What is a Zoom mediation?
A Zoom mediation is a remote, as opposed to in-person, mediation conducted via Zoom. During the pandemic, remote mediations became essential. Fortunately, a couple years before the pandemic began, Zoom introduced the 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. Zoom 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. Zoom 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. Zoom enables parties to memorialize deal points upon reaching a settlement via an integration with DocuSign. Another option is to confirm via email offline.
5. In my experience as both a mediator and lawyer, the success rate with Zoom mediations is the same or better. And that’s the bottom line.
High profile cases are now routinely being mediated via Zoom, including the recent case Dominion Voting Systems v. Fox that resulted in a $787.5 million settlement.