Last week, I had the opportunity to listen in on an informative CLE program sponsored by the Practicing Law Institute on video mediation. I’ve already participated in several of these mediations and have started incorporating them into the mediations that I do for other attorneys.

The term “video mediation” is still a work in progress. Some are calling them “Zoom Mediations” (in reference to the popular video conferencing app) or “Virtual mediations” but I tend to prefer “video” for the the video conference nature of it.  You can use whatever platform you like.

The speakers on the PLI program were very bullish on the future of video mediations.  In fact, one went so far as to suggest that it’s unlikely any representative from an insurance company would be willing to travel hours (or even a day) to spend their time in a conference room for the day.

I think the speakers are on to something. Why force parties to sit in a conference room all day when video conferences can accomplish the same task?

The speakers advanced a few reasons why video mediations are superior:

  1. Video mediations save clients money. No travel expenses for the attorneys. No hotels to be stayed at. And no travel time as well.  Just hop on the computer a few minutes before the mediation is to start and, well, that’s it.
  2. Video mediations are inherently better that mediations via phone. Sometimes parties need to see the other; same with the mediators.  While it’s not quite as simple as reading a room, mediators and attorneys can learn quite a bit from the visual cues being given.
  3. More participation by all.  Often times, particularly when travel is involved, parties or insurance personnel would ask to be “excused” from attending. With mediations via video conference, those excuses disappear. And with greater participation, the video mediations are more likely to succeed.
  4. Geography is not an issue. Want a mediator outside your city? No problem. Video mediations allow you to seek mediators from literally across the country to suit your needs. While many local attorneys will still be better, cases with specialized expertise can now seek that expertise more easily.
  5. Video mediations are easier to schedule.  Again, travel complicated things and parties would have to give up at least a day or two to attend. With video mediations, parties and attorneys can attend from the safety of their office or home (or home office) making them easier to schedule.

Video mediations are not perfect. But for employment cases, video mediations may make sense more often than not. And with in-person mediations on hold for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, the time is now to explore them.