With the advent of COVID-19, online dispute resolution is the way to go. Why risk contracting the virus by hanging out in conference rooms with groups of people outside of your immediate family circle for extended periods of time when you can fully participate in mediation and arbitration from the comfort of your home or office? This is especially true when it comes to mediations involving large construction projects with multiple parties, counsel, and insurance carriers, as they can have more than 15 people in attendance.
Some attorneys (and clients) shy away from online mediations and arbitration hearings fearing that they’re somehow not as effective as in person proceedings, but that’s not necessarily true. A skilled online dispute resolution specialist can help the parties acclimate to the relatively easy technology and make the experience as effective and productive as in person proceedings.
In the case of mediations, parties can start out in a single virtual room and then be separated into breakout rooms just as they would in a live mediation conference. In a virtual arbitration proceeding, the arbitrator can get a close up view of a witness’s face and demeanor on the screen as they’re examined and cross-examined and even get a recording of the testimony to refer back to in the absence of a transcript.
Even before the pandemic, mediations and arbitrations took place every day by telephone or videoconference. As a mediator and arbitrator who serves on the American Arbitration Association’s (the “Association”) roster of neutrals, I’ve conducted many mediation conferences and arbitration final hearings online and telephonically. In fact, telephonic mediation conferences and hearings are the norm for certain types of cases that come before the Association.
How Does Online Dispute Resolution Work?
At Duff Law & Mediation, PLLC, we offer our clients the flexibility of holding mediation conferences and arbitration hearings via Zoom, telephonically, or on any videoconferencing software of the clients’ choosing.
When you schedule the mediation or arbitration proceeding, we discuss whether it will be held online or in person and whether it will take place on Zoom or via some other technology. If the proceeding will be held on Zoom, we set up the Zoom conference and provide the parties with the link to join the meeting and the password.
If any party is unfamiliar with Zoom and wants to see how it will work for their mediation conference or final hearing, we schedule a short walk-through session to help them learn basic commands, see how it works, and get more comfortable with the platform.
In the case of arbitrations, the parties exchange exhibits and provide us with a copy prior to the final hearing. The attorneys can share their screens to show exhibits to witnesses and examine them about the documents or make the exhibits available on Dropbox or another database for that purpose
In mediations, the mediator is the host of the Zoom meeting. The parties start out in the main Zoom “room” for mediator instructions and opening statements, if any. The mediator then separates the parties into separate “rooms” and speaks with each party separately, just as we would at an in-person mediation. No-one but the participants in each room and the mediator is a party to any conversations between the attorneys and their clients in the separate rooms. To ensure additional privacy, the parties can mute their microphones and speak with their counsel over the telephone instead.
If the matter settles and counsel needs to work out the terms of the written settlement agreement or it is otherwise advantageous to do so, the mediator has the ability to close the breakout rooms and bring the parties back into the main room.
Schedule an Online Mediation or Arbitration Today
If you’re running up against a court ordered mediation deadline or are otherwise ready to resolve your dispute, contact us today to schedule your online mediation or arbitration. We’d love to help you.