After the global pandemic brought rapid change to many aspects of the legal landscape, many temporary practice directions were welcomed by practitioners. While courts had once been required to restrict in-person operations to protect the health of the individuals involved, the benefits of the ongoing ability to conduct specific processes virtually, including mediation, have not been lost.
Clients, counsel and the courts have benefited from the convenience, cost-savings and time-efficiency of virtual participation in alternative dispute resolution. While some may seek to return to in-person processes, virtual mediation has several benefits that should not be overlooked.
Key Benefits to Virtual Mediations
Mediation is an essential and effective form of alternative dispute resolution used in various legal proceedings. Throughout the pandemic, teleconferencing and videoconferencing proved to be an efficient means of communication and allowed for legal proceedings to continue as scheduled. There are many reasons why these tools should continue to be embraced by legal professionals and clients in respect of mediation and alternative dispute resolution services.
Significant Cost Reduction
Since their inception, virtual mediations have taken place via various technological mechanisms, such as teleconferences and video conferences. The flexibility available to allow parties to participate in virtual mediations from anywhere has significantly reduced the costs accompanying traditional in-person mediations.
Virtual mediation relieves parties of the additional steps of planning and paying for various costs, including travel, transportation and accommodation. Virtual mediation requires counsel to be present for a shorter time, resulting in reduced legal fees for some clients. With the prospect of a smaller financial burden, more parties may be encouraged to participate in mediation as a means of dispute resolution.
Increased Flexibility and Engagement
During in-person mediation, lawyers and mediators are expected to be in a particular location for a set time. For many, this can give the illusion of an “all or nothing” approach to the mediation, which may contribute to an unsuccessful mediation. A benefit of virtual mediation, beyond the cost reduction, is requiring participants to only carve out a portion of their day which has been set aside for mediation. Outside this time, clients can go about their usual daily routine, and counsel can manage other ongoing matters.
For individuals who may be reluctant to travel or attend in-person meetings due to health concerns, disability, or other personal reasons, virtual mediations remove such barriers. Further, virtual mediation does not limit a party’s choice of a mediator to their immediate geographical location, providing them with access to a variety of mediators with various experiences to choose from.
If mediation continues beyond the scheduled time allotment, there is less fear of participants feeling forced to stay in a location away from home. Virtual mediation allows for more time for the process and enables all involved to remain focused on the mediation rather than thinking about what they need to do or where they need to get to next.
Simple and Efficient
In legal proceedings, time is of the essence to parties, counsel and the courts. When the pandemic required the world to become technology literate quickly, issues and barriers were identified and resolved, leaving us with streamlined, accessible, and effective communication. The ability to quickly join a meeting from an office or living room provides a significant scheduling advantage. Further, rescheduling a mediation or scheduling subsequent sessions is often easier and can be done more quickly, given the fewer commitments that come with virtual attendance.
Currently, many lawyers and clients continue to use remote meeting technology to communicate, accommodate parties’ unique needs, and feel comfortable doing so. Therefore, where a telephone or video conferencing software is used by many people several times per day, it makes sense to continue to utilize this familiar means of communication in an effort to quickly resolve disputes and keep matters out of the courts when possible.
Comfort and Environment
Being able to access mediation virtually allows clients to participate from a place of comfort and familiarity, such as their home. Driving to a downtown office or being surrounded by legal professionals in a traditional setting may be uncomfortable and intimidating for some clients. Because of this, engagement and success during the virtual mediation process may be increased. Being in a comfortable environment can substantially increase a party’s willingness to participate, make concessions and better articulate important points.
In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for parties to be in separate areas from each other to allow for the client’s comfort and facilitate honest discussions regarding sensitive subject matter.
Where software accessibility and reliable internet may pose an issue to clients, they may instead attend the mediation from their counsel’s office.
Dina Mejalli-Willis Provides Accessible, Supportive Mediation Services in Windsor-Essex County
Willis Business Law is proud to offer mediation services, including virtual mediation, provided by managing partner and experienced litigator, Dina Mejalli-Willis. By providing lawyers and clients with fair and accessible mediation services, parties can feel assured that all options and resources will be utilized to work toward a successful settlement. To schedule a mediation with Dina, counsel and clients and invited to use her scheduling calendar here.