When COVID19 brought current legal proceedings to a halt with closures of courthouses and law offices, many wondered – what does this mean for mediation and arbitration? Could it be done virtually? Would it … could it, be an alternative route for those waiting for the courts to open back up for their pending cases?
With tools like Zoom video conference or Join.Me, virtual mediations and arbitrations have still taken place. Here at Kim L. Kirn law and among other USA&M staff, we have been up to our eyeballs in new work coming in! Opportunities existed for us using video conference that wouldn’t have otherwise existed – for example, mediations in other states or counties where travel would have previously been an issue or cut down on our billable time. Below we outline the many advantages that virtual mediations and arbitrations bring, and why I think, for at least some segment of the market, they are here to stay.
Location Doesn’t Matter
As stated above, I have been able to mediate in many areas (Chicago, rural Illinois, areas outside of St. Louis, MO) where previously I would’ve had to travel OR competed with other local mediators. Since I was one of the first (and still remain one of the few) who can handle virtual mediations – my calendar is full!
Having the mediations online also allows for more parties to be present as they don’t have to commute to a commonly agreed upon location to hold the session. Not only are lawyers present, but both parties and their key witnesses are more available as it doesn’t require a commute.
Efficiency Of Virtual Mediation
One of the BEST things to come from my many mediations is the ability to screen share the documents and agreements. Instead of providing each party with a printed copy, we are able to all see the same document and the mediator, or the attorneys can make live edits to the agreement as the negotiations are going on. This not only allows for a more accurate discussion but also quicker turn around on agreements.
Additionally, because the computer adds a layer of removal in the mediation from an in-person mediation, I have often found that the emotions and tensions that typically arise between parties in disagreement are lessened. Parties are more civil and coming to agreement faster.
Additionally, the availability of virtual break out rooms can cut down the time running between one deliberation room to another with negotiations. It’s much faster to pop in and out of virtual meeting rooms.
Disadvantages Of Virtual Mediation
Along with the advantages to virtual mediation and arbitration, it does come with its draw backs.
First of all, body language is so hard to see and recognize over a Zoom call. It’s said that 90% of communication is perceived through non-verbal cues. While facial cues can be read, there are some things still missed with just a video of someone’s face.
As you read in my previous blog, technology glitches can be a real pain to deal with in virtual mediations. Each client and attorney’s familiarity with Zoom or other video conferencing tools can vary greatly. While I’d like to call myself the “Yoda of Zoom,” it still takes time to ensure each party is on the call correctly and comfortable using the platform.
There are a wealth of resources on Zoom best practices that can be a resource to any attorney working on mediation and their clients through Zoom tutorials.
Do you need a mediator or arbitrator for your cases relating to employment, special education, FINRA, real estate or personal injury?