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American Arbitration Association Launches Online ADR Tool
The American Arbitration Association (AAA) is set to launch ClauseBuilder Tuesday, a new online tool that will facilitate the creation of arbitration and mediation agreements. It is the first such tool to be offered by an alternative dispute resolution services provider.
Although web-based tools for drafting contracts were already abundant, AAA general counsel Eric Tuchmann told CorpCounsel.com that up until now, "there was nothing for alternative dispute resolution."
Since 1926, the AAA has provided services to individuals and organizations seeking to resolve conflicts out of court. The not-for-profit association also educates the public about alternative dispute resolution and develops ADR systems for corporations, unions, government agencies, law firms, and courts.
The AAA's first version of ClauseBuilder will address arbitration and mediation clauses specifically designed for commercial arbitration contracts. Tuchmann says that "those types of agreements represent the largest category of cases where we see interest and demand for alternative dispute resolution services."
Subsequent versions of the tool will be released throughout 2013. The AAA has versions in development that are tailored to construction, international, and employment contracts.
Users start with the association's standard clause:
Any controversy or claim arising out of or relating to this contract, or the breach thereof, shall be settled by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its Commercial Arbitration Rules and judgment on the award rendered by the arbitrator(s) may be entered in any court having jurisdiction thereof.
That language is "time-tested and court-tested," says Tuchmann.
From the foundation of that standard clause, users can opt for mediation, arbitration, or both, and then pick and choose from a list of add-on options to customize the clause to meet their specific needs. "There are a lot of components," says Tuchmann, and the list includes choices of governing law, locale provisions, duration of proceedings, and several options for controlling arbitrator selection and qualifications.
When choosing the number of arbitrators, for example, users can decide between leaving the clause silent regarding number, having their claim heard by a single arbitrator or a panel, or making the selection dependent on the claim amount.
Arbitrator selection is a top concern when drafting any ADR clause, Tuchmann says, and the ClauseBuilder tool takes that into account. "Parties want to be able to control who the decision-maker is," says Tuchmann.
At any point in drafting their clause, users can skip to the end of the process. Their document can be downloaded and printed, without having to create a user account. (If users want to revisit the site and rework a clause that was previously created, they can open an AAA account to store their documents.)
Tuchmann has been with the AAA for more than 16 years, during which time he has seen interest in ADR increase dramatically. Parties are attracted to its speed of resolution and low cost, compared to traditional litigation. Courtroom rules of evidence are not strictly applicable in arbitration, and parties have input when it comes to selecting a decision maker with expertise in a particular claim area.
In recent years, it has become the exception for a law school not to offer courses in ADR, according to Tuchmann. "The way that lawyers are thinking about disputes is just much more sophisticated now," he says. "We see a great future for the tool and for the entire field."
Will ClauseBuilder eliminate in-house lawyers' need for having outside lawyers draw up mediation and arbitration agreements?
Tuchmann says that there will still be times when parties have a very particular type of transaction that will require outside counsel services. But he says that in-house counsel can use ClauseBuilder to draft most arbitration agreements themselves. They have already been drafting their own clauses in many instances, says Tuchmann, and "the purpose of this tool is to make it easier."