pros & cons of online mediation (part 2)

By PracticeForte advisory affiliates Christian von Baumbach in collaboration
with Susan Tay

Pros of Online Mediation

If you are reading this article, then you are likely already a believer of mediation. Perhaps you have heard enough good things about mediation to want to understand more?

Nonetheless, it is still worthwhile to laud mediation. It is after all, THE modern, flexible, and effective process for solving disputes and making joint decisions in important matters. Through mediation, family members, colleagues, business partners – basically everybody who has an interest in respectful cooperative relationships – can potentially have meaningful discussions, gain a better understanding of each other’s perspectives and regain mutual trust. The goal of each mediation should always be to find enduring solutions that are in the best interest of everybody involved.

Generally, people meet physically in one room for a mediation. But what to do if large distances lie between them? Not always is it possible to travel for a meeting to another city or even country. In such cases online mediation might be a suitable option.

PracticeForte Advisory and its affiliates provide professional online mediations, and in the next 2 articles, we would like to highlight some of its challenges  (Part 1 here) but also its advantages.

Advantages

Easy Scheduling: In our own experiences, the time taken for a mediation in person to happen usually takes weeks if not months. The logistical needs include: coordinating at least 3 parties’ time table to physically travel to the venue; the availability and booking of the venue, staffing needs for requirements on food and printing or other amenities.

Videoconferencing is a matter of coordinating everyone’s schedule and it is easier because no travelling time need to be considered. We also don’t need onsite staff. All everyone really needs is a private space in your own home for the mediation to happen.

Costs: In an expensive city like Singapore, it can run to an additional sum of at least S$1000.00 just for the booking of the venue for mediation. That rate is for the availability of at least 3 rooms, a mediation room and 2 breakout rooms from 9am-6pm. Overtime rates will apply.

Then there is the travelling costs of all parties. Mediators will charge the parties their travelling and lodging costs if the mediation is to be conducted in another state or in another country.

Online mediation however can mean reducing these costs to mere tens of dollars. That is the subscription fee for a reliable videoconferencing platform.

Effective Videoconferencing Tools: With the massive uptake of videoconferencing facilities, providers are now equipped to improve the tools and we see many of these tools being added which greatly assist mediations.

These tools include breakout rooms where private caucuses can be conducted safely. The ability to share a whiteboard where agendas can be written for visualization and better clarity and understanding by parties. In addition to the ability to quickly share documents as most of us store our documents in our computers. These tools also facilitate quick drafting of settlement agreements.

Ways of Minimizing Cons: As more of us engage in videoconferencing, we find ways to minimize the discomfort of staring into screen for too long. 1st, mediation online can be restricted to 2 hour per session. We will need a longer timeline, yes, but longer time can mean advantages. Parties have the time and space to think through what they want and whether the proposals can work. This will be less post settlement dissonance.

For security and confidentiality, there are ways to ensure 1stly that no one else is in the room. A 360 video run of the room has been employed by the courts in Singapore for instance to ensure that a witness standing for trial is by himself/herself. Why not for online mediation?

Conclusion

Many mediators may always prefer to meet in person because no matter how sophisticated or how easy it is for us to use videoconferencing, the rapport, empathy and natural setting of an in person meeting simply cannot be matched.

Yet, in cases where a physical meeting is difficult or even impossible, a meeting in a virtual environment provides a better than decent opportunity.

Perhaps it does not have to be an either-or question. Online mediation can be a good starting point to see if a mediation makes sense before the parties meet in a physical location. Vice versa, parties can first meet in presence and continue online at a later point.

What are your views on online mediation? We will love to have you share your experiences and ideas with us.

Disclaimer:

Please note that the topics of discussion on this website are prepared for the purposes of general information only.  They do not constitute legal advice. No information presented on this website, or communicated to our through the website is intended to create a lawyer-client relationship.  Therefore you are strongly encouraged to seek legal counsel for appropriate advise,