Online Video Conference Mediation
Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) which has been utilized for many years, has gained extensive use with video conferencing since the pandemic began. Most importantly, cases mediated by way of video conference ARE SETTLING! ODR likely is here to stay!
ODR has numerous advantages particularly where trials in civil cases are postponed for long periods or indefinitely; the courts are faced with an enormous case backlog which causes long delays; and court funding is being dramatically reduced as a result of challenged state budgets.
Resolution achieved during ODR provides certainty and finality where delay and postponements have otherwise been the norm.
Mediation conducted online by video conference also:
- Results in savings for the parties, avoiding the steep costs that come with litigation, particularly if it is prolonged;
- Avoids health concerns that may arise if meeting face to face;
- Is convenient and increases productivity since the participants do not have to leave their home or office to travel to a physical meeting location;
- Potentially provides time flexibility with the use of pre-scheduled caucus meetings;
- Results in the parties drafting an enforceable settlement agreement once a settlement is reached, as would occur with a settlement after an in-person mediation.
The ODR process is the same as with face to face mediation except that the parties are in their own homes or offices rather than together in a conference room in an office building. Conversations are private and confidential as they would be in a face to face mediation. The Zoom software provides for the use of private breakout rooms for each of the parties and their counsel, and also allows the mediator to meet separately with the parties and/or move the parties into a joint session.
I find it particularly helpful if the parties each spend a brief time with me separately, prior the mediation day becoming familiar how the Zoom features work for mediation, even if they are tech savvy. I do not charge for this introductory time once you have signed up for a mediation session.
How it works:
- For the mediation you will need to be in a private location with good Wi-Fi connection. Given the confidential nature of the mediation, you will need to avoid having non-parties in the background.
- Your computer or laptop needs to have a camera and microphone. While not optimal, you may also be able to use your smart phone, but again the Zoom App will need to be downloaded beforehand.
- If you have not done so already for other Zoom meetings, before the mediation you should download the most recent Zoom app from Zoom.us. There is no cost for this. Zoom also has numerous online tutorials which describe how its platform works which you may want to examine before the mediation. Zoom is constantly updating its software so check to make sure you have installed the most recent version.
- Before the mediation I will send out a meeting link to the parties and counsel, specific to their mediation. Only those persons who the parties have agreed in advance will participate in the mediation should receive the Zoom meeting link. Please do not forward the meeting information to other persons
- A few minutes before the meeting begins, it is useful to log onto the meeting and check your audio when you are given that option on the screen.
- When you log into the Zoom meeting, you will initially be in a waiting room until I admit you to the meeting. Once you are admitted into in the Zoom meeting (from the waiting room) there is a Zoom taskbar that will appear if you use your mouse to hover over the bottom of the Zoom screen. In the lower left corner of the Zoom screen, there is an icon for a microphone and a video camera. You can turn on/off your audio and video by clicking on the icons. Next to both microphone and camera icon there are up arrows. Clicking on the up arrows provides you with additional options to select audio and video functions. I will also check with you once we begin the meeting to confirm that your audio/video is working. Note that the placement of the zoom features may be in different locations on Apple products.
- When I admit you into the meeting from the waiting room, I likely will assign you and your team to a private breakout room where you can talk without the other party. Then, as appropriate I can move both parties into a joint session. You will receive more information about breakout rooms after we begin the meeting, but you should know that the parties will each have a private virtual space to meet counsel, separate from other parties.
- You will see on the Zoom platform that there is a feature that permits recording of meetings. Since mediations are confidential, there will be NO RECORDING of the mediation by way of audio or video. Additionally, other than the parties and their representatives, there will be no other persons attending the meeting either in person or online unless we have discussed the presence of other persons before the day of the mediation. By virtue of signing the confidentiality agreement the participants will agree to maintain this confidentiality.
- When a case resolves during an online mediation, summary documentation is typically created by the parties to memorialize the settlement. Once the parties agree on the content of that settlement document, it will be sent electronically for signature, and can be signed electronically, typically before the mediation ends.