Why Virtual Mediation Works
By Nigel Wright
The good news is that for those clients seeking to resolve matters in-person the adoption of remote mediations utilizing Zoom video conferencing has proven to be very effective. Miles Mediation and Arbitration have already conducted a number of successful remote mediations and will be doing many more over the coming days and weeks.
Remote mediations may take longer to reach settlement if the parties meet for the first time in the mediation. This is mainly because uncertainty surrounding the technology and the need for all parties to get comfortable with a new method of conducting the mediation just takes time. The solution is to work with the parties before the mediation (whether earlier in the day before the mediation starts or in the days before) to test the technology and iron out any issues. For instance, iPads have less functionality than computers, some monitors are not as good as others, and internet signals need to be tested.
Zoom technology can create breakout rooms that enable parties and clients to participate fully without significantly interfering with other commitments they may have. The breakout rooms have the same function as in-person breakout rooms and cannot be accessed by any other party. The mediator can access the breakout room, however, the parties should confirm with the mediator that the mediator will not do so unless invited in by the parties in that room. In addition, the mediator is available to the parties at all times, either via the Zoom technology or by email and text. Email and text can be used, in conjunction with Zoom, to create the equivalent of knocking on the door or looking in the mediator`s office. This greater connectivity enables the parties to control the pace of the mediation and ensure that the mediator is focused at all times.
One of the dynamics of mediation is the pressure created by the investment of time and effort to attend a mediation at a specific location on a particular date. The arrangements made in scheduling and attending a mediation require the parties to reschedule other work and commit to the process. When mediating remotely, the pressure is just not the same. This enables the parties in a remote mediation to turn to other matters, even in the mediation, while waiting to discuss their case with the mediator or their clients.
It is also easier for a party to leave a virtual meeting than an in-person meeting. Expectations for a virtual mediation may be lower than in-person mediations and there may also be less pressure on the mediator. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Less pressure may lead to a more reasoned analysis of the merits of the parties` position. Recent events have made all of us more willing to accept technology as a medium for communication and this has certainly contributing to the positive attitude shown by those who decide to mediate virtually. The experience at Miles Mediation and Arbitration suggests that the same forces at play in an in person mediation can be utilized in a remote mediation, with few exceptions.
Remote mediations have many of the attributes of an in-person mediation but without the cost and expenses of the parties’ travel and waiting time, however, their greatest attribute is that they work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a mediator and arbitrator at Miles, Nigel Wright handles extensive personal injury claims in disputes in over 50 countries and complex claims (including class actions) for A&H, Aviation, Casualty, Commercial Property, Construction defect, Crisis Management, Cybersecurity, D&O, E&O, Energy and Marine, Environmental, Financial Lines, Insurance coverage, IP, Pharma, Product defect, Professional Liability, Political Risk, and Surety.