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What tips can you share for remote mediations?

Remote mediations have become increasingly popular as a way of settling a dispute before it goes to court. There are a number of ways in which you can mediate remotely, but the most common platform is Zoom, due to its easy-to-use nature and the ability to have ‘break-out rooms’. We have answered some FAQs and set out a quick guide to remote mediations below.

What is remote mediation?

  • Mediation is a form of assisted negotiation, in which a neutral 3rd party mediator seeks to help the parties resolve their dispute. The process on the day is managed by the mediator and adopts certain key ground-rules. These are that discussions are private and cannot be referred to in court; and the process is entirely voluntary and non-binding, if and until a settlement is finalised. In the current pandemic mediations are now usually conducted remotely by video conference, instead of an in-person meeting.
  • The structure of the mediation will depend on the matters that are in dispute. Before the mediation the parties will exchange their views in position papers and prepare a bundle of the key documents.
  • Generally the parties will start the mediation in the same ‘room’ as the mediator, where they will be invited to set out their positions. The mediator will then put the parties into ‘break-out rooms’. These rooms serve as your own private ‘room’ which the mediator will join. You will therefore be able to have private discussions with the mediator without the other side being able to hear those discussions. The mediator will go between the ‘break-out rooms’ to discuss a party’s position further in order to attempt to reach a settlement.
  • If an agreement is reached, at the end of the mediation the Settlement Agreement will be drafted. The Settlement Agreement works as an enforceable contract. The Settlement Agreement will outline the details of what has been agreed and the intentions of the parties, such as any actions required, payments to be made and appropriate timescales. Each party will sign the Settlement Agreement, which can be done electronically.
  • It is not always possible to reach a resolution/agreement by mediation, but the mediator serves as an impartial third party in order to aid the process. If no agreement has been reached, the mediation may still prove useful as it will give you a better understanding of the other side’s position.

What should I do before the mediation to prepare?

  • Ensure that you are in an area with minimal distractions. Mediation is a confidential process, so make sure that you are in a private location.
  • Ensure that your microphone and camera work and that you have access to the online platform that will be used. We send our clients a link to the website in advance so that this can be tested out.
  • Consider any agreed dress code and dress appropriately.
  • Have a copy of the mediation bundle to hand, whether in hard or soft copy, and be aware of what documents are in there.

Any tips on what to do on the day?

  • Remember to make sure that before you have any private conversations with the mediator you are in your break-out room.
  • You may contact the mediator whilst being in the break-out room. On Zoom there is an ‘Ask for Help’ button on the screen. The mediator will then be prompted to join your room.
  • Ensure that you inform the mediator if you or others enter/leave the room. It is important that the mediator knows who is present.
  • Be mindful of body language and facial expressions as these can appear more enhanced on the screen, and they are easier to pick up in a remote mediation.
  • Stay calm and focussed at all times. When you have a dispute it is sometimes tricky to maintain a calm manner, but this is always vital in attempting to reach an agreement.
  • When engaging with the mediator avoid any external distractions such as text messages and emails, as it may come across that you are not interested in the process. It is important to pay attention so that you do not miss any dialogue which may be key to any agreement that is reached.
  • When you are in the break-out room without the mediator make sure that you take breaks and keep refreshed, as virtual mediations can be tiring.