Monday, March 22, 2021

Still Zooming A Year Later!

Despite Coronavirus severely curtailing the practice of law in courthouses across the country, lawyers found success settling cases over the past year using readily available technology. Our firm has since conducted some 3,500 mediations by Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams and other platforms, as well as good old-fashioned telephone and text. Few barriers to attending mediation exist when using off-the-shelf equipment and simple apps available for download. Though we utilized these methods at times before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was usually due to the unavailability of a party that remote attendance at a mediation conference happened. Because trial dockets across the country remain in disarray (Florida is a million cases behind), mediation of pending cases provides the soonest means of self-determining an outcome. Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) or virtual solutions can be accessed from the comfort and safety of home. As with traditional mediation, online mediation has allowed the mediator to adapt the process to address the particular needs of parties. Caucus is still possible, ensuring confidentiality, end-to-end encryption and the environment required for candor in negotiation. Of course, nothing beats being in person for a read of the room, but I believe remote attendance is here to stay. Participants appreciate reduced costs and less time expended overall in convening the process. Some cases that would have taken all day seem to resolve even faster online. Whether or not a settlement is reached, much is still learned by parties and counsel through the exercise and most cases settle thereafter still! That's not to say that our 3,000 year tradition of face-to-face mediation won't return as we are vaccinated, but ODR can still be effectively employed in many types of cases going forward.