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The legal profession is increasingly reliant on technology, and never more so than during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many clients are wondering what impact the restrictions on our movement will have on their upcoming mediations.
The answer (as ever) depends on the case and the particular client’s needs. However, in principle there is no reason why mediation needs to be postponed simply because the parties cannot meet in a single location. For some time now, clients have chosen a remote mediation in certain circumstances, for example in international disputes which would otherwise incur significant travel time and costs.
The parties are not in the same physical location so they need to communicate by telephone or on a video conferencing platform. Sophisticated software already exists for this purpose and can be made easily accessible to the parties. It allows multiple people and parties to “attend” the mediation at the same time. Members of each team do not need to gather in one location; they can join the mediation from their own homes or offices.
The remote mediation experience is designed to mimic the face to face mediation as far as possible. The mediator will circulate the details of the remote mediation to all parties, with instructions on how to join. All parties “arrive” at the mediation at the designated time. They are greeted by the mediator and placed into a breakout room with their team, just as you would see in a physical mediation. The mediator has control over who is in each room and can come and go between the breakout rooms just as he or she would in a physical location. The mediator can also choose to bring the parties together at certain points throughout the day to aid the discussions.
This is ultimately up to the client and the particular circumstances of the case. However, with a skilled mediator, a good internet connection and a little rehearsal, there is no reason to postpone mediation just because it will have to take place remotely. Any party with concerns about the practicalities of remote mediation should seek guidance from the mediator or their lawyer.
For further information, please contact a member of our Dispute Resolution team.
Hannah Fitzwilliam is an associate in the Dispute Resolution team. She advises on a broad range of contentious matters involving both individuals and corporate clients. She has experience of litigation in the High Court and of settling disputes through negotiation. Hannah regularly advises on complex and high value disputes, often with a cross-border element.
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