Online mediation or Virtual mediation is a process by which parties can settle their disputes online without the need for in-person appearances. Meetings are conducted by video, such as Zoom and any form of document submission is facilitated through an encrypted, cloud-based platform accessible through the internet.
We are confident that we can continue to make mediation work for you in these difficult times. With in-person mediation on hold for some time to come, online mediation is one of the best resolution mediums available.
Parties are already successfully resolving disputes by mediation online during the COVID restrictions. Parties meet in a virtual main room for joint discussions and move to secure breakout rooms for confidential discussions between themselves and/or the mediator, moving in and out of the breakout and joint rooms as needed. As mediator, we can move easily between rooms for confidential discussions and together with both parties. Sharing a whiteboard or by using the chat function on the online medium is the same as being there in the room together.
What are the options?
We usually use Zoom as the most widely accepted online alternative to in-person mediation. However, we are happy to use whatever platform is preferred by the parties.
Parties can meet together in the main room with the mediator and then have secure break out rooms for private sessions with the mediator or on their own. The mediator can move easily between rooms and then bring people together as needed. A whiteboard or chat comments can easily be shared.
So how does it work?
Introduction email: once the mediator has been appointed, the mediator will email both parties involved and their advisors if applicable. This will confirm the appointment and state preliminary matters, such as a preferred online platform, documentation, attendees etc, to be agreed. The Online Mediation Agreement will be sent to both parties for signature and return.
Pre- mediation meeting: the mediator will arrange to meet on-line with each party and their advisors if necessary, separately. This is to discuss the most appropriate online platform, the timetable for the documentation exchange, discuss the structure of the mediation and who will be attending.
Agreement to Mediate: this is to be signed by all the parties attending and includes statements on confidentiality of the process. There is a separate confidentiality agreement for third parties to sign and return. The signed copy to be circulated by each party and then returned to the mediator.
Mediation instructions: once appointed and a date set, the mediator will send a unique meeting link to access the mediation meeting to each party.
Practice session: the mediator will arrange a practice session with each party a few days before the mediation, to ensure there are no connection or IT issues. We will also practice moving in and out of private breakout rooms and experience other functions useful in mediation. The security of the system will be shown. We will also look at the chat room or whiteboard and how these are used.
Tips when you are online in the mediation
- Allow one person to speak at a time. The mediator will ensure each party has chance to speak. There is a one second lag so it is especially important to allow each participant to finish before responding.
- Your face should be well lit. That usually means any light source should be in front of you rather than behind you. Seeing your face is very important as mannerisms or body signals are also used to communicate.
- Mute your video as a matter of practice. This avoids unwanted background noise.
- Agendas and visual aids help when people are not in the same room. The mediator will run this in consultation with each party. Zoom has a screen sharing button.
- Make the best use of written material. Use your mediation position paper to provide a clear road map of the key issues and how you approach them.