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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

The end of the beginning for remote mediation

With access to courts and lawyers still somewhat limited mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.

Northwest Mediation uses Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes so please do not feel that you cannot contact us as there are limits on physical meetings.

As we begin to ease out of lockdown there’s a very real chance of seeing people in person and carrying out mediations face to face (though it will hopefully never be a requirement to do so if clients prefer remote access then Northwest Mediation will be prepared as we were prior to the pandemic for those cases where distance is an issue).

There’s also the chance we can get to co-mediate again, being able to work with other excellent mediators is one of the joys of mediation, true team work, bouncing ideas off each other and seeing what others can draw out of parties is a real learning experience for all involved and I can honestly say I’ve missed it, co-mediating online is not the same thing.

In this article Steven R Gilford discusses the particular challenges facing co-mediators when it comes to bankruptcy and insurance mediations, where he two mediators may focus on different aspects or parties at any one time.

In co-mediation I much prefer to work alongside rather than a mediator dealing with one party more than the other, as this can create the appearance of being on a particular client’s side (or indeed agin them).

Steven covers how insurance is a vital element in bankruptcy as a claim can be a major asset with which the trustee in bankruptcy will have to deal and draw from, so when dealing as a c-mediator as with so many aspects of mediation communication is key, before during and after mediation (or between sessions as appropriate).

Akron (Ohio) is piloting an online dispute resolution platform for small claims and tenancy matters. There’s not a whole lot of detail about the platform but it is suggested it will allow parties to post messages to each other and negotiate in their “free time”.

My hackles go up at both the suggestion that dispute resolution is just a matter of meeting half way or chipping a bit off each end of the parties’ positions and especially that it should be done in their “free time”. Mediation requires commitment from the parties and the mediator not a bit of a hobby to do in your spare time when not doing your “proper” job!

Leaving parties to resolve matters themselves is pointless they wouldn’t have got into the court process if they were able to DIY! Mediation isn’t a quick chat and a carve up of figures, a good mediator (hello) examines the parties’ feelings, where the dispute comes from not just what the parties say they want to achieve as in pounds shillings and pence, I’ve seen other online platforms that seem predicated on “getting to the deal” rather than helping the parties to understand each other and aiding them to build an acceptable resolution. Such an approach feels to me too simple, too brutal and too brutal figures based, there’s no skill in telling me the halfway figure, there is in helping a client understand why that figure might be a reasonable one to achieve so they can make the decision. Here endeth the lesson.

And going back to the remote mediation Margaret K Rees writes about the impact of the pandemic on mediation and its move to the virtual norm. I never know whether to call them remote or virtual mediations, neither term sits well.

Physically I’m remote but that term implies we’re detached, which isn’t the case, and virtual implies avatars (not the giant Smurfs) where everyone is one step removed from involvement.

I agree with Margaret’s view that we’ll never know how many mediations were completed in slippers and pyjama bottoms, the fact I dress semi-casually for mediation has actually meant me dressing slightly more formally when zooming than when in person (sometimes just so the rest of the homeworking bodies in the house know I’m engaged and not to be interrupted).

I also like Margaret’s view of the disadvantages particularly the “honour system” for privacy and confidentiality, yes I’ve had clients turn the camera round so we can all see no one else is in the room where it happens but who knows thereafter if someone else slips in, we’ve definitely had the Amazon delivery person pop in albeit while everyone was silent or switched off but even with that caution the distraction brought by people knocking on the door is difficult to manage when the client is at home. And my goodness she makes a good point about the lack of exercise dashing between rooms, and the lack of short breaks for the mediator as you flit between screens without the natural break that passing from one room to another brings, the last year has made me look at how I use those breaks more effectively in person than remotely and encouraged me to take gaps between shuttle sessions to excellent results.

As Margaret says whatever the pitfalls and bonuses of remote mediation it is very much here to stay.

In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out the tunnel and see the light. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever changing world and the open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths people will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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