Virtual Mediations

How do they work? Are they as successful as face to face mediations? How do lay parties feel about them? Will they have an on-going role after the current health crisis?

Questions that, as mediators, we are regularly asked.

How do they work?

On-line (or remote) mediations are very flexible. Perhaps ideally all parties are on the same platform eg Zoom, Microsoft teams, Starleaf etc but they can be on different platforms/media eg one party on line via Zoom etc and the other on a conference telephone call.

By way of preparation it is a good practice to have a ‘trial run’ to ensure that all involved are comfortable with their chosen platform/media. Either at this time or separately the mediator will have a conversation with the lawyer for each party to ensure that the logistics (eg signing of mediation agreement/who will be attending/who will be contributing to the opening joint session/timings etc) are agreed.

On the day the mediator will usually invite each team to join at staggered start times to allow the mediator to make introductions and then (if using an online platform) transfer that team into their own ‘room’. Different platforms have different ways to manage this but the principles are all similar. The start of the mediation is therefore very like the start of a traditional ‘attended’ mediation with the parties arriving in reception and being shown into their own room where they can have a conference amongst themselves as well as a preliminary meeting with the mediator.

Once everyone is settled in their own rooms the mediator will – subject to all parties being happy to entertain this – arrange for all parties to meet in the mediator’s room. Parties will be encouraged to briefly summarise what they hope to achieve from the mediation. The lay parties may well be encouraged to contribute themselves.

After the joint session the mediator largely shuttles from ‘room’ to ‘room’ in an attempt to facilitate a settlement. If a settlement is reached this does then need to be reduced to writing – this can be done by an exchange of emails.

Are they as successful as face to face mediations?

In our experience there has been a slight reduction in agreements reached as a result of online mediations but settlements are still achieved in over 70% of cases. These statistics are taken over a relatively short (3 month) period and it is hoped/expected that success rates will return to around 80% in the longer term.

How do lay parties feel about them?

Good quality preparation on the part of the mediator with the parties helps to mitigate the inevitable anxiety of the day itself. Once the parties are familiar with the media/platform there are significant benefits to being at home. Travel is avoided as is the need to be present in a more formal physical setting. The parties can be at home in familiar surroundings with the ability to take a break/have a coffee whenever they need.

Will they have an on-going role after the current health crisis?

Given the positive experiences of on-line/remote mediations over the last few months including the not inconsiderable cost and time savings that flow from the parties joining from home/their own office it seems inevitable that this format for mediations will continue.

Questions?

If you have a general question about the pilot, please get in touch with Holly Mieville-Hawkins at Enable Law in the first instance.