The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown and social distancing regulations have changed the way law is practiced for the foreseeable future, and in some ways likely forever.
Significantly, legal proceedings are now largely conducted virtually, using teleconferencing platforms like Skype and Zoom. These include conferences, depositions, hearings, and even trials, but it’s remote mediation that offers a unique opportunity to clients.
MEDIATION VS. LITIGATION
It’s not unusual for a person who’s been wronged to seek an attorney to file a lawsuit. But what many clients don’t realize is that, not only is litigation not the only way to resolve a dispute, it’s often the less effective one.
Courtroom battles may look dramatically appealing on TV, but in reality the courtroom process is usually time-consuming and costly, and often extremely stressful.
A viable alternative to litigation is mediation. Generally speaking, mediation is a voluntary process which permits the informal resolution of the parties’ disputes.
As opposed to focusing on who’s right and who’s wrong, mediation aims at reaching a mutually acceptable resolution with the assistance of a specially trained attorney mediator, instead of having a resolution imposed by a judge.
Mediation is usually much quicker and less expensive than a lawsuit, and it’s also more confidential; nothing that is stated in the mediation can be used for any purpose outside the mediation setting.
Perhaps most importantly, being conducted in a less formal setting than a courtroom (like a law firm office or other neutral environment) allows the parties to more openly discuss their concerns. This increases the likelihood that the parties can work towards preserving their business and/or personal relationship, which could be destroyed by a heated lawsuit.
Finally, since a mediated settlement results from the cooperative efforts of both sides, compliance with the achieved agreement is more likely. If the mediation fails, the parties still have the option of litigating. But given that most lawsuits are settled before they reach trial, there’s really nothing to lose by attempting mediation.
BENEFITS OF REMOTE MEDIATION
Remote mediation has proven itself extremely useful during the COVID-19 crisis, and will likely remain an option from now on.
For one, online mediation is safer than in-person mediation, with no risk of exposure to the Coronavirus or any other disease.
It’s also more convenient, since it allows the parties and their counsel to meditate from the comfort of their office or home. This saves the time and expense of travel, and can helps lower tension and facilitate agreeableness.
Additionally, with the courts slowed down and backlogged, legal disputes can be resolved expeditiously and less costly.
A legal dispute is never an ideal situation to find yourself in. But mediation, particularly remote mediation, may be an ideal alternative to litigation.
Andrew Kimler heads Vishnick McGovern Milizio LLP’s Employment Law and Alternative Dispute Resolution Practices and is a key member of the LGBTQ Representation Practice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 516.437.4385 x122.