Updated: Aug 22
We are at least eighteen months into this grand experiment of conducting remote mediation settlement conferences. Pardon the pun, but let that settle in for a minute. This means that for over a year and a half, we have been using dispute resolution processes in which no one is physically present.
Naysayers did not think this was possible or would work. Traditionalists argued that you need a physical presence of the parties, a human connection, to effectively resolve disputes. After all, how else could you gauge body language, intentions, and sincerity? It was also posited that physical presence, the expense, and the commitment required for the same, was the only way parties would take dispute resolution seriously.
Of course, there were some initial bumps in the road when remote mediation began. Zoom bombing from unauthorized users. Confidentiality concerns. Technical glitches. The general inexperience of users while becoming accustomed to the new platforms.
I think we all would agree that the initial growing pains for remote mediation have mostly been overcome. The digital platforms have been updated and improved to address access and security concerns. There can be no doubt that these platforms will continue to improve over time as the developers have an obvious and financial incentive to grow these services.
Likewise, these remote digital services are widely and easily available to almost everyone that has either a mobile telephone or internet connection. As a result, many users have been using digital platforms regularly not only for business but also to maintain social connections with friends and family.
As with any technological evolution, the benefits are enormous. Typically such innovations increase access, convenience, and efficiency. Horses to the combustion engine. Trains to planes. Paper to digital images. Vinyl records to mp4 files. Typewriters to word processors and computers. The same now applies to in-person mediation versus remote mediation.
The Benefits of Remote Mediation
Remote mediation checks off all the boxes for improved access, convenience, and efficiency without affecting the effectiveness of the dispute resolution process.
There can be no doubt that remote mediation enhances access for participants to attend mediation. Mandated in-person mediation presents challenges in terms of transportation and allotting sufficient time to be away from the office or home to attend an in-person mediation. With the relative ease of connecting to remote mediation, nearly everyone can now easily attend mediation from almost anywhere without any significant inconvenience.
Efficiency both in terms of time and cost is also a hallmark of technological innovation. Remote mediation is no different in that there are no extra costs for a party to attend a remote mediation since they are routinely hosted by the mediator. This means there is a saving in travel expenses, transportation, hotels, and even parking for all parties. The benefits are even greater for lawyers, institutional clients, or insurance companies since they can attend multiple mediations in a single day in different cities, states, or even countries.
Finally, the effectiveness of remote mediation has yet to be seriously challenged. I have not seen any studies that suggest a remote mediation impedes or detracts from having an effective mediation.
Through remote mediation, you are still able to see the faces of the participants to gauge their attention and reactions during the settlement conference. Communication is also not hampered as joint and private sessions work perfectly fine during a remote mediation when breakrooms are properly set up.
Finally, mediation presentations whether through the showing of photos, videos, Powerpoint slides, or even computer simulations can all routinely be handled with the share screen options of a remote mediation. The only thing you are truly missing from a remote mediation as compared to an in-person mediation is the occasional handshake, donuts, or bad coffee.
Remote mediation is not the future, it is the now. We have been testing remote mediation settlement conferences for at least the past eighteen months and they have been proven to work. For all the right reasons, remote mediation is here to stay because it is effective, cost-efficient, and provides greater access to dispute resolution.
Miami Florida Mediator