ADR providers use cloud-based and secure video conferencing software. Attorneys and clients will need laptop or desktop computers with web cameras and microphones, although a phone can be used for audio. A strong, secure internet connection is required. Public Wi-Fi networks should not be used in light of privacy and confidentiality concerns.
Mediation participants are provided a link prior to the mediation date that allows them to enter a virtual “waiting room.” The host mediator accepts the participants to the mediation and assigns them to their separate, virtual breakout rooms, similar to being placed in separate conference rooms for in-person mediations.
When you are in a breakout room, you will not be able to see or hear the other parties or mediator, but the attorney (if represented by counsel) will be able to see and converse privately with his/her client. The mediator will then join your breakout room to confer with the attorney and his/her client throughout the mediation.
The mediator can conduct separate attorney meetings with just counsel, or hold a joint session with all participants. Everyone will have the ability to share their screen with the mediator and others. This allows them to share documents, pictures, PowerPoint presentations, or anything on their screen.
As with in-person mediations, the online participation of all decision-makers, not just counsel, is strongly encouraged. Decision-makers must be directly engaged with the mediator and their counsel to enhance the chance of settlement.
Pre-mediation calls are important.
They may be the only opportunity for counsel to discuss the case outside the client’s presence. During these calls the mediator may learn more about the dynamics underlying the dispute, and hear counsel’s suggestions on how to help their client make sound decisions. Unlike in-person mediations, mediators in virtual mediations cannot pull the lawyers aside in the hallway to speak privately. Issues unique to virtual mediations. Participants must agree to be in a private space where outside parties cannot hear any aspect of the process. Counsel and their clients must also agree to not record any part of the mediation and agree to virtual dispute resolution guidelines.
While face-to-face interaction is preferable and more effective, virtual mediation may be the “new normal”. We are open to using a virtual process to resolve disputes.