COVID-19, to state the obvious, has created a "new normal" for all of us.
So, the obvious question is: how do we conduct our mediations and arbitrations?
The answer is straightforward: by videoconferencing utilizing the Zoom platform.
Here is an overview of how the process works.
Once a date has been established for the mediation or arbitration, counsel will receive an invitation which provides the date and time, as well as access links to the videoconference. When counsel receives the Zoom invitation, they will transmit this information to their clients.
On the scheduled date and time, counsel and clients will join the videoconference from either a desktop or laptop computer. After joining, it is important to activate both the video and audio components shown on the screen, as this enables all participants to be seen and heard by everyone else.
Once all the participants have joined the videoconference, we will do what we typically do in an in-person mediation: briefly describe the process, emphasize its confidentiality, etc.
Following these introductory remarks, we can then create "breakout rooms" so attorneys and their clients can speak privately at any time during the videoconference. When it is needed, we can re-join the participants for a plenary session with everyone.
Thus, other than the fact that we are connecting "virtually" with the aid of technology, the mediation process works no differently than if we were conferencing face-to-face.
We have also been conducting arbitrations by videoconference, and when we do so we can also create breakout rooms for privacy, as needed. The only difference is that when we arbitrate, the Zoom invitation needs to be conveyed to the court reporter and any non-party witnesses.
We hope this explanation of how we have been managing mediations and arbitrations has been helpful. Most importantly, we hope this finds you and your families well during these difficult and disruptive times.
Please reach out if you have any questions. Thank you very much and stay safe.