Our first in-person event of the year, took place on International Women’s Day.

A fantastic opportunity to share experiences and hear from our incredible guest speaker Constance McDonnell.

Constance’s presentation focused on judge-led alternative dispute resolution ((A)DR) as part of the process of administering justice. The King’s Counsel discussed how the phrase “alternative” dispute resolution is outdated as this is the future of dispute resolution and its involvement should be encouraged. Sir Geoffrey Vos, Master of the Rolls since 2021, previously noted:

“Dispute resolution should be an integrated whole […] There is nothing alternative about either mediation, early neutral evaluation, or judge-led resolution.”

The importance of (A)DR is heightened amidst continued pressure and backlogs in the courts. In 2019, for example, there were two million claims issued, 300,000 were defended claims, and 65,000 ended up on trial. In a survey conducted on the remaining settled and withdrawn cases, most people said that they would prefer to not get involved in litigation. This supports the repeated claims of the Ministry of Justice that more needs to be done to encourage people to take up less adversarial options.

Much of the discussion around the implementation of (A)DR focused on future practice involving technology, whether this be online dispute resolution or other innovative tools. Whilst the future of technology in legal disputes remains to be cemented – especially in the wills and probate sector – there was a concurrence in the room that what can be implemented in the meantime is more compulsory (A)DR, a push on mediation before individuals attend court, and further training and education for professionals and future lawyers.

The remaining discussion over the afternoon centred around these ideas and the role of women in dispute resolution. Constance informed the group that 90% of people are choosing male barristers and solicitors to conduct private financial dispute resolution (FDR), which naturally ignited a very interesting conversation amongst those in the room.

The fantastic afternoon spent celebrating International Women’s Day was capped off by the raising of £170 for Catalyst – International Women’s Day Charity of Choice since 2017.