With the world changing its business, learning and even social communication to remote platforms, it is worth taking a second look at how these technologies can reshape the mediation process as well. Because remote mediation requires a great deal of advanced planning, there are new opportunities to customize each mediation, such as:
- The choice of videoconferencing platform
- Whether it will be a group video session, or with participation in person or by phone
- Security and privacy screens
- Video tools such as screen sharing, chat and breakout rooms
- Choice of signing tool, such as DocuSign
- Establishing ground rules, such as length of sessions and breaks
An initial meeting with counsel and mediator can address not only videoconferencing concerns, but also what adaptations will be necessary for all parties to make in remote platform sessions. Some issues may be how to handle the pre-session discovery and information exchange, identifying the primary participants, deciding if part or all of the briefing should be exchanged or remain confidential, as well as the duration of the mediation.
The flexibility of participation and scheduling with the virtual format
Deciding who can participate may present new options in a remote mediation. For example, higher-level officers of a corporation may be more available if travel is not necessary, as well as family or significant principals in an individual litigation. And participants may have a higher comfort level in joint remote sessions than if they were in the same room together.
Short videoconferences, which ensure that everyone’s devices, internet and microphones are operational, can be lengthened after the briefing, giving the mediator the opportunity to engage in a short first caucus. In this way he has the chance to do the following:
- Develop trust with the clients
- Understand perspectives of each party
- Work with the initial reactions to information that has surfaced from the briefing
- Discuss the mediation format and customize any changes depending on what the case may require
The remote platform may have appeared at first as an impediment to the core goals of mediation, which include creating connection and finding common ground in difficult negotiations. But with the intensive focus on planning, there is the benefit now of highly customized mediation services.