University of Leicester will be the host of the conference titled “When Blockchain Meets Arbitration: the Birth of Decentralized Justice” on January 31st from 9am to 5pm.

The conference will be convened by Dr. Rossana Deplano, lecturer in law at the University of Leicester, and is funded by ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and The Society of Legal Scholars.

The goal of the meeting is to explore the concept of decentralized justice and the impact of blockchains on arbitration.

A panel of distinguished speakers, among them members of the Kleros team, will discuss the interplay between blockchain and law by conceptualizing smart contracts as legal constructs, including means to resolve smart contracts disputes.

The Birth of Decentralized Justice

Online dispute resolution (ODR) is certainly not new. Since the early days of the Internet, people thought about using online tools to solve different types of disputes.

In spite of the high expectations of the early days, ODR failed to become a massively used method for dispute resolution. This may about to change as blockchains bring new features to this old industry, in particular - the concept of decentralized justice.

In December 2019, in our joint presentation at the Max Planck Institute for Procedural Law, with Professor Bruno Deffains (University of Paris II Panthéon-Assas), we argued that decentralized justice has three defining features.

First, the dispute resolution procedure is encoded as a decentralized autonomous organization built on a blockchain. The system complies with the six key features of the rule of law (Weingast and Hadfield, 2013):

  • The decision making logic is publicly available,
  • The institution resolves ambiguity,
  • The decision-making logic is stable,
  • The system gives predictable results to novel inputs,
  • The system is impersonal,
  • It is able to produce new rules by soliciting information from users.

Second, the system utilizes a mechanism design relying on economic incentives for jurors to produce fair rulings.

Third, the system is perceived as producing fair outcomes by the agents participating in it.

Kleros was the first decentralized justice system to see the light of day. But it will certainly not be the only one. We are witnessing the birth of an industry.

The Challenges of Decentralized Justice

In his recent book, “Online Courts and the Future of Justice”, legaltech expert Richard Susskind argues that there are two ways in which courts of the future are being envisaged: gradual reform and radical change.

Gradual reform is about the application of some technology tools in order to bring incremental improvement in the way courts work.

Radical change is, of course, a fundamental overhaul of how the system works.

Decentralized justice leans on the radical side. It proposes to rethink arbitration from the first principles using a combination of technologies which include blockchain, game theory and collective intelligence.

This new approach poses a number of questions and challenges from different perspectives.

Technical challenges: Will blockchain technology be able to scale enough as to enable the massive adoption of decentralized justice systems? What are the best mechanism design practices to make decentralized justice systems resistant to collusion, bribery, 51% attacks and other types of attacks by malicious actors?

Market challenges: Which industries will be more likely to adopt decentralized justice models for dispute resolution? Which will be the "killer apps" of decentralized justice? Which business models will arise in years to come?

Legal challenges: What are the main obstacles for this innovative methodology to be accepted as valid by traditional legal systems? Could the methods of decentralized justice be someday expanded to national courts?

Ethical challenges: Will the outcomes of decentralized justice be perceived as fair? Which are the ethical models that could be used for assessing its fairness?

The Program

The conference "When Blockchain Meets Arbitration: the Birth of Decentralized Justice" will take place at the Fielding Johnson building – Law School, Council Suite Room 1 (First Floor) on the 31th of January of 2020.

9:00hs. Registration

9:25hs. Greetings

PANEL 1 – Conceptualizing Decentralized Justice

9:30hs. A Non-Technical Introduction to Blockchain and Decentralized Applications. Dr. Federico Ast (Kleros, CEO).

10:00hs. In Code We Trust? Towards a Substantive Account of Smart Contracts. Prof. Mimi Zou (University of Oxford).

10:30hs. Crypto Disputes and the Courts. Mr. Leigh Sagar (New Square Chambers).

11:00hs. Crowd-Justice and the New Wave in the Democratization of Justice. Prof. José Luis Martí – (Pompeu Fabra University).

11:30hs. Q&A.

12:00hs. Lunch.

PANEL 2 – Disrupting Dispute Resolution: Kleros

Chair: Miss Rheanne Sherman (President, GEEKLAW Society, University of Leicester).

12:45hs. When Online Dispute Resolution Meets Cryptoeconomics: the Birth of Decentralized Justice. Dr. Federico Ast (Kleros CEO) and Prof. Bruno Deffains (University of Paris II – Panthéon-Assas).

13:15hs. An Overview of Applications Using Kleros for Dispute Resolution. Mr. Clément Lesaege (Kleros, CTO).

13:45hs. Design Choices in Decentralized Dispute Resolution: Drawing Truth from High-Effort Schelling Games. Dr. William George (Kleros, Lead Researcher).

14:15hs. Q&A.

14:45hs. Coffee break.

PANEL 3 – The Future of Decentralized Justice.

Chair: Dr. Rossana Deplano (University of Leicester)

15:00hs. Blockchain and the Courts of the Future. Mark Beer OBE (President of the International Association for Court Administration).

15:30hs. Decentralised Arbitration (A Research Proposal). Prof. Paul Goldberg (University of Oxford).

16:00hs. Online Consumer Arbitration in the UK. Prof. Pablo Cortés (University of Leicester).

16:30hs. Q&A

17:00hs. Keynote Speech. Mr Colin Rule (ODR Vice-president, Tyler Technologies).

17:30hs. Conclusion and Drinks Reception.

The goal of this conference certainly isn’t to reach any definitive conclusions, but to kickoff a new research field and open a research agenda for years to come.

A multidisciplinary research agenda encompassing contributions from law, computer science, economics, mathematics, philosophy, political theory, as well as practitioners in online dispute resolution.

You too can be part of this foundational moment for the future of law. If you wish to attend the conference, please register here.

If you wish to attend, be sure to read in advance Kleros' book: Dispute Revolution.

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