Roger Levitt shares his thoughts on his experience practising online mediation during the coronavirus pandemic
Mediation has long been considered a more suitable way of resolving disputes without the cost and time of court proceedings.
While normal sessions involve a qualified mediator helping to resolve disputes in an office or meeting room, or on site, the coronavirus pandemic has made that impossible.
Mediator Roger Levitt believes that online mediation – the alternative to face to face meetings – has been such a positive experience more people may choose it in future.
Here, he shares some thoughts about online mediation by reflecting on a recent case he conducted via video conferencing and reveals
1. All who were involved were comfortable with the process. This led to a constructive collaborative and successful day.
2. There were no “surprises” with the technology or the process as I had separate pre-mediation sessions with each side to prepare for the mediation day and understand the technology
3. Although I’ve trialled some bespoke online mediation platforms, I chose Zoom because most people know it. The technology is widely tested and reliable and was less likely to fail (there were some internet glitches but nobody seemed bothered and service was quickly restored)
4. Everyone was more relaxed being at home. There were no stressful journeys around the country and no worries about being late. I find, generally, that peoples’ punctuality for Zoom meetings is so much better than face to face meetings.
5. Everyone was comfortable starting with an open session. More comfortable than I often find in a face to face mediation. This was a commercial dispute, with less emotion, and as people weren’t facing each other across the table, there was no “eyeballing”. This meant they were ok to be in the same virtual room. That was hugely helpful as we were able to address the issues direct and promptly.
6. We did then split into separate rooms. The Zoom breakout room facility worked well and I could pop in to check progress and advise each party how far we’d got to limit any downtime
7. We got to a settlement agreement before the end of the day, with a couple of minor points which were confirmed in the days that followed (after a full day online everyone was tired and we didn’t feel it would be good to ‘press on regardless’).
8. The journey home was delightful! No waiting at a cold rainy station late at night!
9. I believe we’ve crossed the rubicon. So that even when the lockdown is relaxed, when face to face meetings are possible, I anticipate a growth in online mediation alongside traditional face to face mediation
Many Courts are closed during the Lockdown and those that are open are struggling to cope with the volume, so many disputes, other than the most urgent, will fail to be heard. Online mediation is an effective solution.
Roger Levitt is a Leading Mediator, (ranked by Legal 500 2020) and is accredited in business mediation for commercial and residential property; construction; business and commerce; retail; restaurant; healthcare; franchising; contractual and financial related disputes. He has over 30 years experience as a commercial property solicitor in private practice.