Data gathered from the Global Pound Conference Series so far reveals that collaboration and efficiency are at the heart of shaping the future of dispute resolution. We took a leading role in organising the one day conference in Hong Kong, along with a number of disputes experts from various industries and backgrounds. The event saw over 200 delegates – judges, commercial parties/corporate counsel, arbitrators, mediators, dispute resolution institutions, government officials and academics – assemble to identify trends and cultural preferences in a way that had not been possible before. Hong Kong's Secretary for Justice, Chief Justice and Solicitor General headlined the conference.

Over four interactive sessions, the Hong Kong conference addressed the demand side (commercial party perspectives (session 1)); the supply side (what advisors and providers are delivering to commercial parties (session 2)); the key obstacles and challenges to access to justice (session 3); and what action items need to be addressed and by whom (session 4). Conference delegates voted as one of five stakeholder groups: parties (commercial end users of dispute resolution, generally corporate counsel and senior executives); advisors (private practice lawyers and other external consultants); adjudicative providers (judges, arbitrators and their supporting institutions); non-adjudicative providers (mediators, conciliators and their institutions); and influencers (academics, government, policy makers).   

What do users want, need and expect?

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All stakeholders voted financial outcomes the top priority for commercial parties in Hong Kong. Perhaps surprisingly, all stakeholders accorded 'preserving relationships' low priority, well behind financial or action-based remedies. At other conferences, notably Singapore, this aspect was seen as more important, suggesting a less adversarial, more consensus-driven attitude to resolving conflict there.

Users also voted confidentiality one of the things they're looking for in Hong Kong, with around 40% voting in this way. This is much higher than the global results and much higher than the other stakeholders. This suggests a need for confidential processes in Hong Kong, highlighting a place for mediation in the territory.

How is the market currently addressing parties' wants, needs and expectations?

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Again, financial outcomes were judged to be of highest importance to those providing dispute resolution services, showing that the demand and supply sides of the market are aligned in Hong Kong.  There was overwhelming recognition that mediation can reduce cost and expense. However, perhaps surprisingly, acquiring better knowledge about the strengths and weaknesses of the case was judged to be the most important part of non-adjudicative processes by parties. Does this imply mediation being used cynically as a 'fishing expedition' in Hong Kong? In many quarters, sophisticated users of mediation will regard mediation as meeting their objectives (successful) if they walk away knowing more about their opponent's case, what or who is driving the counterparty's position etc, and this may assist in later settling the dispute.

Efficiency, in keeping with other Global Pound Conference events, was judged to be a priority by Hong Kong stakeholders when assessing parties' dispute resolution options. Finally, there was a high preference for combining adjudicative and non-adjudicative processes in Hong Kong. This is in keeping with other Global Pound Conference events and suggests that Practice Direction 31, through embedding mediation in the litigation landscape, is to be applauded. By contrast, more needs to be done to see mediation used more readily as an adjunct to arbitration.

What action items should be considered and by whom?

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In line with other Global Pound Conference events, governments and ministries of justice were identified by all stakeholders as having the greatest responsibility in Hong Kong for taking action to promote better access to justice in commercial disputes.  The Solicitor General, Wesley Wong SC, highlighted education and technology as key. He also pointed to incoming legislation on third party funding, apologies, and the resolution of IP disputes as catalysts for change. These are all intended to promote better access to non-court  processes, as well as to improve efficiency and enhance settlement.

In conclusion, a sophisticated jurisdiction like Hong Kong already has the tools and institutional support in place. However, the Global Pound Conference has highlighted that stakeholders are not always embracing those tools. In particular, despite its broad support, parties and lawyers alike remain concerned sometimes to attempt ADR.

With technology advances, the landscape for dispute resolution will be unrecognisable over the next 5-10 years. Hong Kong is well placed to benefit from the innovation technology affords but we must act now. The Global Pound Conference has provided both a call to action and a mandate for change.

Click here for our more detailed summary of the Hong Kong results.

Why a Global Pound Conference event is like no other conference you've attended.

With around half of the Global Pound Conference (GPC) events now behind us, well over a thousand delegates have experienced for themselves attending a GPC event. So what's it like? Read more

Click here to download the aggregated results from the first 18 GPC events, which have taken place in 12 countries in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. This includes the very first analysis of overall trends.