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Mediating Online

Young brothers talking with tin can telephone on grunge backgrou

{3 minutes to read}  Among the many crises created by the pandemic are shuttered, or barely functioning, courts. The backlogs are growing. And growing. Juries aren’t being picked. Trials aren’t being held. How do cases get resolved? How will the courts function again?

Some courts have begun doing online conferencing. However, as everyone has noticed, we seem to live in a Zoom world these days and Zoom mediations are taking off. These virtual meetings have emerged as a way to unclog court backlogs and bring new benefits to litigants. They even offer some advantages and may reflect one way our post-pandemic world will look.

Remember in the good old days — before March 2020 — when, if you had a meeting, you had to get up, shower, brush your teeth, get dressed, and maybe even get on a train or in a car to actually go to the meeting? Oh, how quaint. These days the main thing you have to do is get up. With an on-line mediation, no one knows if you showered or brushed your teeth. You might want to run a comb or brush through your hair, and it’s important to make sure you’re presentable from the waist up. 

That said, online mediations work, and people are quickly getting used to them. The awkwardness that many felt initially about not meeting in-person is beginning to fade. I have found that once the inevitable technical glitch or two is resolved at the beginning of a Zoom mediation, everyone is ready to talk and get down to business.

And the benefits? People who really don’t like being in the same room with each other — or maybe even the same building with each other — don’t have to be. This can be a real blessing. In the Zoom mediation, you can put certain people together in a “breakout room” where they can talk by themselves, or the mediator can talk separately to them. Does there come a time when it helps to have everyone together? Can business people work out a deal among themselves? You can create a breakout room for that, too.

The downside? Sometimes it’s helpful for a mediator to physically be in the same room with people where they can get to know each other in a way that can’t quite happen online. There is a rapport that develops in person, that isn’t always possible online. But people can be remarkably flexible when they need to be, and familiarity with a new technology may foster the kind of comfort level needed to resolve disputes and help revive a court system that is reeling.

Just don’t let anyone see you’re wearing pajama bottoms.

Gary Shaffer Gary Shaffer
Shaffer Mediation

About Us

An honors graduate of Harvard University and the Cardozo Law School of Yeshiva University, where he also served on the Law Review, Gary brings more than 30 years of litigation and negotiation experience to his practice as a mediator. He has successfully negotiated and mediated resolutions in family matters, employment cases, commercial disputes, personal injury cases, and major civil rights matters.

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