits linked to the SLAs, which will get
automatically transferred to the beneficiary once the set criteria are met. JUR
also supports direct settlement of payments and easy withdrawal facility. It
can be used to secure payment/collateral guarantee for contracts and
transactions, thereby eliminating the counterparty risk.
primary feature for which JUR stands out is its dispute resolution mechanism.
JUR claims to resolve contractual disputes within 24 hours. Based on a game
theory and antibias concept, the platform’s dispute resolution system is
supported by a legal community of authorized network participants who use a
token-backed, consensus-based voting system to arrive at a decision.
users can stake their JUR tokens to become a juror (called an “oracle” in the
JUR system). Multiple such oracles verify the raised dispute and cast a vote on
the blockchain for a decision. If their valid and timely decision goes against
the majority vote, they lose the staked tokens, which go as a reward to the
oracles who voted in favor of the majority decision. This stake- and
voting-based dispute resolution system ensures that the oracles (jurors) act
responsibly with proper accountability and fairness while deciding on the
matter as they may lose monetarily for wrong decisions. All of the involved
entities benefit from timely judgments, zero- to low-costs linked with the procedure,
process transparency, fair and unbiased decision-making and rewards for fair
jurors. JUR is also planning to open its APIs for third-party use,
where other real-world entities like Freelancer or PayPal can outsource their
dispute resolution work, saving on costs while not compromising on the quality
of the dispute resolution process.
forecasting platforms like Augur and Gnosis also support
such voting-based decision-making and can potentially be used for dispute
resolution, JUR presents itself as a dedicated “juror” platform with devoted
focus on dispute resolution and legal services. It takes a more granular
approach, supporting in-depth assessment of cases of any magnitudes. From large
corporations to small and medium businesses to freelance individuals, anyone
can utilize the service. Barring a small “gas” charge that goes toward voting
system operations, the resolution is available at nearly zero cost.
The Bottom Line
“Justice delayed is
justice denied,” is an old saying, but despite recent technological advances,
the challenges in securing timely and low-cost resolution of big and small
disputes continue. Blockchain-based systems attempt to offer a pragmatic
solution capable of serving all kinds of entities, though their success will
depend upon their mass adoption.