I have previously written about the effectiveness of Zoom mediation. There is no doubt that Zoom mediation works and, as a result, I have resolved many matters utilizing Zoom. But does anything completely replace in-person mediation? A recent in-person mediation I conducted highlights the benefits.
The matter involved a dispute between neighboring property owners. The parties elected to mediate early with trial over a year away. The mediation ended with the parties hopelessly deadlocked. Plaintiff was seeking three times the amount that defendant was willing to pay. I ended the mediation leaving the defendant side with my analysis of liability and litigation costs going forward, which included plaintiff’s right to recover attorneys’ fees if plaintiff prevailed at trial. I fully anticipated that I would continue to follow up with the parties, but I believed that we had made as much progress as we could in that initial mediation session.
The benefits of in-person mediation in resolving this case soon became evident. The defendant side had all decision makers together in one room; and instead of leaving Judicate West’s office as soon as the mediation concluded they elected to stay together and use their time to re-evaluate the case and their potential exposure. While speaking to a colleague following conclusion of the mediation, defendant side called me back into their conference room to advise me that I now had the authority I needed to settle the matter.
Could this matter have settled similarly if the mediation took place via Zoom? Perhaps. But I believe that because the parties were there in person, they had a better opportunity to use their time together to resolve the dispute. If the mediation had taken place via Zoom, it would have been easy for the parties simply to turn off their computer screens when the mediation concluded. Because the parties committed to mediate in person, they were incentivized to stay together to resolve the dispute.