Team Rechtwijzer: the breakup continues

Modria, the US company that teamed up with the Hague Institute for Internationalisation of Law to produce the innovative and interactive Rechtwijzer ODR platform, was taken over as of 30 May 2017 and subsumed with a much larger company, Tyler Technologies Inc.

Modria was formed in 2011; headquartered in San Jose, California; and its ODR platform was developed from work undertaken for e-Bay and PenPal in establishing their dispute resolution procedures. Its main business is the provision of bulk resolution of consumer disputes on the basis of subscription packages that are advertised on its website as varying from $550 a month for 1600 disputes to $3600 for 16,500 disputes.

The failure of the Rechtwijzer collaboration leaves open the question of how effective algorithmically-based solutions can be in the resolution of one-off disputes where the need for a continuing high reputation – as is often a factor for e-Bay traders – is not aiding resolution of a dispute. Court and tribunal litigants may present issues that are less susceptible to bulk handling than disappointed consumers.

Tyler describes itself as ‘a leading provider of end-to-end information management solutions and services for local governments. Tyler partners with clients to empower the public sector – cities, counties, schools and other government entities – to become more efficient, more accessible and more responsive to the needs of their constituents. Tyler’s client base includes more than 15,000 local government offices in all 50 states, Canada, the Caribbean, the United Kingdom and other international locations.’

Everyone is, of course, making the best of the announcement. This is Colin Rule, co-founder of Modria, as quoted in Tyler press releases: ‘This is an amazing opportunity for the Modria team to accelerate our traction with courts and appraisal offices, and Tyler’s expertise and values are in perfect harmony with Modria’s mission and vision … ODR will be extremely valuable for Tyler clients handling heavy case loads. We look forward to working as part of Tyler to improve access to justice and deliver fast resolutions for citizens.’

And here comes Tyler: ‘We are excited to add Modria’s offerings and expertise to Tyler’s portfolio,’ said Bruce Graham, president of Tyler’s Courts & Justice Division. ‘ODR provides our clients yet another powerful technology tool to help them transform the way justice works in their jurisdictions. Modria is the clear leader in online dispute resolution, and, when combined with Odyssey Guide & File for self-represented litigants, Modria will provide our clients an even more efficient way to manage a large volume of cases.’

Tyler seems on a roll and its share price is up close on 10 per cent over the year.  Modria’s operation and staff, including Colin Rule, will be absorbed within Tyler’s Courts and Justice Division where the company wants to integrate its automated online dispute resolution with its existing products. It is impossible for an outsider to know if the demise of Modria as a separate entity was linked to the end of the much vaunted Rechtwijzer project. Nor, indeed, how well Modria’s staff and investors did from the deal with Tyler.  It seems not unlikely that the demise of the Rechtwijzer closed a door to potential development as a stand alone company. In that case, the takeover has wider implications for the development of ODR than simply the everyday commercial story of absorption of a minnow by a whale.

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