As Singapore gears up to position herself as a Dispute Resolution Hub, the industry is paying greater attention to alternative means of dispute resolution. This week, we get the chance to chat with Anil Changaroth, author of the book “Resolving Disputes: A guide to the options for Appropriate Dispute Resolution (ADR)”.
Anil is the Managing Director of ChangAroth Chambers LLC. Conversant in Mandarin, Malay, Malayalam and Tamil besides English, his Chambers represent parties in the region with a focus on Infrastructure, Building, and Construction work and most aspects of Commercial, Civil, Criminal and Corporate Front End Advisory work and Appropriate Dispute Resolution Services.
Could you share with us what made you choose to be a lawyer and what drives you today?
Following a brief career as an infantry officer with the Singapore Armed Forces, it was my late father, Padmanabhan (Papan) Kottayi Changaroth, that in the 1980s was so instrumental in guiding me down this path to this noble profession. He too may well have been inspired by his own father who in the early 20th century, often negotiated and mediated disputes as a Panchayath village council head in Kuthuparamba, Kottayampoyil in Kannur district, Kerala, India.
What propelled you to move into this area of specialisation?
Dispute Resolution practice provides one with the opportunity to analyse and strategize the ultimate resolution of issues, concerns and disputes – regardless of whether its an individual facing financial issues, partners/company facing business difficulties, family/matrimonial difference, criminal sanctions, infrastructure, construction and international disputes
Where do you think Singapore is at now in becoming a Dispute Resolution Hub? Are we there now? Not yet? Why?
In many aspects, we are in the forefront with Dispute Resolution including with the advances made with institutional Arbitration (through the Singapore International Arbitration Centre), the Singapore International Mediation Centre and Institute, to the Singapore International Commercial Courts, and next up the ‘Singapore Convention’ on Mediation.
What are some of the challenges for Singapore to become a Dispute Resolution Hub?
A innate, cultural and mind set appreciation of Appropriate (no longer simply Alternate) Dispute Resolution – taking away the fear of facing legal issues, knowing full well that when disputes arise, it is not a case of having no control over the rigours of litigation, instead, they can each be totally in control and in charge of how they would like to resolve such matters, which is what my book hopes to empower people with.
Why this book and at this point in time?
The book is partly inspired by my 23 years with Taman Jurong constituency serving the community with pro bono legal services (often conversing in conversational Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, my mother tongue Malayalam, and smatterings of Hokkien) that truly humbled me into appreciating the extent of basic needs, concerns and issues (at times legal) that many in the community face in their daily lives. While these may seem insignificant to some, they are to many of them serious issues – with the hope my book takes away the fear of facing legal issues, knowing full well that when disputes arise, it is not a case of having no control over the rigours of litigation, instead, they can each be totally in control and in charge of how they would like to resolve such matters.
This book is also perfectly timed, considering the recent mention during the 2019 National Budget Debate in Parliament, the Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong on the 4th of March during the Committee of Supply Debate spoke extensively about valuable alternative dispute resolution mechanisms and tools and strengthen Singapore as an international hub for dispute resolution. And the Member of Parliament Sitoh Yih Pin on the 1st of March during the Committee of Supply 2019 Debate stated that Mediation was the way to settle commercial disputes.
Most importantly, the Singapore Convention on Mediation (that the United Nations United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), at its 73rd session in New York on 21st December 2018, passed a resolution to adopt the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation) that will be signed in Singapore on 7th August 2019 truly advances the cause of ADR.
Could you share with us some aspects of the book that readers can look forward to?
It is a concise guide for lay persons explaining ADR mechanism including negotiation, conciliation, mediation, neutral evaluation, expert determination, adjudication, arbitration, dispute boards, litigation, online dispute resolution and Singapore’s internationalisation of its ADR mechanism. In covering all of these, the book is also a great insight to ADR practitioners, some who have little understanding of the foundation, fundamentals and of options that are available.
It was this in mind that, that my book was (a) launched on the 9th April 2019 by the Honourable Member of Parliament Mr. Patrick Tay (West Coast GRC and Assistant Secretary General of NTUC) himself a lawyer, Arbitrator and Mediator and graced by the heads of the Law Society of Singapore, SIMC, SIMI, SMC, SICC, SICCI, SIA, SISV, SAL FLIP and copies presented to the seven People’s Association Community Clubs in the Jurong GRC for the constituents’ reference.
What else are you doing to help advance Singapore as an ADR Hub, impact of technology on the legal profession (including Online Dispute Resolution)?
Great advances, a clearer understanding and appreciation of ODR worldwide (actually different from Artificial Intelligence which is currently still several decades away from ever taking over core aspects of legal practice) are seeing such technology actually accelerating not disputing the legal profession. Both our Honourable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon’s emphasis since 2017 for legal practitioners to embraces Legal Technology and the Singapore Academy of Law’s Future Law Innovation Programme’s core objectives/vision have been in the forefront of such advances.
Embracing this, ChangAroth Chambers together with ChangAroth InterNational Consultancy will through its recently announced alliance with Resolve Dispute Online be developing Community Mediation application, Adjudication and Dispute Board online dispute resolution platforms to advance the cross-border accessibility to ADR.
I am next working on publishing my book Resolving Disputes regionally with co-authors already onboard in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, and Philippines with co authors in Sri Lanka and Thailand soon to be lined up too. The book in each of these countries will (in the second half of each chapter) showcase that specific countries infrastructure and framework available on the specific ADR mechanism.
Any advice you have for lawyers who are inspired to write and publish their own book?
Appreciate that your vast knowledge in legal practice places you in good standing to be able to share your experiences through your sharing in a book. You can find a video of the book launch here.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.