I conducted my first virtual mediation last week using Zoom. The parties reached a full binding settlement via email consent of the parties and attorneys.
Here are some of my thoughts and observations:
- It takes two to tango: Both parties need to be engaged in the process. Some clients cannot wrap their minds around video conferencing and need that in- person interaction. That is a judgment call that needs to be made by the attorneys and their clients.
- Dry Run: Most litigants have computers and a good idea would be to send them information on zoom and have them get comfortable with using their computer or tablet with the application.
- Confidentiality: When I conducted the mediation, each attorney had their own account and I, as the mediator, logged into each attorney’s room and then logged out during each caucus. This will not be the norm but it did work and ensures 100 percent confidentiality. I have a zoom account that allows multiple parties to log in and I can put each party in a “breakout room”. This allows the mediator to control what room he or she breaks with and ensures that each party is kept separate from the other.
- Documents: If the case is document intensive, my suggestion would be to get a copy of all relevant documents to the mediator ahead of the mediation. The parties can then circulate drafts of agreements via email. If the parties have financial experts they can be placed in the breakout rooms with their clients. I anticipate that this might present some challenge to organization, but ultimately it can be done if all parties put in the work.
- Good Internet connection: This seems obvious but it is very important that there is good audio and video to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.
- Zoom: Zoom is user friendly and I can send a link to a private meeting via a meeting code that looks like this zoom.us/j/xxxxxxxxxxxxxx. The attorney or litigant can cut and paste the link in their browser and enter the meeting.
Is zoom perfect? No.
Is in person mediation preferable? Yes.
But can it work effectively? Absolutely.
If anyone has any questions or concerns about virtual mediations, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to set a call or ask questions.
Please refer to my online calendar here to book mediations or call Misty at (404) 816-2004.
Wishing you all stay safe and healthy.