Mediation is a process whereby a neutral independent mediator assists parties to work out their own solution to a dispute rather than a decision being imposed upon them by a third party such as a court or arbitrator. Usually, mediations are face-to-face but, in principle, there is no reason why mediation needs to be postponed during lockdown solely due to parties being unable to meet in one location.

How does remote mediation work?

Remote mediation can be carried out using any video conferencing platform including apps such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom. Provided that parties have a reliable internet connection a variety of devices can be used to participate in remote mediation (e.g. desktop computer, tablet, smartphone etc). A video connection is preferable for all participants, but it is entirely workable to mix and match video with teleconferencing.

What preparation is required?

Prior to a remote mediation, parties must download the software for the video conferencing platform being used. The mediator will send an email to each party involved in the remote mediation with a link to the virtual meeting. All parties need to do to join the virtual meeting is click on the link and follow simple instructions. In advance of the mediation, the mediator will usually arrange a test meeting with each party to ensure that the technology is working.

What is the process on the day?

When parties 'arrive' at the remote mediation, they enter a virtual 'waiting room'. The video conferencing platform then allows the mediator to put parties together with the other members of their team in a virtual 'breakout room'. This space is secure and allows private conversations between the participants in that 'room' by way of video, audio conferencing and chat messages. The mediator can join the breakout rooms for private discussions and can bring all participants together for joint plenary sessions. Any number of rooms can be created on the day as the needs of the mediation require.

What happens if settlement is reached?

If an agreement is reached during remote mediation, it can be legally documented with drafts of the settlement agreement circulated and finalised by e-mail or screen share. Parties can choose to sign the settlement agreement in counterpart and/or make use of electronic signatures to execute the agreement remotely.

Does remote mediation work?

Brodies' experience of remote mediation is that it offers an effective method for quickly resolving disputes – particularly attractive during lockdown but also appealing where time or cost factors are an issue.