Innovation in Law Practice

JurisdictionUtah,United States
CitationVol. 33 No. 3 Pg. 22
Publication year2020
Innovation in Law Practice
Vol. 33 No. 3 Pg. 22
Utah Bar Journal
June, 2020

May, 2020

How Mediators Leverage Technology to Overcome COVID-19 Concerns and Keep Cases Settling

By Gregory N. Hoole and George M. Haley

Who would have guessed just a few months ago that we would be receiving a general order from the Utah Supreme Court activating the Pandemic Response Plan (Did anyone even know we had one?) to level “red” and suspending all criminal and civil jury trials, required court appearances, and, absent exigent circumstances, all in-person hearings? The U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, citing the National Emergency declared by the President, the state of emergency in Utah declared by the Governor, and the effort by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to “combat the spread of disease, and to promote the health and well-being of the nation,” has issued a similar order. Depositions have been canceled, and most law firms are either requiring or strongly urging all lawyers and staff to maintain social separation and work from home.

Yet, the wheels of justice roll on with state district court and appellate judges being authorized to conduct many hearings through remote transmission and the courts utilizing other technology to continue all “mission-critical functions.” So, too, are mediators leveraging technology to continue to bring parties together and resolve disputes through remote transmission.

For example, Miriam Strassberg at Utah Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Services has arranged for her entire mediator panel to be trained in all the features of Zoom, a unified video communications platform, which allows for mediators to conduct effective mediations remotely using secure online breakout and conference rooms. Each of the panel members has access to a version of Zoom that has been customized for mediation. If you are already a regular user of Zoom, you will notice, for example, that the chat and recording functions that are usually present have been disabled.

The beauty of Zoom and similar online platforms is that all participants can appear remotely. No one has to be in the same room, so it is easy to achieve social distancing. It is also inexpensive. No one needs to buy a plane ticket, book a hotel room, or rent a car. You can participate in an online mediation anywhere you have a computer or mobile device and a Wi-Fi connection. For example, a lawyer could participate from home in Salt Lake City, the...

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