The National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals (“NADN”) recently conducted an online national survey of its members. The June 2021 survey focused largely on the paradigm shift to online dispute resolution (“ODR”) proceedings that neutrals across the United States have made since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Of the 782 NADN members who responded, only 11 respondents reported limiting their practice to in-person proceedings during the prior year. Meanwhile, 512 respondents made the choice to go fully remote. In all, more than 91 percent of NADN member proceedings were conducted online in the last 12 months.
About 25 percent of NADN survey respondents reported a slowdown in cases over the previous year while 36 percent reported an uptick in proceedings. In addition, 38 percent of NADN members who responded to the survey indicated they experienced no change in case volume. Interestingly, more than 78 percent of neutrals surveyed stated their settlement rate was unchanged while the remaining 22 percent of survey respondents were split almost equally between whether they experienced a “better” or “worse” settlement rate during the previous 12 months.
Positives related to ODR that were reported by respondents included cost and time efficiencies, better engagement and attendance, faster resolution, and equal effectiveness to in-person proceedings. Negative aspects reported included a lack of personal interaction, technical issues, a lower settlement rate, less engaged participants, and a need for plaintiffs to be present at proceedings.
In the coming year, survey respondents expect more than 75 percent of scheduled cases to occur online. Only 24 of the 512 neutrals surveyed expect that all of their cases will be handled in person over the next 12 months while 112 believe they will participate exclusively in ODR proceedings. Based solely on personal preference, however, about 47 percent of NADN members surveyed would choose ODR unless the parties insist on in-person proceedings and over 41 percent would prefer to be in-person only unless the parties insist on moving forward remotely.
More than 60 percent of NADN survey respondents indicated they were selected to serve as a neutral by clients outside of their physical location area due to the availability of ODR. In the meantime, almost 40 percent of NADN members who responded to the survey reported raising their rates in either 2020 or 2021. Despite this, only about 15 percent of NADN survey respondents stated they would consider charging an additional fee or premium for in-person cases.
The NADN survey results were definitely eye-opening! If you would like more information, you may download a PowerPoint document with more details on the NADN’s recent survey results here.