Online mediation has become increasingly popular since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. With social distancing measures in place, including courthouse closures, lawyers and their clients have had to explore new ways to resolve disputes safely and efficiently without the need for in-person meetings. Fortunately, technology has made it possible for mediation to take place remotely.
As the world emerged from the pandemic, many wondered if online mediations would continue to be popular. The answer is a resounding yes. The benefits of online mediation remain the same in a post-pandemic world. Even as social distancing measures are relaxed, many people and their counsel prefer online mediation’s accessibility, convenience, effectiveness, efficiency, flexibility, and cost savings.
Benefits of online mediation
The many benefits of online mediation include the following:
Online mediation is less intimidating
Not surprisingly, participants in online mediation often feel more comfortable speaking candidly over video conferencing software, making for healthier negotiation and a more satisfying resolution. One explanation may be that online mediation allows the parties to participate from an environment of their choice, which can help put them at ease. Another reason may be that many individuals find online mediation less intimidating than traditional in-person mediation, as technology tends to make the process more familiar and less daunting. This can be especially true for individuals who may feel nervous or anxious in face-to-face situations.
Online mediation requires minimal computer expertise from the participants
Potential participants may be concerned about their technical abilities. However, it is important to remember that the mediator controls the process and will guide the participants through any necessary technical steps. Consequently, participants do not need technical expertise to engage in online mediation successfully. This allows parties to focus entirely on the issues in dispute while working towards a resolution.
Online mediation is more convenient
One of the key benefits of online mediation is convenience. Participants can connect from anywhere worldwide if they have a reliable internet connection. This eliminates the need for travel and saves time and money.
Document sharing and collaboration
In today’s digital age, sharing and collaborating on documents during an online mediation has become increasingly popular. During an online mediation, parties can readily share documents supporting their claims, including evidence, spreadsheets, and case law. Not only does this make the process of sharing documents more efficient, but it can also improve the overall outcome of the mediation.
Sharing and reviewing documents online during a mediation can save time. Rather than bringing boxes of documents to mediation or sending multiple documents back and forth via email, all parties can share, review, discuss, and work on the same document simultaneously, thereby speeding up the process and reducing the risk of errors or miscommunications.
Sharing and collaborating on documents can also improve transparency and trust between all parties. Allowing everyone access to the same information also helps foster a willingness for the parties to work together towards a common goal. This can improve relationships and make future negotiations more straightforward.
Another significant advantage of sharing and collaborating on documents during an online mediation is that it allows for multiple perspectives and ideas to be brought to the table, once the parties have reached a consensus and begin working on formalizing the settlement. With everyone involved in the mediation able to see and work on the same document in real time, misunderstandings and miscommunications can be reduced. This can lead to more creative and practical solutions that may not have been thought of otherwise and improve the overall outcome of the mediation. This collaborative approach also helps to ensure that both parties are satisfied with the final agreement. Once the agreement has been drafted, the mediator can circulate it to the parties for their digital signature. The completed agreement provides a tangible and satisfying outcome for all involved. Rather than leaving mediation without a clear resolution, the parties can move forward with a sense of relief and closure.
Online mediation allows for more flexible scheduling
Traditional in-person mediation sessions can be challenging to coordinate, especially if all parties have busy schedules. With the rise of online mediation, scheduling conflicts are becoming far less of an issue. Online mediation also allows for more flexible scheduling, as participants can choose the best time for them. Instead of scheduling a time for everyone to meet in person, participants can log on to the mediation platform from their own devices. This means mediation sessions can occur virtually at any convenient time or place for the parties involved.
Online mediation allows for more accessibility
With the advent of technology, online mediation provides a more accessible option. People are now able to connect with others around the world without having to leave the comfort of their own homes. This has made mediation more accessible to people who are physically challenged, live in remote areas, or have busy schedules. This allows for a more inclusive process and ensures that all parties can participate in the mediation.
Online mediation provides a safe environment
In-person mediations can be emotionally charged and tense, leading to uncomfortable and unpleasant situations. Online mediation allows individuals to participate from the comfort of their homes, making them feel more at ease and less vulnerable. Online mediation removes the need for face-to-face interaction, which can be intimidating for some people. Online also provides a safe environment for family members who may have experienced violence.
Online mediation is cost-effective
Online mediations can be more cost-effective than in-person mediations. Without the need for travel by participants, their counsel, or the mediator, parties can save money on transportation, lodging, and meals. Additionally, online mediation can be less time-consuming, reducing the overall cost of the mediation.
Online mediation also allows counsel to work from their own office
Online mediations allow lawyers to work in an environment where they can access their support staff, firm infrastructure, and legal precedents, which can be very beneficial in finalizing any agreement reached during the mediation process.
Working from their office means that legal counsel can access any information they need quickly and efficiently. They can also communicate with their clients, colleagues, law students, or support staff more efficiently, which can help streamline the mediation process. This can be helpful during the mediation process, as it allows legal counsel to focus on the negotiations. This can also lead to a more efficient and effective outcome for all parties involved.
Online mediation allows participants to choose from a wider pool of mediators and legal counsel
As online mediation continues to gain popularity, participants are discovering a new benefit: the ability to choose from a wider pool of mediators and legal counsel. In the past, individuals were often limited to hiring professionals in their own community. With online mediation, geography is no longer a barrier.
This expanded choice can lead to better outcomes, as individuals can find the best professionals for their specific needs. It can also help to level the playing field, as individuals who may have been disadvantaged in their local community can now access a broader range of professionals.
Challenges to online mediation
Of course, there are still some challenges associated with online mediation. Technical issues can arise, and some argue that reading body language and facial expressions can be more difficult than video conferencing software. However, it seems clear that online mediation is here to stay and continue to provide people with a safe and effective way to resolve disputes in years to come.
Online mediation has revolutionized how people solve disputes and is worth considering for those considering mediation. Online mediation offers many benefits over traditional in-person mediation. It is convenient, accessible, safe, cost-effective, and allows for a broader range of professionals. As technology advances and the world becomes more connected, online mediation will only become more prevalent in resolving conflicts.
To learn more about how online mediation might work for you, contact Paul & Company to learn how David Paul, K.C., can assist you. With his vast education, expertise, and experience, including 37 years of courtroom experience and 30 years of mediation experience, David deeply understands conflict. He has helped thousands of clients throughout the province resolve matters outside the court system, saving them time, money, and stress.
Written by David A. Paul, K.C. (BGS, LLB, LLM, RRM)