Friday, September 3, 2010

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Our cousins across the pacific (hereafter “Americans” and “The People That Brought Everybody Loves Raymond Into the World”) consider themselves innovators. To give them their credit, it is true that Americans invented the internet, global warming and many of the socially disruptive forms of devil music that currently plague our wireless airwaves and encourage our young people into risky romantic encounters with drugs and hipsters like Natasha Stott-Despoja.

Indeed, after hearing that it was recently (sensibly) suggested that a contractual dispute be determined by a man vs werewolf push up competition (Werewolf Pushups ADR) one might be forgiven for thinking that The People That Brought Everybody Loves Raymond Into the World were legal innovators. However, keen readers of the Whitelocke loose-leaf service would be well aware of some of the more innovative alternative dispute mechanisms I have used over the years, that long pre-dated contractually decisive feats of strength between man and werewolf.

While I am famed* for my assiduously litigious nature** and would never actively seek to circumvent the long and expensive court process, I have on behalf of others applied my mind towards engineering innovative alternative dispute resolution solutions.

For example, in 1964 I suggested that a seemingly intractable joint venture company deadlock dispute be settled by a “Race Around the World”. The Race garnered national media attention and proved a highly successful outcome for my client the Bank of Adelaide. Immediately after the counter-party to the dispute, Robert Holmes à Court , left Australia, the Bank petitioned the Court for a just and equitable winding up of the joint venture company due to the likelihood that the ravages of dysentery and various local wars in Africa and Central America would almost certainly see Mr Holmes à Court perish during the race. My client was able to complete the purchase of the remaining 50% of the shares at fire-sale prices before Robert would return to Australia to national celebrity but financial ruin. I was the first to throw the confetti at his welcome back ticker-tape parade and to this day we remain the firmest of friends.

In the mid-90’s I pioneered the use of the following clause for all dispute resolution:

1.1 Notification of Disputes
(a) A party must not commence any arbitration or court proceedings relating to any material dispute arising out of or relating to this deed (Dispute) unless it has complied with the provisions of this clause.

(b) A party claiming that a Dispute has arisen must give written notice to the other party stating that a Dispute has arisen and setting out the nature of the Dispute (Dispute Notice).

(c) Within 25 Business Days of receipt of a Dispute Notice, each party must nominate 13 current employees of the legal representatives who acted for that party in connection with the deed the sublect of the Dispute (Team) and give written notice to each other party of the identity of those representatives.

1.2 Dispute Resolution
(a) Within 20 Business Days of the date of a Dispute Notice, each Team must meet at Lang Park (the Cauldron) to resolve the Dispute by playing 80 minutes of rugby league (the Match). All aspects of the Match, except the fact of its occurrence, must be kept confidential and all communications and interaction between representatives at the Match are made under “State of Origin” conditions, including (without limitation) by taking one game at a time, on a without prejudice mate vs mate, state vs state basis and, to the maximum extent permitted by law, the Match will not be subject to review by the NSWRL Judiciary or other Judicial Body.

(b) The result of the Match is final and binding upon the parties and is not subject to review or appeal except in the case of manifest video referee error of fact.

During the wonderful period in the 90s when this clause was considered boilerplate in many commercial contracts, I employed the following people on part time or casual basis:

Mail room

Terry “the Axe” Gillmeister

John Lomax

Glen Lazarus

Quentin Pongia

Ruben Wiki

Jarrod McCracken

Gordon Tallis


David “Cement” Gillespie (made a surprisingly good latte’)

Paul Sironen

Hitro Okesene

Aussie Joe Bugner

Jonah Lomu

Va'aiga Tuigamala

Foreign counsel (not Australia Qualified)

Adrian Morley

James Brian Hellwig (trading as “the Ultimate Warrior”)

The Houston Oilers’ Robert Brazile and young Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis

The above persons, with me obviously scheming out of dummy half, ensured that all my clients successfully resolved their disputes and made it very difficult for their opponents to recover (financially and physically). The enthusiasm with which young employees like Cement, Sirro and Ray Lewis enforced exceptions to the parol evidence rule upon pasty and terrified summer clerks from other Sydney law firms was a sight to behold!

Ruben Wiki making another urgent internal mailrun

* Indeed, worshipped in Guam the spiritual home of aggresive litigation.

**Having incorrectly been deemed a vexatious litigant on any number of occasions

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