Friday, December 17, 2010

Striking Fear in the Heart of Lawyers: Cybersettle

Imagine for a moment: What would happen to Washington, DC if suddenly there were no more lawsuits?

Kind of takes your breath away.

Hollywood has portrayed Washington, DC under water, frozen in ice, struck by an asteroid, taken over by aliens, but never without lawsuits and lawyers. Even Hollywood would have a difficult time portraying Washington, DC in August without men and women running around in wool suits, Blackberries silently signaling the arrival of new email. But could the unthinkable happen?

Sorry, but no. It couldn't happen. But the next best thing is here: Cybersettle, a web-based dispute resolution service. Both lawyers and regular human beings can use Cybersettle to quickly settle disputes. How does Cybersettle work? In a nutshell, it works by eliminating one of the most difficult parts of a monetary lawsuit: worrying about making an offer that's too low and getting cheated out of what you're due. Both parties make offers and demands via Cybersettle without knowing what the other side's offer is: Neither side can see the other party's dollar amount at any time. In other words, the other side never knows the lowest offer you'll accept. Typically, there are three rounds of demands and offers. When Cybersettle sees that a demand is less than or equal to a settlement offer, Cybersettle provides a settlement offer for the average of the demand and offer. You can watch a short video about how Cybersettle works.

If you can't reach an agreement in three rounds, you can resubmit your claim or ask for the help of a human facilitator.

Cybersettle has settled over 250,000 claims, the largest of which to date has been for $12.5 million. Most claims settle within 60 days. Compare that to the months and months or years that it takes to settle a suit in court. Cybersettle isn't a cure-all for all civil suits, but as the Connecticut Law Tribune (PDF) points out, it can save a lot of money in legal fees -- so much so that some cities have taken a liking to Cybersettle.

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