Adaptation to the scenario brought by Covid-19 created new ways to manage procedures, with speed and safety
By Sérgio Siscaro
Brazil officially registered the first case of infection by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, on February 24, 2020. The health crisis that began at that time led to the need for measures to contain the disease and affected the daily lives of all Brazilians. In the case of CAM-CCBC, the response was quick: by the beginning of March, the norms and digital communication tools that allowed the Centre to maintain its operation were already established, ensuring security, agility, and cost savings, for all parties involved. CAM-CCBC’s Information Technology (IT) area was mobilized, enabling the establishment of the virtual channels, and providing assistance to clients and lawyers.
At the beginning, Administrative Resolution 39/2020 made virtual procedures optional for parties, in the administrative phase, but with the change in the health situation, in early April, Administrative Resolution 40/2020 made the electronic model mandatory. At that time, five main points of attention were identified, which should be followed. The face-to-face protocol was no longer required; the parties were given the possibility to submit their manifestations electronically. The arbitration request protocol was also accepted by e-mail, and the hearings and witness hearings were conducted through a remote communication tool. All institutional in-person activities were suspended.
“It was a quick change of direction, but we managed to adapt without losing quality. Before 2020 we already used electronic means, but they were the exception. With the pandemic, they became the rule”, says Cristiane Gertel, coordinator of the CAM-CCBC Secretariat. She adds that a Satisfaction Survey carried out by the Centre revealed that the acceptance of these virtual procedures was quite high.
As the months went by, the Centre continued adopting these practices, always attentive to the information and recommendations from public health agencies. Following this stance, CAM-CCBC has made it possible to hold several events in virtual format. In October, it was possible to hold the São Paulo Arbitration Week (SPAW), using distance communication tools. VII Congresso de Arbitragem (VII Arbitration Congress), on the other hand, adopted a pioneering format, with the in-person participation of some speakers from a professional recording studio.
One year after the introduction of these measures, their practical result is positive. And this result was so positive that, between January and December 2020, 105 arbitration proceedings were registered (an increase of 8.2% compared to 2019), involving R$9.05 million (growth of 6.47%). This was also the case in mediation: there were 15 procedures (87.5% more than the previous year), to which corresponds R$5.68 billion (almost 30 times more than in 2019).
These figures, as well as the good evaluation of those involved regarding the virtual procedures of the CAM-CCBC, suggest that, even after overcoming the current health crisis, it will be possible to maintain some of their characteristics, along with the face-to-face service. This hybrid format is more advantageous because it combines the benefits of agility and cost reduction.
Agility and savings
The aspect that most directly impacted CAM-CCBC’s activities was the need to follow social distancing protocols. The possibility of delivering documents electronically, holding meetings, and even hearings, in a virtual way, has made the process faster and more economical, by avoiding displacements of the parties.
Gertel points out that all expenses with in-person hearings come out of the Expense Fund of each procedure, impacting its final value to the client. “These costs are higher when the procedure is performed outside São Paulo, generating the need for spending on airline tickets, lodging, room rental, etc. The virtual format allows us to eliminate these costs”, she affirms. She also emphasizes the aspect of the speed of the procedures: “What used to take ten days to be protocoled, is now done in a matter of minutes. This agility contributes to the celerity of the procedure, as a whole”.
The digitalisation of the Centre’s procedures has brought another benefit: savings in the use of paper and mailings. According to the coordinator of CAM-CCBC’s Administrative Support area, Regina Alves, in 2019 the Center sent a total of 20,738 mailings, and in 2020 that number was 6,800, a 67% drop. “In the arbitration area alone, we had an annual expense of R$720,000, for using the services of couriers and motorcycle courier, which shrank last year to R$198,000. In other words, we saved half a million reais from one year to the next”, she highlights.
Another important saving factor was the use of paper, whose reduction had already been the object of CAM-CCBC’s sustainability project. “In our archive we have 2,990 folders, which represents about 1.2 million sheets of paper. With the use of electronic means, we will also reduce this volume”, she adds.
At the very beginning of the social distancing phase, CAM-CCBC migrated its activities to the digital environment. With the purpose of not interrupting the cases in progress, and to continue operating normally, the Centre has placed its teams in a home office regime. Again, the IT area’s performance was essential to ensure that the system worked properly, allowing CAM-CCBC employees to continue performing their activities remotely. “They worked quickly to enable people to get their tasks done from home, allowing them to divert phone calls, and creating virtual spaces for document storage, for example”, says Gertel.
Alves points out how a series of activities ended up bringing CAM-CCBC employees closer together and making their communication with the Center more fluid. “CAM-CCBC’s commitment was essential in providing the conditions for the home office. We kept the Centre running, and also made sure that everyone was aware of what was happening, even if from a distance”. She adds that the last Climate Survey revealed the approval of the employees, especially about maintaining the communication channels.
“The result has been most satisfying. The Human Resources team was highly competent in promoting virtual meetings, which ranged from events and happy hours, to yoga sessions and laboral gymnastics. It was also possible to speed up the development of activities, since the case managers could access the General Secretariat at any time, in case of questions”, Gertel concludes.
Case manager Marco Lima’s experience exemplifies the success of migration to the home office regime. “For us, adapting to the electronic procedures was a challenge, but the result was very positive, and it benefited everyone”, he states. Working from Salvador (BA), Lima also benefited from the fact that, with the digitalization of the procedures, it was not necessary for him to travel to São Paulo. “Regarding the home office as well, the experience has been quite positive. With the support of the IT staff, it was possible to establish an agile and efficient way of working. For the future, he believes that some hybrid model, like face-to-face and virtual, should be the rule.
Clear rules of operation
In early 2020, news about the spread of the new coronavirus still left room for many uncertainties. To the extent that a scientific consensus has formed regarding contagion and ways to reduce its spread, the CAM-CCBC has changed its procedures and adapted them to the needs that have arisen. This process was formalised by means of Resoluções Administrativas (RAs) (Administrative Resolutions), published by the Direction of the Centre, in which the rules of operation of the CAM-CCBC itself, and its procedures, were established. However, even before the health crisis emerged, some of the measures that were enhanced in the midst of the pandemic – establishing, for example, rules to speed up procedures – had already been anticipated. Others, which were not causally related to the pandemic, ended up facilitating lawsuits during this period. Check out the timeline of these standards below:
- RA 29/2018 (January 2018) It established rules for electronic communication during the administrative phase of legal proceedings.
- RA 32/2018 (July 2018) It provided for the emergency arbitrator procedure.
- RA 39/2020 (March 2020) It created rules for the operation of the CAM-CCBC in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic, establishing the electronic submission of documents, the holding of virtual hearings and meetings, the suspension of in-person service to the public, and the postponement of events hosted at the Center.
- RA 40/2020 (April 2020) It determined the administrative reorganization and the rules for electronic processing of CAM-CCBC’s proceedings.
- RA 43/2020 (October 2020) Aligned with the recommendations of public health authorities and taking into account the scenario of decreasing contagion rates observed at the time, it established rules for the gradual resumption of face-to-face hearings.
- RA 44/2020 (November 2020) This RA changed the rules for the emergency arbitrator.
- RA 46/2021 (February 2021) It laid down rules for expedited arbitration.