Mediation during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Byline: Bridgetower Media Newswires

Q: How did the COVID-19 outbreak initially affect mediations you had scheduled?

A: In the first few weeks of the outbreak, we were able to convertthe vast majorityof the mediations that were scheduled to either telephone or video mediations, both in Wisconsin and across the United States. We had very few requests for continuances. The initial preference among attorneys and their clients was to convert face-to-face mediations to telephone mediations. We suspect that the comfort level with teleconferencing, coupled with the immediate need to complete scheduled mediations in the same week people were first working fro home was the primary reason for this.

Q: Have video mediations increased since then?

A: Yes. Dramatically. We'd estimate that 90%-plus of the mediations we are now scheduling have been set as video mediations (with the option for a live mediation if the landscape has changed by that mediation date). We are sill scheduling phone mediations if the parties prefer that method.

Q: Are video mediations effective? One of the traditional strengths of mediation is the ability of the mediator to size up the parties in person and speak with the parties and attorneys face-to-face.

A: Video mediations are proving very effective. We have seen similar results in Wisconsin and nationally when compared to live mediations. Whether a mediation is taking place in person, by video or by phone, the advantages of getting a civil dispute resolved remain the same. The same dynamics, cost and risk considerations, as well as the desire to move beyond the dispute remain. It is not realistic to put dispute resolution on hold until parties can again meet in person, because we don't know when that will be. In the meantime, video mediation offers a viable option to attorneys and their clients who want to continue to resolve civil disputes.

Q: How have you been helping mediators and attorneys use video mediation?

A: Resolute has been sponsoring video mediation training webinars for both our clients and mediators. We have trained attorneys and mediators in Wisconsin and across the United States. We also provide training to law firms.

Q: Have your mediators offered any tips for increasing the success of video mediations?

A: Yes. Judge Richard Sankovitz suggests:

"It might seem uncomfortable at first, but it pays to get close to your camera, so your face fills most of the screen that the others are viewing. Video is a substitute...

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