Today’s Modern Mediator: Words, Technology & Presence Matter

Looking back, I find it amazing that anything settled with the traditional legal approach to mediation. Both the process and the language used have been inextricably bound by courtroom ideology.

That’s not how I learned mediation. I actually strayed away from the process given what I saw what was happening. Using mediation as a settlement conference, or a stepping stone along the way, is not the “true” definition of mediation.

Lost opportunities have abounded.

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In the old days (heh heh, pre-COVID-19), it was not uncommon to manage in-person mediation as a marathon. Keep at it for hours and hours until people wore out and agreement was reached (or not).

Afterall, if people traveled to attend the mediation, a lot of time and expense were incurred.

This is a stark recognition that parties often settled because they were sick and tired of being sick and tired of not reaching agreement, things dragging on, and creating the need to do it all over again if they didn’t reach agreement.

Then, the world of COVID-19 hit. Thrust into the online scene was a transition no one expected. Yet, here we are, nine months into doing business in ways most of us never imagined.

And, the rapid advances in technology and proficiency in using that technology are forever changing. How we managed online mediations nine months ago is very different from how we manage mediations today. And, how we manage mediations in another 6-9 months will continue to evolve and look very different than how we do things today.

So just how do we shift our mediation practice online?

  • What has REALLY changed about managing the process?
  • What new elements must we consider given the virtual platforms we now live on?
  • What have we learned about how people are impacted with online technology and its effects on reaching resolution? Is ZOOM fatigue real?
  • How do we transform the mediation experience to one that’s memorable, not regrettable?
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TIP #1 

It’s time to advance your skills on using ZOOM (or whichever platform) and learn from those who have mastered the process and have tips and techniques to offer. Classes and online specialists abound. Not sure where to start? Take advantage and get a customized 1:1 tutorial to meet your needs.

TIP #2 

Establish which virtual platform you plan to use and set up your account. Several exist, do you know what they are? ZOOM is the most popular (for now) because many know it and it’s easy to set-up with enhanced features emerging regularly. Again, a 1:1 tutorial will help you flourish and make your choice.

TIP #3

And, it’s time to update your Mediation Overview sent out to mediation participants. Acquaint them with how you’re doing things in the virtual world as opposed to the “old school” approach to mediation. Bundle a pre-mediation session that includes a technology review with each of the parties into your mediation pricing.

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Today’s world is much more technologically savvy for many but not all! This is true for both the legal advocate and the clients they serve. As a Mediator, managing the “process” takes on new meaning in the world of online mediation.

And, preparing the parties for the online experience can truly make it a memorable one, not a regrettable one.

I learned the hard way.

Staring into the nostrils and facial hair of one of the parties’ legal advocates using his cell phone during his second experience on Zoom was memorable but very regrettable! While trying to avoid calling him out in front of the many other parties, his lack of familiarity with ZOOM rendered him unable on how to respond to my 1:1 chat messages asking him to reposition his phone. Aaaargh!

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