Of necessity, online mediation is now vital to the continuing work that we do.
Private Mediation uses Zoom (zoom.us) as its preferred application. It is interesting to note that ABC Radio National, in its recent edition of Download this Show on 26 March 2020, compared several online applications and Zoom was described as “the breakout success story”.
No doubt it will also be a major Coronavirus success story – we should have bought shares.
It is important to realise that online mediation is not the same as any other meeting that might be held online.
I have conducted many successful mediations via Zoom. Many of Zoom’s capabilities are not usually needed in a mediation and can be turned off to avoid confusion. A Zoom account is only necessary for the ‘Host’ (Mediator), not the participants. It is critical to be aware of the settings that should be made in the program to ensure that the mediation will be successful and that any breach of privacy is avoided.
As a minimum, this should include the provision of a “Waiting room” for participants entering the mediation so that the host can admit them in accordance with a well thought out strategy. In addition, the use of Breakout rooms is available and extremely effective. This may seem to be an obvious extension of face to face/shuttle mediation. In reality, it is reasonably complicated to set up and can exacerbate tension and anxiety if the parties are unsure whether they will be able to be heard or seen when that is not what was intended.
I usually conduct a practice session on the day before the mediation with the lawyers involved so that everybody can see how it will operate and can be satisfied that there are no glitches, especially in relation to Breakout rooms and the Waiting room.
Of course, the issues I have mentioned here are only a small part of about 4 pages of settings that are available in Zoom. It is also possible to set up templates for the various types of meetings that you might conduct, including mediations. This will save time and angst in the setup process and will lead to greater certainty for the parties. The mediators ‘Opening Statement Checklist’ could be kept in mind when considering which settings to choose.
If any Lawyers or Mediators would like assistance with setting up Zoom mediations, or if you just want to discuss any relevant issues, or provide further suggestions then I would be very happy to assist.
Might change the way we do things forever?