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Ten Tips to Better Mediations Via Zoom

Ten Tips to Better Mediations Via Zoom

In 2000, I was involved in trying to develop a system for online mediation. The broadband infrastructure to support such a system did not exist, so we were 20 years early. It took the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to make videoconference mediation commonplace.

There are benefits and drawbacks to both in-person and virtual mediations via Zoom. Face-to-face mediations involve some logistics that Zoom mediations typically do not. There is no need to travel, so even distant parties and claims professionals attend mediation through Zoom. The time pressure imposed by, for example, a claims professional’s flight time at the end of the day is no longer a factor. (Of course, the tactic of packing up and threatening to leave loses much of its impact when everyone is attending virtually.)

Today, while many mediations are again held in person, virtual mediations continue to be popular with parties. Even when some parties and attorneys attend a mediation in person, others may attend via Zoom. If you’re new to the process, you may be wondering how to conduct a mediation via Zoom. Whether you are a mediator or an attorney who will be attending a mediation, use these ten Zoom mediation strategies to help you successfully settle cases via Zoom.


Use Zoom for Preliminary Conferences

Good mediators often call the lawyers before the day of the mediation for a preview of the issues, parties, negotiation history, and obstacles to settlement. Since 80 to 90% of communication is nonverbal, Zoom can enhance the effectiveness of such preliminary conversations. Consider these factors when conducting preliminary conferences:

  1. Timing. Because everyone may be at a different point in the Zoom learning curve, if you’re a mediator, you may consider setting the preliminary call a week or two before the date of the mediation. If a party or attorney has an issue using Zoom, that gives him or her time to get up to speed before the mediation itself.
  2. Scope. Address the substance of the case and obstacles to settlement during the call.
  3. Zoom settings. Discuss the number of breakout rooms and other Zoom conference settings.
  4. Identify necessary non-party stakeholders. If there are other people who should be available by phone or by Zoom, the relevant attorney should have them execute the agreement to mediate with DocuSign and confirm that they have the equipment and training to use Zoom comfortably.
  5. Gather email addresses and cell phone numbers. It is helpful for the mediator to obtain contact information for all involved to help facilitate Zoom conference invitations and sidebar communications.

Ensure that Clients Know How to Use Zoom 

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