While courts have ground nearly to a halt on civil matters during the COVID-19 pandemic, mediations are moving again. Some are proceeding in person, while others are taking place on a virtual platform like Zoom, and some others are a hybrid of both.
Having conducted a good number of all of these different types of mediations over the last few months, I have some initial observations:
- In-person mediations can be accommodated with social distancing and are generally more effective when conducted this way.
- Virtual mediations can allow more senior mediators and counsel to participate, as well as participants who have underlying health conditions. While not quite as productive, mediations on the Zoom platform have proven effective in many instances. They also can save travel time and reduce cost.
- Zoom mediations allow counsel and parties to share documents, caucus privately and do almost everything that you can do in traditional in-person mediations.
- While I initially thought parties would be more interested in compromise and resolution during these uncertain times, I have been surprised to learn that settlements are no easier to achieve.
Those with disputes would be wise to seriously consider mediation, virtual or otherwise, during these uncertain times. Particularly when faced with challenging and delayed court operations, mediation can serve as a preferable alternative to resolve disputes timely and cost-effectively.