Right now, the NCIC has mandated that all mediations must be conducted virtually until June 1, 2020. This time frame could change, so it is important to stay apprised of any changes reflected on both the NCIC website and the NC DRC website. In-person mediations are the most effective particularly when parties are navigating thorny legal or emotional issues. However, I have been thrilled to have the ability to conduct virtual mediations via the Zoom web conferencing platform, and they have gone very well. It really is the next best option to an in-person conference because you can still read facial expressions and body language, which is so important in a mediation.
Here are a few practice tips for navigating virtual mediations. I have been pleased to see how nimble attorneys and their clients have been in adopting our temporary new reality with grace and enthusiasm.
Here are a few practice tips to have successful virtual mediations.
Ketan Soni created a wonderful document regarding the nuts and bolts of Zoom mediations.
Try to practice with your clients ahead of time so that they can work out any technical kinks in preparation for the mediation. It will help them to be more comfortable and allow the conference to go more smoothly. It has been great to see how well non-lawyer mediation participants (even those with limited technical training) have adapted to this change.
Remember the importance of securing a solid Mediated Settlement Agreement with secure signatures. I have been using DocuSign which is very easy to navigate and protects both plaintiffs’ attorneys (since the client is actually signing the Agreement themselves) and defense attorneys (providing a more enforceable Agreement in case there are issues after the conference). An alternative is to have the mediator both hear and note on the MSA that the plaintiff gave her attorney permission to sign the MSA on her behalf.
Remember to be kind to yourself and flexible with your colleagues as we try to work, homeschool and stay safe during the pandemic. Also, wear pants. You do not want to end up going viral as an embarrassing meme.
Kate Deiter-Maradei is a mediator in Raleigh at Deiter Mediation. Kate has been mediating full time for seven plus years after practicing as a litigation attorney for 10 years with Teague Campbell. To learn more about Kate, check out her website.