With ambitions to “adapt the tempo of justice to the rhythm of business, by digitalizing the classical procedure of arbitration,” Amiel Feldman, a business-savvy lawyer passionate about the digital revolution, co-launched eJust, the first online arbitration platform, dedicated to companies.
Leaders League. What led to the birth of eJust?
Amiel Feldman. A Survey Data Report of the ADR Center reveals that in Europe, companies don’t resort to litigation mainly because the average time required and costs incurred are uneconomical: €25,340 and 2 years for a first-level procedure before a court in the European Union, not even considering bigger cases. In addition, the litigation may seriously impact the quality of commercial relationships and profitability of companies, which is obviously not beneficial to business. Currently, only 2% of actual valid claims are treated.
Arbitration, on the other hand, is widely recognized as a time and cost effective alternative dispute resolution tool, and arbitral awards are binding in 149 countries worldwide that have signed the 1958 Convention of New York.
Under this context, we launched eJust, an innovative online arbitration platform, the first of its kind, with the mission to provide companies quicker and less complex legal services in phase with the intense tempo of the modern business world.
Our real innovation is the concept of workable justice. Imagine resolving a dispute by a binding award under the contractual relationship, given by an external arbitrator, within 3 weeks at a cost of less than €3,000 – justice suddenly becomes accessible to businesses.
Leaders League. Nowadays, delays and costs are considered the two worst features of arbitration. How does eJust tackle these problems?
A. F. We can say that 99% of cases are legally clear, although establishing the underlying facts can be complicated depending on the available ways of stating and reasoning facts.
In traditional litigation, factors such as complexity of procedural rules and their implementation, exhaustive and ineffective demands put on by lawyers and judges/arbitrators, conflicts of agenda, and especially, the absence of any factors to incentivize efficiency, result in serious delays and high costs.
Our aim is to provide effective justice for everyone, which will necessarily enhance business. The mechanisms of eJust, implemented through a streamlined and user-friendly web platform, have been conceived to offer incentive to arbitrators and parties to be efficient and straight to the point. For example, we propose a fixed price for our different arbitration procedures with certain limits on the number of characters and files submitted by parties to the arbitrator, and though parties are free to exceed those boundaries, they are effectively incentivized to respect them by additional fixed costs involved. Our services thus have a very low entry price, but can be tailored to suit the specific needs of every case.
With well-structured procedure and clear tools, the arbitrators on our platform are capable of rendering an award for a relatively simple dispute within an average of three weeks, from the request for relief to the award.
Leaders League. I suppose that your main targets are small-medium sized enterprises?
A. F. I disagree completely: big corporates are our first targets! We wish to firstly penetrate the French market, then the francophone part of Switzerland by mid-2016, and in 2017 we will be attacking other European markets such as England and Germany, and our final short-term objective is to be operational the US market within four years.
This strategy is because big corporates usually have a significant volume of contracts, as well as competent staff in their legal departments capable of independently handling disputes. A leasing bank may have hundreds of default cases per year, and recoveries could take one year in countries like Switzerland and up to four or five years in Italy. An insurance company may have no incentive to resolve disputes quickly, unless its competitors propose quicker resolution process in order to attract clients.
As a consequence, our offer is very attractive to big corporates and we have a pipeline of prospects.
Leaders League. What is the legitimacy of your platform?
A. F. Despite the fact that we are recently established, we have already created a wide network of seasoned arbitrators, and it will continue to grow at a rapid rate. Depending on their requirements, companies can also request expert arbitrators with 6 years’ or 12 years’ experience, again in the perspective of limiting costs to the needs of the actual dispute and litigation value.
Despite their reputation, world-famous arbitration centers such as the ICC actually have relatively tiny teams (a hundred of staff or so) to manage cases valued at billions of Euros, and the quality of their work depends on the quality of their arbitrators. We are not competing with these centers, which administer high-stakes cases. We intend to provide the same high-quality service, industrialize the procedures and remove legal barriers for customers so as to better satisfy their needs.
If we have the same quality of arbitrators, indeed the same arbitrators themselves, working within a dedicated professionally designed process, I can definitely say our services meet the highest quality standards.
Leaders League. Are you competing with lawyers?
A. F. No. We do not provide legal counsel or assistance. We are not conquering a market, but creating one: the market for the 98% of claims not yet litigated. That is where the essential value of eJust lies.
Digitalization of the legal profession is a fantastic opportunity, rather than a threat. At the moment, this process has barely started, and most law firms don’t even realize they are lagging behind. We wish to position ourselves as a networking platform in the service of lawyers and business.
In a few words, we are pro-lawyer, pro-client and pro-business.
Leaders League. One last question: lawyer vs. entrepreneur, what’s the difference?
A. F. In general, lawyers sell their expertise, while entrepreneurs sell their decision-making abilities. It is often the case though, that lawyers must make decisions, and entrepreneurs acquire specific knowledge. It is therefore not rare to find entrepreneurial lawyers. With eJust though, the aim is to create a facilitated way for entrepreneurial lawyers to develop their business: by promoting the widespread of arbitration. Businesses everywhere will benefit from this facilitated access for definitive dispute settlement.
Jeanne Yizhen Yin