What is a remote mediation?
As its name suggests, a remote mediation, sometimes called a virtual mediation, is a remote, as opposed to in-person, mediation conducted via a platform like Teams or Zoom. During the pandemic, remote mediations became essential. Fortunately, a couple years before the pandemic began, the platforms introduced a virtual breakout room feature. The feature allows meeting hosts to split participants into separate "virtual rooms" for smaller group discussions during a larger meeting. It was a game-changer for mediators, who need to “shuttle” between rooms during negotiations.
Even after things started to go back to normal, many mediators like me decided not to go back to in-person mediations. Here’s why:
1. Remote mediations are more convenient. The time and cost savings on travel can be significant, especially when parties or insurers are located in different counties or states.
2. Remote mediations are more private. I’ve been in too many conference rooms separated by thin walls where conversations are easily overheard.
3. There is no advantage to parties seeing each other in person. In fact, it can be a disadvantage. At least with real estate and business cases, the joint caucus has been reduced to a brief introduction to the mediator and the process. “Opening statements” have gone out of style because they just tend to antagonize the other side. When parties see their adversaries in person, their stress levels increase, and they often dig in their heels. In over 20 years, I have never seen a kumbaya moment at a mediation.
4. In my experience as both a mediator and lawyer, the success rate with remote mediations is the same or better. And that’s the bottom line.
High profile cases are now routinely being mediated remotely, including the recent case Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox that resulted in a $787.5 million settlement.