Virtual mediation and ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution) has been operating in civil and business conflicts as early as the 1990s through email chains. As technology progressed through phone calls and later social platforms like Zoom, so did the demand to address long-distance, high volume disputes. Whilst relationship focused mediation had once been met with reluctance, last year as shown us that nearly everything is possible virtually. Although we are slowly coming out of lockdown (hopefully once and for all), there is no indication that returning to face-to-face meetings is required to obtain successful agreements. If anything, there has been a great increase in virtual mediations within the U.K. and beyond.
Returning to the status quo would be a move backwards, and mediators need to move with the times. That is not to say that online mediation doesn't come with its' own unique challenges, but these are easily overcome through hiring a trained professional online mediator. Some concerns voiced by apprehensive clients are (1) technical difficulties, (2) privacy issues and (3) rapport; whether trust can be obtained online.
1. Technical Difficulties
The mediator can address this concern by meeting with clients individually prior to the mediation day to ensure the internet connection and online platforms are operating successfully. At Dawkins Mediation, we provide an informal walkthrough service on using Zoom to all clients prior to mediation. During this meeting we will answer any questions or concerns you have returning the process.
2. Privacy Issues
During the same informal meeting, we require participates to sign a privacy agreement prior to mediation agreeing to confidentiality throughout the process. The day of the mediation we request that parties share the room the will mediate from to ensure there is no unauthorized participates or recordings taking place. If a client steps out of line of sight, or if someone that has not been an approved participate enters the room, we will remind clients of the privacy agreement they signed. While we will address examples like this, we also understand life happens, and it is important for clients to remember that what is discussed in mediation is inadmissible in most situations. This means that anything overhead cannot be used as evidence if mediation is not successful.
3. Rapport Concerns
A seasoned mediator recognizes that building rapport and trust is imperative to ensure a successful agreement. It can more challenging to read body language through Zoom, however this can be addressed through more direct check ins and meeting individually with clients in separate breakout rooms. Because most clients will be mediating from the comfort of their own home, they are likely to be much more relaxed and therefore willing to share their side of the story.
Benefits of Online Mediation
This is far from a comprehensive list but some of the most important are:
No commute time or overhead costs for renting out a conference centre
No hassles with negotiating additional time in a hired mediation space if you do go a bit over and then negotiating getting paid by the clients for the extra fees.
The process is much less stressful for clients which means that people who may have been reactive or rigid in their thought process
Zoom, makes it is easy to share documents and information through screen sharing
Writing up the agreement draft is quicker and more efficient
Shorter mediation sessions can be scheduled.
Please contact Dawkins Mediation at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about the benefits of using online mediation to solve your dispute.