The mediation went much like any other family law mediation. We met in the common area of the video-conference space, much like the reception area in any real office suite. We quickly separated into separate break-out rooms, and I commenced shuttle style mediation. Each lawyer paired off with their client, and I moved back and forth between the virtual rooms. At one point I invited the lawyers back out into the common area, while leaving their clients alone in their own break-out rooms. We resolved a legal issue in the virtual corridor. I ended up drafting an MOU and I emailed it off to the lawyers for a final tweaking. I sent out PayPal invoices to the parties and I was paid for what ended up being a four-hour session.
The February 2020 issue of the Colorado Lawyer features an article on Online Dispute Resolution authored by Doug McQuiston and Sharon Sturges. It is an excellent overview of the utility of video conferenced mediation. It is notable that one of the authors is none other than the Director of the Colorado judicial branch’s Office of Dispute Resolution. For those who have been slow to incorporate online techniques into their mediation practice, here is a good hint about what the future may have in store.
In my own practice, I feel that video mediations have a similar success rate as in-person mediations. They are a bit more work to set up, but then there is no drive time compared the usual need to meet everyone in a real office. I’m still using the Zoom.us platform and I’m loving it for being inexpensive and dependable. I have always been paid for my video sessions, so I have gotten over the worry that I might get stiffed by working online.
For a mediator, the time spent getting the parties and counsel set up online is just another way in which you can build rapport. This is a bit more demanding than using a speakerphone, so you will not insult anyone’s intelligence if you offer help. It is actually really easy, but people do not realize that until they have tried a video conferenced mediation. Marketing is perhaps the toughest part of gaining acceptance for the practice. This is why it is so important to see this style of online mediation featured in the Colorado Lawyer.
Mediation clients not only appreciate your help in setting up the video conference, they are generally delighted with what they see. There is no better way to start a mediation than with happy customers who have not had to drive to a law office. If they also think the mediator is some kind of minor deity for being able to set up the video conference, they may also believe that the mediator can perform the miracle of settling the case. As we all know, having confidence in the mediator actually does settle cases.