Online mediation allows parties and their attorneys to meet with the mediator in a virtual setting, rather than traveling to the mediation site. Many people worry that it will be difficult to develop trust or communicate in this format, but the vast majority of participants report positive experiences and ease of use. The technology is intuitive and easy to learn, and most mediators are willing to work with you to make sure you are comfortable and successful in the process.
In addition, online mediation allows all decision-makers to participate in the mediation process, whereas traditional mediations often limit this participation to only attorneys and their clients. This feature is particularly useful in cases involving insurance adjusters who may have limited information or knowledge about the case at hand. Online mediation enables these individuals to participate in the process, resulting in greater understanding and communication among all parties.
Another advantage of online mediation is the ability to mediate before or after work hours. This flexibility is helpful for workers who are concerned about balancing their professional and personal lives or those who are unable to leave the office due to heavy workloads or childcare responsibilities.
The convenience of online mediation also saves time and money for both parties and their attorneys. By eliminating the need for in-person meetings, the mediation can be conducted in fewer sessions and the costs associated with travel, hotel stays, meals and rental cars are avoided.
Some mediators have found that the virtual environment allows them to work with more senior party decision-makers, as well as those who might be reluctant or unable to attend in person. They have also reported increased use of asynchronous proceedings (sessions without all participants present at the same time) and shorter mediation days compared to in-person sessions.
Bandwidth disruptions and technological glitches are a concern for some mediators, however they can be minimized by planning in advance what will happen if a session is interrupted (i.e., a backup continuance date/time or resuming via audio conference call) and by reiterating the tenets of confidentiality throughout the process.
Other pitfalls, such as distractions, can be addressed by reminding participants to turn off their phones and limiting the number of participants in the room, as well as ensuring that the participants are communicating from a private and quiet space. In addition, the mediator should frequently check in with the participants regarding their comfort level and engagement.
Finally, it is important to know whether the mediation service you choose offers partial or full refunds if the conflict is not resolved during the agreed-upon number of mediation sessions. While this is a common practice, some services do not offer this option, and it can be frustrating to have invested time in the process and not reached a resolution. Fortunately, many online mediation services provide flexible packages that allow for partial refunds. If you have any questions about the availability of this option, please do not hesitate to contact us.