The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

BidSettle: Taking the emotions (and lawyers) out of settlements

May 13 2016 13 May 2016

 

BidSettle is a new online tool that facilitates online settlements by allowing parties in a dispute to exchange  confidential settlement offers and counter-offers. CBA National sat down with its co-founder and CEO, Alexandre Désy (pictured above; the other co-founder is lawyer Philippe Lacoursiere) about using technology to help give people access to legal solutions.

CBA National: What gap in the market is BidSettle trying to fill?

Alexandre Désy: Well there's a huge gap in the market. Nobody uses legal services anymore except the rich, the poor who can use legal aid, and companies. At the least three quarters of the people don't use legal services anymore. We're trying to help those people help themselves. So a two-day trial will cost you $25,000 to go through the whole process — $50,000 if you take into consideration both parties, and we’re not even [factoring in] the risk and emotional hassle that a three-, or four-year long process will do to you.  So for anything under $60,000, it's not interesting economically to use the justice system.

N: How does BidSettle work?

AD: If you're getting sued for, say $20,000, the website will ask you what is the maximum that you're ready to give to settle, and to the other party it asks it what's the minimum it’s ready to receive to settle. And if they overlap, we split it in half and the settlements are automatically sent to both parties. It's free to use until a settlement is reached. Then we take 2.5 per cent for both parties. We then give back 15 per cent of our profits to access-to-justice initiatives.

N: What kind of cases is it ideal for?

AD: Sometimes emotions are involved and you want to preserve a relationship where people need to say I'm sorry; and so there are a lot of situations where BidSettle doesn't apply. But there are also situations where emotions get into the way and where it's better to have an emotionless process, because some people just can't talk to each other. It's only for cases that can be settled for a [dollar] amount.

N: How often are settlements reached?

AD: We launched [a couple of months] ago, so the stats can't tell us right now with certainty. It also takes time to use the tool because you might not find an overlap right away.

N: So, using BidSettle is a bit of an iterative process that you go back to a number of times over the course of a conflict.

AD: Exactly. So once your account is open it's open for an undetermined amount of time. Even if it doesn't work the first time, you can come back a month later and try because the situation might have changed. Your situation could change, your money situation can change and your incentives can change.

N: Is there any strategy to it?

AD: It's been conceived to to counter strategy because strategy is a big part of why people go to court. They start off with asking a huge amount and— they know they’ll get less, but they start really far apart. And because the bids are confidential, you can actually start off with an amount that is reasonable. It promotes settlements that way, by incrementally pushing people together. Still, people are intelligent so I guess some will be able to use the tool better than others.

N: But wouldn’t it still be better if there an impartial judge were to oversee the settlement process?

AD: Yes. If we could get team of psychologists and if we could get a team of lawyers and judges for every case, I mean of course, there could be a Cadillac service for everybody. That would be great. But the reality is different. The system doesn't have the resources to give that away. And it’s the same thing in every industry — in healthcare also. There are choices that need to be made and governments are not investing in law, so I mean, right now there are no solutions.

N:  Any new service offerings you are currently working on?

AD: With the new Quebec Code of Civil Procedure allows people to send demand letters digitally by email, so we will be automating that process also on Bid Settle. And we want to expand to English Canada really soon in the next months. We’re also working on business solutions for companies so we can adapt the product, and white label it for companies so they can settle disputes that they have with their clients instead of going to court.

 

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication.

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