What is the Difference Between Online Dispute Resolution and Virtual Courts?

Over time, traditional court processes became inherent with problems that directly affect people’s access to justice. Some of these problems include accessibility and the complexity of court procedures and of course, long litigation periods.

Similar to Online Dispute Resolution, courts are now available in online media! Online dispute resolution and virtual courts are now options for giving service to the public.

One would ask, what is the difference between Online Dispute Resolution and Online Courts? Online dispute resolution is capable of virtually resolving cases and without the involvement of a judge which is not mandatory. Similarly, virtual courts also handle cases remotely. However, for virtual courts, litigations happen with a counsel present.

Differences between ODR and virtual courts

Read in-depth discussions on ODR in What is ODR (Online Dispute Resolution)? and on Alternative dispute resolutions pros and cons in Alternative dispute resolution (ADR) and it’s advantages and disadvantages

Similarities and differences between ODR and Virtual courts

Online dispute resolution and virtual courts have quite a lot of similarities and differences. Of course, both are platforms that address certain disputes online. It is just that ODR can only handle a certain complexity of cases. We can see ODR more commonly in the e-commerce world, where online transaction disputes happen.

Furthermore, the manner of proceeding is different. Online dispute resolution can proceed with the help of an online information technology system, ie with AI support.

An algorithm will help the parties involved in coursing through their dispute to arrive at a solution. Since this is a learning system as it handles and resolves more cases, its database improves along with it.

Not all ODR platforms perform in this manner as there have been several innovation cycles in the past few years and the type of service/ dispute dictates the approach. You can read more on ODR platforms and justice in What is the Most Efficient and Fair Platform for Online Dispute Resolution? and Online Dispute Resolution: The Future of Justice.

Unfortunately, it’s not all smooth sailing and not all disputes can be resolved in the online dispute resolution platforms. If a resolution is not achieved here, the case will need to have an actual hearing, either virtual or face to face will ensue.

Virtual hearing, compared to ODR, utilizes a judge for litigation. Because of this, virtual hearing can attend to cases that are more complex than that of ODR and/or the parties failed to settle via ODR.

Despite these glaring differences, both aim to provide efficient and convenient services to the public. Since the use of the internet is global (not fully though), there are better ways to open opportunities such as dispute resolutions.

Moreover, the decreased time and cost for using these platforms compared to the face-to-face counterpart is a big plus for its possible users.

In a Nut Shell – What is Online Dispute Resolution?

Online dispute resolution has been available for a long time now. You have indeed seen these platforms online, especially in e-commerce fields. This online platform is usually utilized for cases that involve minor or straightforward claims.

Resolutions of small claims and cases are achieved in ODR with direct negotiation, which does not necessitate a judge’s involvement or a formal hearing.

This is because ODR is communication and information technology-based. A well-made electronic information body is the one that mediates (It is important to identify the fact that there are different resolution methods and paths that can be followed – The use of word mediate is for example only) and helps the parties arrive at a resolution.

In online dispute resolution, the defendants are usually unrepresented. Meaning, they do not have to attend a courtroom with a lawyer to present their stand and evidence. This is, therefore, more convenient for them.

Their cases can be handled under almost all circumstances, similar to how the global health pandemic caused a change to how things work. Also, there is less confrontation in ODR since the defendants are unrepresented.

With the help of an ODR platform, parties involved can be well-guided on negotiations and resolving their relatively simple cases.  This is because ODR is aiming to give more collaboration to parties involved rather than emphasizing their differences. For the parties involved, ODR is very convenient.

They do not need to have face-to-face interaction for the case to proceed. Therefore, it cuts the need to travel to courtrooms. Moreover, the cost for mediating disputes thru ODR is relatively less than face-to-face litigations.

Since parties do not need to communicate synchronously, ODR is a very flexible platform. It can proceed during the party’s most convenient time. Since this happens in online media, choices such as emails and messages are available for the parties to choose from.

Knowing the way they work, we can say that online dispute resolution is very efficient, accessible, and helpful as an online platform.

In cases where resolutions cannot be met, the parties will have to proceed to litigation. This process may be virtual or face-to-face, depending on the circumstances.

What are Virtual Courts?

As we have seen, ODR is a pretty successful platform for managing simple online disputes. Moving on to more complex litigations, we have virtual courts.

As we want to innovate, virtual courts have been evolving. Since we wish litigants to utilize platforms and provide venues for settling disputes, virtual courts have been established and innovated through the years.

Virtual courts settle cases on an online platform. With virtual courts, lawyers’ presence is not always required. A judge can preside over the virtual court and talk about the case even without physically meeting in an actual court.

Even if this whole process is done in virtual media, it is still as effective as its face-to-face counterpart. Actually, it was mentioned that participation in courts had escalated a lot when brought in an online platform.

In addition to increased participation, judges can facilitate more court hearings in a virtual court. Hence, we can see how evident the efficiency and convenience of virtual courts are.

Of course, since virtual courts are relatively new, they are still in the process of improving themselves. There are notices on possible changes that virtual courts can adapt to, which face-to-face courts cannot do.

The flexibility of virtual courts will surely be its advantage in its future innovations.

Issues with Virtual Courts

  1. The first issue with virtual courts is actuallt related to technicalities and traditional rules. The main one being, notarization which is usually a step in many justice processes.
  2. Some Judges believe that virtual courts decreases the importance of judjes, justices and the courts system as whole. However, other judjes argue the opposite. This is due to limited number of judjes and the need to probide justice quickly.
  3. The legla profession tends to resist change in general.
  4. As in ODR problems with audio or video tools, organisational errors, and lack of training for participants may result in more disruption and prolongation rather than being helpful.
  5. Similar to ODR, security and privacy issues from the “un-avoidable” reliance on third party providers, which may also raise concern on conflict of interest issues.

What’s the difference between Online Dispute Resolution and Virtual Courts?

The virtual court is the judicial forum of traditional brick-and-mortar courtroom that has no physical presence but still provides the same justice services that are available in courtrooms. On the other hand, ODR utilizes technology to apply Alternative Dispute Resolution methods.

Therefore, It should be clear that ODR, which has outstanding potential in e-commerce and small-claim disputes is NOT a replacement for courtrooms.

Now that we have gone through both ODR and virtual courts’ main points, let us now consider their differences and similarities.

First, both ODR and virtual courts are manifestations of our fast adaptation to the online world. As we have more and more use of the internet, we are trying our best to manipulate it to fit as many aspects of our lives as it can.

These virtual platforms are both manifestations of the need to be efficient. ODR and virtual courts are generally more efficient, convenient, and accessible compared to their face-to-face counterpart.

Also, online dispute resolution and virtual courts connect as many people to providing an opportunity for online case resolutions.

In contrast to ODR, a judge is required in virtual courts to handle dispute resolution.

Moreover, the hearing can be broadcasted for a specific audience or even the public if desired. Likewise, virtual courts deal with more complex cases than an ODR platform can handle.

If you want to know which is better between the two, the answer would depend on many factors. Online dispute resolution and virtual courts are more advantageous than the other in specific scenarios. It is a matter of choosing which is better for your case.

Wrapping up?

The age of the internet is really upon us right now. We are trying to adapt our lives to it as much as we can. Courts and dispute resolutions are not exempted. These are also being incorporated into our virtual world.

We can say that this change is a good one. We are getting more access to information and services which could not have been possible without an online platform.

The benefit of both of these online procedures is their efficiency. Time and cost are significantly reduced for the judge or lawyers, as well as the parties involved.

Communication and information access is also better online. Interactions on these platforms are being improved, especially for those with physical disabilities.

As seen with ODR, asynchronous methods can be chosen for communicating. They can utilize online messages, chats, or emails. This communication flexibility provides better convenience for the parties involved.

For now, the problem could be that there are legal matters that cannot be bent with an online platform. For example, audio issues, recordings, and signatures, and thumb marks are required to be given face-to-face to maintain authenticity. Or notarizing documents might be a problem virtually. However, we can surely see that these will be addressed sooner or later.

For now, ODR and virtual courts are still in the process of refinement. It is possible that in the near future, hearings and dispute resolution might be purely online.

This refinement is possible because of the constant need for convenience and efficiency.

Let us view these as positive contributions to society and hopefully will progress to being a well-polished system.

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