Commercial mediators in the 1990s travelled to all day mediations with clipboards, asked lawyers for their issues and parties for their interests. Briefs were 3 to 5 pages with a couple of exhibits and no case law. The parties with authority to settle were physically present. Joint sessions were common and long. Mediators worked with the parties. The objective was for the parties to reach a resolution and also to leave the mediation in at least as good a place overall as they were when they came to the table. The cost topped out at $1500. And the parties reached a settlement.
Over time briefs morphed into a pretrial format of 30 or more pages. Volumes of exhibits and expert reports were provided along with a casebook of legal authorities. Mediations moved mostly to half a day. Joint sessions became short if at all and most interaction was done through breakout rooms. Positions were exchanged and the mediator worked the parties to reach a settlement. Often a party with the authority to settle did not join the mediation in person but connected to their lawyer by phone only at crunch time. And the costs exploded into many thousands of dollars.
However even with all these changes, settlements were reached in about the same percentage as they always have. As time went on lawyers began more frequently using judicial settlement conferences or went back to basic negotiations.
The Evolutionary Dilemma!
Lawyers and clients in various locations do not want to incur the increasingly high costs, the lengthy time and the inconvenience to attend a mediation or a judicial settlement conference. Parties may be incapable or unwilling to physically attend or feel more comfortable participating in their own home or business surroundings. However, mediators still need the opportunity to meet with each party and their lawyer privately in breakout rooms, to have a joint session when necessary and to reach a settlement, all at a reasonable cost.
The Evolution Continues, On-Line Expedited Mediation
The format of the On-Line Expedited Mediation is modeled after the process I and other facilitators and mediators have used very successfully for many years for (SDRCC}Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada http://crdsc-sdrcc.ca/. It is faster, less expensive and just as effective in most circumstances than an in-person mediation or a judicial settlement conference.
The On-Line Expedited Mediation is conducted through zoom.us. Parties can join by video and audio on their computers, tablets or smart phones. The video portion can be turned off so only the audio portion is working while still allowing the parties to view the video and hear the audio at my end. Or parties can join by conference phone call which incurs long distance charges through the Toronto call in number. On-line breakout rooms are available for private caucuses. If a lawyer is in one location and the client is in another they can be assigned to a separate breakout room for their own private discussions.
The On-Line Expedited Mediation is no more than three hours long. Briefs are less than 10 pages with one or two exhibits and no casebook of legal authorities. The cost is $750 per party. There are no cancellation fees and bookings are available on short notice. Clicking EXPEDITED MEDIATION will take you to a PDF describing the process and the terms together with 2 one-minute videos demonstrating how the technical side of the program works.
Regardless of how you have viewed online dispute resolution, the current technology and the evolution of mediation means it is here to stay!