As the Covid-19 pandemic has continued to impact our lives in substantial ways, many of us have tried to discover a bright side. I, for one, was happy to welcome my adult son, his wife, and their rescue puppy, to our home for several months when New York City locked down. Early on in the pandemic, disputing parties, counsel and some mediators, were reluctant to try remote mediation, choosing instead to delay scheduled mediations. I, however, was happy to try it. I have since successfully conducted several remote mediations. I am happy to report that remote mediation is another pandemic silver lining. Remote mediation is here to stay for the following reasons:
- Remote mediation is easier to schedule than in-person mediation. Finding a single date when all of the participants in a particular mediation can appear at a single location is difficult, particularly if travel is required. Also, it is easier for participants to commit to a remote mediation, knowing that it’s easier to multi-task, or leave and return, during a remote mediation than during an in-person mediation. This is particularly true when the in-person mediation occurs in a location that limits the use of cell phones and other personal devices, such as a courthouses.
- Remote mediation is as secure and confidential (if not more) as in-person mediation. Video-conference platforms, such as Zoom, permit users to use unique meeting numbers and passwords, waiting rooms, and to lock meetings after all participants have arrived. Recording can be disabled. Participants can use headphones.
- Remote mediation can mimic in person mediation, and be more efficient. During a typical in-person mediation, the mediator travels between breakout rooms, and sometimes puts subsets of participants (such as attorneys only) together. Each shift takes time. With a video-conference, there is no delay due to movement between rooms.
- Remote mediation is less expensive. All participants to an in-person mediation must expend some time and money getting to the mediation location, on time. Remote mediation eliminates those costs.