Comparative Dispute Resolution
Moscati, Maria Federica, Palmer, Michael and Roberts, Marian, eds.,
Edward Elgar Publishing, 2020.
This volume in the Research Handbooks in Comparative Law series is an important and timely contribution to the growing literature on comparative dispute resolution which has been made even more important by the adoption of the Singapore Convention on Mediation in 20192 and the acceleration of the use of online dispute resolution processes due to the appearance of COVID 19.
The series aims “to bring together accessible yet sophisticated contributions from an international cast of top researchers,” and the book generally succeeds in reaching its goal by providing a comprehensive overview of the field. The book, with its inclusion of both well known and emerging experts in dispute resolution, covers a vast range of topics which can be seen from the table of contents that can be viewed here.
The quality of the writing is high, which is another achievement given the wide variety of topics and authors.
As a dispute resolution practitioner (not including family disputes), I found that chapters 3, 4, 6, 7, 12, 14, 15, 16, 18, 23, 28 and 29 particularly drew my attention, although the overall work is interesting with a wide range of topics that you are not likely to find in another collection.
It may have been better, especially for the practitioner or student reader, if the editors had included fewer topics in the book, as on review, it seems that the concept of “too much of a good thing” applies. The volume of material is almost overwhelming. There also seems to be a lack of flow or fit with the positioning of certain chapters within sections, but that does not take away from their importance.
Comparative Dispute Resolution is almost encyclopedic in its world overview although it provides a somewhat uneven collection of essays and there are significant gaps in coverage, especially from a Canadian perspective. Only one, or perhaps two of the over 40 contributors seem to have any substantial connection to Canada. None of the authors, whether academic or practitioner, appear to be based in Canada. This is difficult to understand given the long-standing sophisticated use of ADR in Canada and the significant number of practitioners and academics engaged in the field.
The inclusion of a chapter on ADR in Canada would have enhanced and contributed to its overall purpose and made the book much more relevant to potential readers in Canada as well as sharing the Canadian experience with a wider audience.
To be fair, there are some hints of the use of ADR in Canada including a mention of initiatives towards an Online Court in the UK and Canada on page 415. British Columbia’s Supreme Court Notice to Mediate regulation is mentioned on pages on 458-460 but there is no mention of Ontario’s Mandatory Mediation Program which has been in effect since 1999 and, although limited in its roll-out has been extremely important in connecting ADR with civil justice. Whether this is a positive outcome may be subject to debate, but it is a debate that fits into a work of this nature.
An inclusion of the well-developed Judicial Dispute Resolution system in Alberta3 would have strengthened the discussion in chapter 20.
Canada is also one of the few, mixed common and civil law countries where the concept and use of med-arb as an integrated stand-alone process has been actively developed beyond its already accepted use in family law and labour disputes.
The ADR Institute of Canada developed National Med-Arb Rules4 although these were finalized in early 2020 which is after the book was sent to the publishers, the in-depth examination of the process and the drafting of comprehensive rules had been in progress since 2017 and a Canadian contributor, academic or practitioner, would likely have been able to add to the limited discussion in the book on the topic.
A more important and somewhat surprising omission is the absence of any serious commentary on the development and implementation of online dispute resolution in Canada. This is an area in which Canada is an acknowledged world leader especially in the provision of service through online tribunals. This cannot be explained quite as easily as not being able to meet publishing dates.
The Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT)5 in British Columbia commenced operation in July 2016 and since then has had its jurisdiction increased to cover a wide variety of disputes. The Condominium Authority Tribunal in Ontario, which is a fully online tribunal, began operation in November 2017.6
These tribunals provide opportunities for negotiation, mediation and if necessary, adjudication and are models of what true access to justice can provide. They are easy to access, quick, inexpensive and, where statistics are available, have user satisfaction rates of over 80+%.7
The CRT’s innovative “Solution Explorer” provides users with easy-to-understand guidance that fits into what Richard Susskind describes as the use of technology to transform the justice system.8 They warranted inclusion in this comparative handbook and in general, the lack of additional material on online dispute resolution unfortunately takes away from the comprehensive nature of the work.
Despite my comments on the lack of coverage of Canada, the editors and contributors deserve recognition for their achievement in providing this rich resource for us. Unfortunately, given its significant cost and sheer size, the book is not likely to be found on ADR practitioners bookshelves.
It is however a significant resource for ADR students and will find a home in university and college libraries as it is well worth reading, whether the full book, or just those chapters that appeal to your interests and I encourage you to do so.
 the eBook version is priced from £20/$26 from eBook vendors while in print the book can be ordered from the Edward Elgar Publishing website (prices of practitioner law eBooks will vary).
 Richard Susskind, Online Courts and the Future of Justice, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2019.
Colm Brannigan, LL.M (ADR), C.Med, C.Arb, IMI Cert, FCIArb
Colm Brannigan is a Chartered Mediator and Chartered Arbitrator and was the first person to receive the Chartered Med-Arb designation from ADRIC. He is an acknowledged Canadian leader in the development of online dispute resolution and med-arb processes. Colm can be contacted through his website www.mediate.ca.