As we continue to follow directives to practice social distancing and shelter at home for at least the near future, videoconferencing has become the new normal for conducting mediations.
Fortunately, video/audio participation through the Zoom platform is widely available for parties to use to resolve their cases in mediation and is a good alternative when in-person mediation is not possible or practical. You do not need a Zoom account to participate, and there is no cost to the participants. All you need is a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone device.
Here is a walk-through guide of how mediation works through videoconferencing:
- The process is initiated by an email invitation from the Mediator to all participants.
- The email invitation contains a link for the participants to click on to enter the mediation at the scheduled date and time.
- The participants enter separate waiting rooms until everyone has arrived and the Mediator admits them into the mediation.
- Upon entering the mediation, the participants will all appear on the videoconference screen together with the Mediator.
- The Mediator holds a joint session with everyone participating together to explain the process and has the parties make opening presentations, like with an in-person mediation.
- The Mediator then moves the parties and their counsel into their separate breakout rooms, where they will remain separate and private from the other side.
- The Mediator can go back and forth between the breakout rooms to meet privately with the parties and their counsel as if they were in separate conference rooms during an in-person mediation.
- The parties can share and mark documents and photographs electronically with the Mediator privately in the breakout rooms or when everyone is together in joint session.
- Mediation settlement term sheets can be reviewed, edited, and signed.
The current trend toward using videoconference mediation should not be viewed as an initiative to move away from or replace in-person mediation. Because the dynamics of meeting and interacting in person cannot be fully replicated, in-person mediation is likely to remain a popular method of resolving disputes.
However, with the uncertainties created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the likely increase in length of time parties in litigation are facing in moving cases forward, videoconference mediation provides an effective and important alternative to resolving cases while the constraints of social distancing preclude mediations from otherwise happening.
Check out our Virtual Mediation Practice Guide for additional information.
Peter Schroeter has served as a mediator for over 20 years and mediated over 2000 cases, including business, construction, employment, insurance, personal injury, professional negligence, probate, and real estate. Peter’s online appointment scheduler can be viewed here.