Skip to main content

To the Zoomiverse and Beyond

William Shakespeare in period clothing sitting in school desk with laptop computer.

{4 minutes to read} I’ve written before about the Zoomiverse and mediation. So far, so good. No one has yet said: Boy, I can’t wait until we can all travel to and from a mediation and maybe have a client, or clients, fly-in only to find out that someone couldn’t make it at the last minute. Apparently, no one is overwhelmed by the benefit of sitting down at the table together, shaking hands, and exchanging angry glances with someone only a few feet away.

However, let’s look down the road a bit. My guess is that even though we can all eat quite well at the kitchen table, we’re also itching to go out and sit down in a restaurant with other people, maybe even with friends. Perhaps strike up a serendipitous conversation with people at the table next to us. “Hey, that looks pretty good, what is it?” 

There are enormous benefits to Zoom mediation, not the least of which are convenience and cost savings. And I find people usually connect with each other fairly well online. However, can convenience be a detriment? Can it be too easy to walk away from settlement talks when people haven’t made the investment in time and money to get together in person? Can inconvenience add to the level of investment in the process?

Someone once asked me what was the key to getting people to agree at a mediation, and I said, “It gets dark out.” I was only half joking. If people have been at a mediation for many hours and the sky is darkening, people start to wonder if they’ve wasted the day. No one wants to leave after 6, 8 or 10 hours with nothing to show for it. Of course it turns out that even in a Zoom mediation, the sun eventually goes down, and everyone can see it getting dark out, so all is not lost. 

But are there other reasons why mediating in person is preferable? In divorce mediations, Zoom can be very helpful given the animosity between the parties. However, animosity between parties is not limited to divorce mediations. Commercial and employment disputes can be just as contentious. But when there are kids involved, as there are in many divorce mediations, there can be a benefit to meeting in person. Any agreement reached between the soon to be ex-spouses may be a template for the next 20-30 years, and learning how to discuss difficult topics together could be essential going forward.

A couple who share children will be involved with one another in some fashion for many years to come. If they can learn to talk to each other in person at the mediation, perhaps they will be better able to celebrate children’s birthdays together, attend a graduation together, and maybe even be at a child’s wedding together. Can a Zoom mediation, where the parties don’t have to share an awkward physical space, create that kind of possibility?

I don’t mean to imply it can’t. This is all too new to fully understand what all the future outcomes will be. It may be that resolving disputes is the key, and whether done by Zoom or in person is not a critical factor. In commercial disputes, too, sometimes the parties will continue to interact and setting the template for those ongoing interactions is what’s really important. As a practical matter, I find much of my mediating takes place by phone after initial meetings, and whether those first meetings were in person or Zoom often doesn’t make a difference.

Where does Zoom work better, where does in-person? Can there be a useful blend, and if so, what kinds of situations are those? Please tell.

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.

Contact Us

Phone :- 347.314.2163
Email :-