Online mediation is becoming a real powerhouse for ADR in low cost cases. But why? In this digital age, it’s no surprise that more traditional processes – like those relating to court proceedings – are moving into a digital format. For some that may feel uncomfortable. But no matter how uncomfortable, it is inevitable. Mediation is moving with the times and in doing so, is winning plenty of new fans.
Why move to online mediation?
Increasing the use of mediation by moving small cases (of relatively low value) online, could significantly benefit the courts and claimants. And there are several reasons why.
Let’s remind ourselves that all parties have to be willing in order for mediation to be a success. Online mediation afford parties much greater flexibility in terms of meeting location. Meetings can be facilitated pretty much anywhere a party chooses. This could be a considerable draw when seeking cooperation to participate. Being in comfortable surroundings that put participants at ease, may also help parties approach mediation in a more positive frame of mind.
Before mediation even reaches an initial meeting, statements and testimonies have to be provided to the mediator and contesting parties. By moving this to a digital file, all of the appropriate documents are available for all parties to review and refer to, throughout the process. Further, verbal testimony and video interviews may significantly improve the mediator’s understanding of the matter, and possibly even the other party’s.
Another key point is that online mediation removes the physicality associated with in person mediation. Heightened emotions, mistrust and even fear can lead to stress and anxiety in face to face situations. Moving online and physically separating parties, can help diffuse tense situations.
Finally, one of the key points to online mediation is the reduction in intervening delays, such as bad-traffic and poor health. Online mediation removes many hurdles such as these, that can cause lengthened meetings and delayed settlements.
Is online an alternative to in person mediation?
Online mediation is not just an alternative to in person mediation, it can also be used to complement it. All of the positive attributes of online mediation can be applied as an extension or continuation to a case in person. For example, where one party feel the other may be remiss in terms of documentation, moving all documentation online will reduce the chances of missing documents or absent statements, which could delay proceedings. Online documents can be made available to all parties throughout the process.
The use of online mediation as a continuation of an in person mediation, could reduce time delays. Where meetings have not been as fruitful as hoped and further meetings are required, scheduling can cause delay. This could be mitigated by moving online, which opens up diaries and availability for meetings.
Of course, in person and online are not mutually exclusive. You can chop and change, and apply the relevant principles where you and your mediator feel it is beneficial, and all parties agree. That flexibility is surely one of the biggest draws.
What are the benefits of online mediation?
Getting down to the nitty gritty, the benefits of online mediation can be broken down into several points:
- Geographical. There are no geographical restraints. The only requirement to participate is an internet connection.
- Time. There are significant time savings can be made, namely through the reduction in missed or rescheduled meetings and travel between meetings. Which can be considerable.
- Costs. The removal of overheads such as meeting locations mean there is likely to be yet more cost savings, which is ideal for low value cases.
- Convenience. The options for dates and times of meetings open up with online mediation.
- Viability. As with all mediation, no dispute is too small but with further reduced costs, it seems a viable option for any dispute.
- Stress. Acrimonious disputes are not exacerbated by face to face meetings. This is particularly poignant in marital and family disputes.
- Inclusion. Those that are severely disabled or have extreme poor health can still be active participants in online mediation.
- Flexibility. For all all the reasons stated above, no one can argue the flexibility afforded to all parties of online mediation.
How successful can it really be?
ODR is already being used more widely than you might realise. Perhaps one of the most well recognised users is online super seller Ebay. It is estimated that an incredible 60 million disagreements amongst traders on eBay, are resolved every year using ODR.
Focussing on mediation, obviously we are advocates and have continually extolled its virtues. But now we can further extend those positives with online mediation; a platform that will not only continue to reduce claimant’s costs but also make radical enhancements in the flexibility of mediation.