Conference on Alternative Dispute Resolution, 28-29 September 2017Print
THE SECOND ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION CONFERENCE
After the success of the first alternative dispute resolution conference organised in 2016, the Board held yet another conference on the topic on 28-29 September 2017. This time the event was hosted at the headquarters of the Hungarian Academy of Science with the participation of 300 invited guests, representing almost 170 organisations and institutions. The first day of the event – organised jointly by the Magyar Nemzeti Bank, the National Office for the Judiciary and the Financial Arbitration Board and supported by Wolters Kluwer Kft. – was titled "Alternative dispute resolution in the economy". The participants had the opportunity to see and hear professional presentations on the topic, panel discussions and view a demonstration of a simulated case.
The opening address was delivered by Erika Kovács, the Chair of the Financial Arbitration Board, followed by the welcome of the participants by Dr. Tünde Handó, President of the National Office for the Judiciary and Dr. László Windisch, Deputy Governor of the Magyar Nemzeti Bank.
Dr. Tünde Handó, President of the National Office for the Judiciary, emphasised in her opening speech that the courts were committed to alternative dispute resolution, where the parties enjoy equal rights, the procedure is less formal and more relaxed, where the objective is to focus on the future and to find a solution rather than to look for a scapegoat. She also mentioned that with a view to making alternative dispute resolution more popular, important changes would be introduced to the legislation as well; the new Code on Civil Procedure, entering into force from 2018, also supports the resolution of disputes between the parties based on an agreement.
Dr. László Windisch highlighted the significance of stability in his speech, not only for the country, but also in our everyday life. In view of this, he emphasised the importance and awareness raising role of this conference, highlighting the creation of new opportunities. He mentioned that the resolution of disputes at the earliest and fastest possible way was extremely important, as this served the economic and financial interests of the undertakings and the individuals alike.
The opening presentation of the conference was delivered by Ildikó Gaal-Baier, lawyer and mediator, titled “Perceptions and milestones – conflict management in the German economy”. The expert, practising in Germany, presented the road leading from the recognition of the opportunities inherent in alternative dispute resolution to its practical application, which resulted in the “Round Table Mediation and Conflict Management” initiative among German corporate enterprises. This was created with the cooperation of 40 major participants of the Germany economy, who meet regularly and settle their disputes at the negotiation table rather than at the court, as they have realised how much time, energy and money they save in this way, and perhaps it is even more important that it serves as a foundation for their mutually advantageous economic cooperation in the future. By now this practice has fundamentally refashioned the dispute resolution approach in Germany and it should be a model to be followed by Hungary as well.
During the panel discussion titled “Learn how to make a wise settlement agreement”, Chair Erika Kovács, acting as moderator, tried to find answers to the questions “When is it worth going to court and when is it more expedient to follow a different route to find a solution?” and “How to make a wise settlement agreement” from the aspects of the judge, the attorney, the entrepreneur and the liquidator. The representative of the judicial side, Dr. Katalin Turcsánné Molnár, professional leader of the Court Mediation Working Group of the National Office for the Judiciary and Chair of the Székesfehérvár Tribunal, among the important points of interest of the alternative dispute resolution highlighted cost efficiency, the closing of the dispute with a favourable result, the preservation and enhancement of good business relations, and last but not least, the importance of protecting business secrets in relation to an alternative dispute resolution. From the attorney's point of view, Dr. Orsolya Görgényi, partner of the Szecskay Law Office, highlighted in her answer to the question: her experience gained during her work as an attorney evidence that as a result of the consultations between the attorneys in most cases the dispute is not taken to the court at all, and even when no compromise is reached between the parties with the attorneys' contributions, she recommends to apply other, alternative dispute resolution methods, and often applies to the courts of arbitration for cooperation. András Avidor, director of BNI Hungary, representing the entrepreneurs' side, stressed in his response: he deems it necessary to make entrepreneurs understand that by resolving conflicts along the win-win approach, as high as 20 per cent of the costs can be saved. Often there is no time for going to court, but even if it is not the case, it is unlikely that the court is the most expedient solution. Time is money for an entrepreneur, hence the sooner he settles a conflict, the better he can position himself for the future. The fourth participant of the discussion, Dr. István Molnár, representing the Hungarian Association of Insolvency Practitioners (HAIP), approached the question from the liquidators' point of view. He said that in the insolvency proceedings the relation of the parties was characterised by discord, it was difficult to change the attitude of creditors and convince them not to opt for litigation. This is the situation at present, when it is a known fact that the average rate of return of the companies in liquidation is merely 10 per cent. It would be desirable to choose some form of alternative dispute resolution in these special proceedings as well.
Dr. Tibor Kertész, in his presentation titled “Prospects of economic mediation in an international outlook”, placed the emphasis on presenting the mechanisms hindering the practice. In his experience enterprises tend to underestimate the economic consequences of conflicts, in the case of internal conflicts they are slow to recognise and admit to mistakes, and managers primarily regard conflicts outside the organisation as conflicts. As an obstacle to the wider penetration of mediation he mentioned exaggerative expectations towards mediation, where the parties hope for the full solution of the problem by the mediator without the parties' active participation. He mentioned a few cases from his practice in Austria, where he had found almost exclusively that it had been only during the mediation that the parties to the conflict had recognised their real interest and understood what they would gain by avoiding litigation that may last for years.
The presentation titled “Do, create, enrich – or else the value creating impact of economic mediation reconciling mutual interests” was inspired by the famous lines of Kölcsey's epigram, which also summarise the essence of mediation. In the first half of her presentation, Dr. Ágota S. Horváth, representing the S. HORVÁTH LAW AND MEDIATION OFFICE, explained which conflicts, according to their economic mediation experience and litigious court practice, are suitable for mediation and which ones call for litigation. In the second half of the presentation, Dénes Horváth, talked about one of their application areas pursued based on the SIT “Solve it together” methodology, elaborated by the office in several years together with the representatives of various social science areas, namely the mediation and advisory results and experiences of the issues related to family businesses.
Dr. Áron Vikor, attorney, in his presentation titled “Don't embark on it unless you are really well-prepared – mediation, the way it is worth doing it”, took the position that the question is not only whether a lawsuit can be won formally, but also what is perceived as a win. Answering this question necessitates the same preparation as if the customer wanted to go to court. At present in Hungary the use of a mediator is not yet generally accepted by the economic agents, whereas if the manager of the company retains an attorney, his decision will not be disputed. In a critical situation, the lawyer may shed light on the benefits of alternative dispute resolution. Mediation should become part of corporate culture, which can be fostered by practices if the lawyers also perform mediation instead of relying on the classic solutions only, not planning for the short term and not seeing the solution in persuading their clients to years of litigation – he closed his presentation.
Dr. Zsolt Hajnal, in his presentation titled “Alternative dispute resolution in the focus of efficient client policy”, tried to find out how enterprises pursuing conscious client policy may capitalise on the benefits provided by alternative dispute resolution to strengthen their competitive position, to improve and enhance the quality of their services. Citing a survey, he took the position that for prospective customers it may be an important consideration whether certain enterprises rely on alternative dispute resolution forums. By raising consumers' awareness and involving the economic agents, with their cooperation – with the motion that they wish to resolve the dispute at an independent board – the alternative dispute resolution possibilities will broaden.
The programme of the first day of the conference was closed by a simulation presentation of the court mediation procedures related to economic litigation. Prior to the presentation, Dr. Kata Tolnai, member of the Court Mediation Working Group of the National Office for the Judiciary and national coordinator of mediators, described the facts of the simulated case and introduced the actors. The simulation took us to the second session of a mediation procedure in an economic dispute, with Dr. Virág Vándor and Dr. László Andódi as litigants, and Krisztina Hunyadi as mediator. In the simulation the parties reached an agreement after revealing the interests and needs.
The professional programme of the second day of the conference received the title of “Role and responsibility of higher education in the shaping of alternative dispute resolution culture”. In her opening address, Dr. Erika Kovács, Chair of the Financial Arbitration Board emphasised: it is extremely important to make young people aware of and like the alternative dispute resolution so that later they would use it in practice. Dr. László Vass, President of the Private Institution Section of the Hungarian Rectors' Conference, emphasised in his welcome address that the preparation of the National Core Curriculum is the suitable moment to raise the idea of teaching alternative dispute resolution. He believes that it would be important to include alternative dispute resolution skills in education as soon as possible, and higher education also has a lot to do in this area.
In her presentation, Nikoletta Keszthelyi, deputy under-secretary of state in charge of consumer protection, provided information on the direction and achievements of consumer protection and the recent changes in the regulation of consumer protection. She emphasised that the conciliation boards represent an important pillar of the institutional system of consumer protection, offering to consumers a real opportunity and an alternative to court procedure. She closed her presentation by encouraging higher education students to deal with alternative dispute resolution, as there is a need for the rising generation and for the new approach of young people.
The participants of the second panel discussion entitled “Teaching of alternative dispute resolution in the faculties of law” included Dr. Erika Csemáné Váradi , Deputy Dean of the University of Miskolc, Chair of the Alternative Conflict Management and Dispute Resolution Interdisciplinary Research Centre of the Faculty of Law at the University of Miskolc, Prof. Dr. Judit Lévayné Fazekas, Dean of Deák Ferenc Faculty of Law and Political Sciences at the Széchenyi István University, Dr. Krisztina Rúzs Molnár, assistant lecturer of the Department of Labour and Social Law of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences at the University of Szeged and Dr. Éva Inzelt, senior lecturer of the Department of Criminology of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the Eötvös Loránd University. The panel discussion was moderated by Erika Kovács, who asked the participants of the discussion about the survey of the educational framework of alternative dispute resolution, as well as about the future plans and further development opportunities.
Dr. Erika Csemáné Váradi said that the students at the Faculty of Law at the University of Miskolc acquired the knowledge necessary for having the approach and information in relation to the topic as part of several subjects, such as civil law, civil procedural law, financial law, administrative law, criminal law and criminal procedural law. Prof. Dr. Judit Lévayné Fazekas deems it important that the students become familiar with alternative dispute resolution already during their studies, when they are still very receptive, to be able to apply the methods learnt later in practice. During the education the requirements are based on competence and it is the duty of higher education to prepare the students for this. Dr. Krisztina Rúzs Molnár emphasised: it is the speciality of the education in Szeged that the students may choose economic, criminal law and general modules during the education, and alternative dispute resolution forms part of the general module. She emphasised that due to the paradigm shift and the emerging mass demand we can witness a historic moment. The educational institutions that are committed to alternative dispute resolution, must decide as to what kind of example they can demonstrate in the field of practical implementation. In her comment, Dr. Éva Inzelt emphasised that the lectures on alternative dispute resolution at the Faculty of Law of the Eötvös Loránd University were available not only to the law students, but also to the students of the justice administration, labour and social insurance faculties. She said that in the case of facultative subjects a wide range of courses related to alternative dispute resolution are offered (e.g. mediation theory and practice), and also noted that – uniquely and for the first time in Hungary – a university ombudsman would work at the Eötvös Loránd University from 1 January 2018 to settle conflicts at work.
The conference also hosted lectures presenting the award-winning essays of the ADR AWARD 2017 competition, fostering individual and collective thinking. The Financial Arbitration Board called for the application of students and graduated career-starters of universities to support researches on alternative dispute resolution.
Klára Stekler, the winner of the ADR JUNIOR AWARD 2017 (individual category), in her presentation titled “Alternative dispute resolution in the 21st century, with special regard to the online dispute resolution platform of the European Union”, presented the most relevant EU consumer protection and alternative dispute resolution directives and regulations underlying online dispute resolution and provided an overview of the statistics of online and cross-border purchases having relevance in this respect, paying special attention to the operation of and the results achieved to date by the recently launched online dispute resolution platform of the European Union.
Diana Mosonyi, with her essay titled “Conflict management relying on the ombuds office” won the ADR SENIOR AWARD 2017 (individual category). In her lecture she presented the university ombuds system, proven in the United States as a method of managing conflicts at work, thereby also facilitating the expansion of the alternative conflict management tools in Hungary. She touched upon the impact of conflicts at work and described the functions of the various ombuds offices, then compared the functioning of the ombuds offices in Hungary and in the University of New Mexico, by presenting practical aspects.
Martina Gajdos and Dorina Prekup, winners of the ADR JUNIOR AWARD 2017 (group category) met the recognition of the jury with their essay titled “Opportunities hidden in alternative dispute resolution, with special regard to the activity of the Financial Arbitration Board”. In their presentation they emphasised that alternative dispute resolution was the thing of the future and that the results of their research evidenced that the benefits of ADR are the most obvious in the field of financial consumer protection. After a general introduction on alternative dispute resolution, they presented the legal practice of the Financial Arbitration Board and then outlined a package of proposals aimed at the fostering of financial alternative dispute resolution.
The other award-winning essay of the ADR JUNIOR-AWARD 2017 (group category) was the result of the collective thinking of Fanny Ökrös, Viktória Harta and Dániel Szilágyi. The lecture titled “Alternative dispute resolution at family businesses” was delivered by Fanny Ökrös, the topic of which was the internal functioning of family businesses. It focused on the fact that at this form of undertaking family and working life is intertwined, according to the comparison they used, as the two stems of the DNA. Upon making decisions, the pure logic of law and economic rationality are blended with emotions. The sensitive points (change of generation, internal relations and conflicts), which ruin many family businesses, are manageable problems. The authors concluded that the solution for all three cases is mediation.
The participants of the panel discussion titled “Success at the 2017 mediation competition of the International Chamber of Commerce – experiences and lessons learnt by the team of the Eötvös Loránd University” included the members and coaches of the Eötvös Loránd University team, which achieved the prestigious 12th place at the 2017 mediation competition of the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce).
In relation to the competition, Dr. Éva Inzelt informed the audience that the ICC organised its international competition related to the mediation procedure for the 12th time in 2017, where the team of the Eötvös Loránd University participated for the sixth time. Viktória Bíró, team member, said in connection with signing up for the competition, that as a first-year law student she had been keen on getting involved in a task that helped her acquire knowledge beyond the narrow curriculum and enhance her English skills. Kálmán Varga (coach) believes that the pledge of good performance is the selection of the team members, which was an excellent success this year. During the preparations they had put great emphasis on improving problem resolution, argumentation and technical English skills. Csaba Varga primarily emphasised the importance of the English legal terminology and the presentation skills and mentioned the enhancement of and the progress achieved in these fields as the most important benefits of the competition. He said that during their work special attention had been paid to the development of debate skills and the increasingly conscious building of the applied arguments. Juan Efrain Rocha stressed that it had been a very important step for him to learn to trust his teammates and recognise that there were times when he had to abandon his personal conviction and heed the opinion of others. Finally, to the question “Why would it be important to spread alternative dispute resolution even more in Hungary and in the world?” Annamária Balogh responded that mediation might aid business development, the parties to the dispute were interested in being able to look at each other as partners even after settling the dispute, to make efforts to prevent disputes and conflict situations.
The last programme of the conference was a panel discussion on the experiences of the Hungarian ELSA-BCCI Alternative Dispute Resolution competition organised on 17 March 2017, where the audience could hear about the events and opinions also from the sponsors', organisers' and contestants' point of view.
Dr. Dóra Horváth, attorney (Réti, Antall and Co. PwCLegal Law Office) stressed that the students participating in the competition could acquire skills that they can benefit from later and utilise when they enter the labour market. Dr. András Szilágyi (Department Chair, BCCI Mediation and Legal Coordination Department) introduced the competition organised with the support of the Budapest Chamber of Commerce and Industry as the “little brother” of the ICC international competition, which is also important because it raises talented young people, and it is the youth that satisfy the needs of the enterprises of the future. Péter Tüttő (President, ELSA Hungary) illustrated for the audience with his short video presentation how the competition was going in 2017. He said that ELSA, as the international organisation with the highest number of members, pooling law students, had initiated the organisation of this type of competitions across Europe. This is a competition that focuses on unique skills and capacities that can be used in all areas of life and come in handy for all not only at work, but also in private life. Finally, the winners of the competition Krisztina Szokol and Veronika Heiszer talked about their experiences gained during the preparations and the competition.
The conference ended with the closing speech of Dr. Veronika Szikora, dean of the Faculty of Law and Political Sciences of the University of Debrecen. The dean stressed that the conference had been organised in an inspiring environment and with inspiring contents. The presentations on the first day of the conference focused on the economy, while those on the second day dealt with education. She emphasised that higher education had a key role in awareness raising, and in the development of negotiation and dispute resolution skills and capacity, and instead of providing students with academic knowledge only, also enhancing talents. The conference had several messages and it also made us aware of the fact that conflict management and resolution play an important role also in paying attention to others, accepting the culture of others and it develops our personality.
The press showed great interest in the conference; in addition to the news published in the printed and online media, radio and television interviews and discussions had also been organised.