Is it possible to have remote mediation during COVID-19? What other options are there?
With courthouses still closed for regular business due to the pandemic, many aspects of litigation are on hold. Even when courthouses begin to re-open, the backlog of hearings and trials that did not occur will continue to cause delay. Accordingly, it has never been more important to explore options for alternative dispute resolution.
One option for alternative dispute resolution is mediation. Although mediation traditionally occurs person, the risks associated with the coronavirus have made that option difficult or unfeasible. To address this problem, many mediators now offer remote mediations.
Schorr Law’s real estate attorneys recently participated in a remote mediation via Zoom, a video-conferencing platform that has become popular during the pandemic. While we were initially skeptical, we were pleasantly surprised to find that in our client’s case, remote mediation was more convenient and just as effective as an in person mediation.
First, remote mediation allows practitioners to eliminate travel time to and from the mediation. This allows the attorney to use his or her time more efficiently. This also helps the client keep costs down by eliminating travel expenses. The remote aspect may also be more convenient for clients, especially if they have limited mobility or live far away.
Second, the Zoom platform can closely mimic the in person mediation format, despite being remote. Instead of meeting in person, the parties attend the mediation using their video-enabled devices. Parties can also participate by dialing from their phone for an audio-only experience. This second option may be useful for clients who have limited access to technology or Internet.
In addition, like in-person mediation, the mediator sequesters each side in separate breakout “rooms.” The mediator then shuttles back and forth between the “rooms” for individual sessions. There is also an option for breakout sessions with the mediator without clients if the need arises. Further, parties can easily share documents using the screen share or chat features in Zoom.
There are, however, some drawbacks. A spotty connection can make the experience frustrating. Some clients may need or prefer the in person experience, especially if they are not familiar with technology.
Overall, remote mediation is a very good option for alternative dispute resolution while the world continues to adjust to the “new normal” created by the coronavirus.
Schorr Law has extensive experience mediating all types of real estate disputes -averaging during busy times as many as one mediation a week. To see if you qualify for a free 30-minute consultation regarding your matter, please contact us by phone, email, or send us a message through our contact form.