e-bulletin No. 110 - November 2020
Modron Spaces pilot update and working with Service NSW
This section deals with increasing access to the pilot, the need for legal practitioners to have adequate Internet supply and equipment, emerging practice and procedure, and working with Service NSW.
The Online Dispute Resolution Pilot - increasing access and giving us feedback
The second online dispute resolution pilot, using the Modron Spaces video platform (Platform), commenced on 3 September 2020 and will cease on 18 December 2020. Over 86 online events have been conducted to date, and the Commission is increasing the available sessions from 90 to about 130.
After you participate in an event conducted on Modron Spaces, you will receive an online survey. Please respond to the survey, as we genuinely want your feedback.
The need for adequate Internet supply and equipment
Feedback has been almost exclusively positive about the Platform, and increasingly so, as people conduct second and further online events. To date, the Platform has performed well from a technical perspective and Modron Space’s concierge service has received universal praise as the service has not only assisted participants navigate the Platform, it has helped them rectify Internet supply issues, provided advice on web browser selection, and rectified equipment and related issues.
Modron Spaces collects technical data for each event conducted on the Platform (Data Analytics). The Data Analytics identify each participant’s Internet supply strength and the browser being used. It also identifies whether the participant has participated in some or all the onboarding events, such as device compatibility checking and Platform familiarisation. The Data Analytics helps the Commission to target its assistance to participants, resulting in:
- The resolution of complaints about Platform failure during several online events – the Data Analytics showed that in each of those matters, Counsel (both) and the Commission’s Arbitrator did not have adequate Internet bandwidth and speed to support the online venue and they were not using the preferred web browser (which further eroded the Internet supply).
- Several Chambers poor Internet services – the Commission has written to 125 barristers who frequently appear in this jurisdiction, advising that Data Analytics show that many Chambers have poor Internet bandwidth and speed and until that can be resolved, they should keep handy a mobile Internet supply so that the online matters do not need to be abandoned when their Internet service fails. I have also written to the President of the NSW Bar Association to discuss the phenomenon of online dispute resolution and how the Bar is responding.
- Some law firms (small and not so small) have poor Internet service and/or do not have basic equipment such as cameras and speakers – I have written to the President of the Law Society of NSW and asked him to work with law firms about upgrading technology and equipment to respond to the phenomenon of online dispute resolution.
Emerging practice and procedure issues – for matters conducted on Modron Spaces
A simple but different process applies when a summons to attend is issued in a matter being conducted on Modron Spaces. Details are set out at the Commission’s Virtual Venue Centre. In summary, the Commission will advise the filing party in writing about the required actions:
- Prepare a witness schedule that shows when each witness will be called to give evidence (Witness Schedule).
- Email the Witness Schedule to the Commission within 2 business days of the Commission writing to the filing party.
- Serve the summons in compliance with Practice Direction No 7B – Summon to attend and do so with a covering letter which includes specific details (in that regard, please refer to the Virtual Venue Centre).
Working with Service NSW
Some regional workers cannot or do not want to travel to their solicitors’ offices to participate in conciliation/arbitrations, however, they also do not or cannot participate in online dispute resolution (using Modron Spaces) from home – this might be due to Internet/equipment issues.
The Commission is working with Service NSW to help workers manage this issue by piloting access to online dispute resolution from three Service NSW sites - Ulladulla, Tuncurry and Bathurst. Several stars need to be in alignment to identify appropriate candidates for the Service NSW pilot including that the worker resides in a pilot postcode, the matter does not settle at teleconference, the matter is listed for video con/arb and the worker is comfortable participating solo in the con/arb from a Service NSW location. Arbitrators will discuss these issues with parties and legal representatives in relevant circumstances.
The Virtual Venue Centre will be updated next week to include details of the Commission’s work with Service NSW.
Virtual Venue Centre
The Virtual Venue Centre is a valuable resource for stakeholders and users of the Commission’s dispute resolution services. It has a dedicated section on the Commission’s website landing page.
The Virtual Venue Centre is updated regularly with information about the Modron Spaces pilot, including how to use Modron Spaces, how to list a matter on Modron Spaces and a recording of a mock con/arb.
Contacting the Commission
On 23 March 2020, I made the decision to close the Commission’s Oxford Street premises for work health and safety concerns due to the pandemic. Practitioners are reminded that the Commission’s premises remain closed to the public.
The Commission operates in a fully digital environment and has been able to maintain services by members, mediators and staff working remotely. Even though our office has remained closed since March, dispute lodgments have remained at pre-pandemic levels using the Commission’s online portal, while timeliness and high dispute resolution rates are still being maintained.
There are limited mail services and the Commission is relying on correspondence and documents being lodged through the online portal (i.e. not by email, DX or post). Practitioners are requested to encourage producers of documents under Directions for Production to produce those documents in soft copy, where possible.
The Commission is also unable to directly receive telephone calls through our general inquiry number, 1300 368 040. The parties in matters lodged with the Commission are provided with the direct contact number of the Commission’s case manager in each case.
Persons who attempt to contact the Commission on 1300 368 040 receive a recorded message to email the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org. All emails are responded to within 24 hours. A Commission staff member will either telephone the emailer or send them their direct telephone number.
The restricted access to contact the Commission using the 1300-number for general inquiries is an interim measure only. The Commission will resume normal telephone services once the current pandemic restrictions are eased. We appreciate your understanding in these unusual times.
Christmas-New Year arrangements
The following arrangements will apply over the coming Christmas-New Year period:
Last day for teleconferences in 2020:
Friday, 18 December 2020
First day for teleconferences in 2021:
Wednesday, 6 January 2021
Last day for con/arbs in 2020:
Friday, 18 December 2020
First day for con/arbs in 2021:
Monday, 4 January 2021
Urgent matters may be listed in the period from 21 December 2020 to 31 December 2020 at the request of parties.
Issuing of decisions and medical assessment certificates
The usual appeal periods will apply during the Christmas-New Year period. Certificates of Determination, Medical Assessment Certificates or Medical Appeal Panel decisions will therefore not be issued from Monday, 21 December 2020 to Thursday, 31 December 2020. Consent orders lodged by parties will be issued.
Judge Gerard Phillips