As someone once said “To err is human, but to really foul things up requires a computer”. Whilst there is often some truth in this playful twisting of Alexander Pope’s famous quote, mediation is one of the areas in which the development of technology can be of great assistance. The recent COVID pandemic has forced people to embrace the concept of online mediations, and many mediators and participants alike have been pleasantly surprised by its operation and advantages.
How does online mediation work?
So how does online mediation work? Different mediators may have slightly different ways of running the mediation, but at DisputeOver an online mediation will usually operate as follows.
As a mediation participant, you will be sent a link or meeting ID and passcode by email. Prior to mediation, you can download Zoom for free to your computer, although you do not have to as Zoom allows for web-hosting (i.e. you can open Zoom through your web browser such as Chrome, Safari, Internet Explorer, etc.). You will need either a computer with a webcam and microphone (either built-in or externally connected) or a smartphone with the Zoom app downloaded.
Entering your online mediation
When it is time for your mediation, you can click the link or go to the Zoom app or website and enter the meeting code and password. Once you have done this, you will then usually be taken to a virtual waiting room until the mediator is ready to speak with you.
When the mediator admits you to the online mediation, you will be able to see him or her on your screen and hear them. They will also be able to see and hear you, and anyone else nearby so make sure that you have a private place from which to participate in the mediation session.
During your online mediation
After the initial check-in, the mediation process will be conducted much like traditional mediation. The mediator will “move” all of the parties into the one virtual room so that all participants can see and hear each other and the mediator. After going through the ground rules and explaining the mediation process, the mediator will give each party or their representatives a chance to let everyone else know what brings them to mediation and what they are wanting to achieve from the process.
If parties wish to refer to documents that have not previously been provided, Zoom has a button that allows you to share electronic or scanned documents with the other participants. Sharing a document brings it up on part of the screen so that all participants can see it.
Virtual Breakout Rooms
At some point, discussion in the joint session will exhaust itself. The mediator will then move parties to separate virtual breakout rooms. You will receive a message on the screen inviting you to your individual breakout room. Once you click on the invitation, you and your representatives and support persons (if any) will all be able to see and hear each other. Importantly, none of the other parties or the mediator will be able to see or hear you. In this way, you can discuss matter arising from the joint session in complete confidence. The mediator is commonly called for when needed by clicking on the “Call for Help” button.
Further breakout rooms can be created and used, for instance, so that the lawyers can discuss legal matters together or convey offers without the parties being present.
Settlement and Signing Documents
If the matter resolves, draft terms of settlement can be shared as set out above, or commonly they are sent between the parties or their lawyers by email and signed digitally.
How can DisputeOver help?
At DisputeOver, we offer flexible mediation services both in person and online via Zoom or Skype. If you are involved in a dispute, our Nationally Accredited Mediator Simon Matters would be happy to assist. Please contact Simon on (03) 8561 3399 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The information contained in this article is intended to be of a general nature only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Any legal matters should be discussed specifically with one of our lawyers.
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