The benefits of mediation and mediating during Covid-19 lockdown

Whilst the Courts are gridlocked with matters taking longer to progress than normal and the potential for further delays even after lockdown restrictions are eased, it may be more sensible than ever to consider mediation as an effective means of resolving disputes.

What is mediation?

Mediation can be used whether proceedings have been issued or not and is a highly effective way of resolving disputes without the expense or stress of court proceedings. Usually mediations last a single day with the parties represented by lawyers. An independent third party mediator is appointed by the parties to help them try to negotiate a resolution to their dispute. The parties are in separate rooms for the majority of the day with the mediator going back and forth trying to facilitate a deal.

What are the benefits of mediation?

There are many benefits to mediation including:

  1. Quicker resolution: mediation can be used early in a dispute, therefore an agreement can be reached quicker than if the parties used the courts to litigate.
  2. Greater control: The parties have complete control over any agreement reached as they are directly involved in negotiating the terms of any settlement and can agree commercial settlements and outcomes a court would be unable to make.
  3. Preservation of Business Relationships: Mediation helps participants focus on communicating and achieving a deal meaning that often existing business relationships can be preserved.
  4. Confidentiality: Mediation can be confidential whereas court proceedings are public and can attract adverse publicity.
  5. Reduced Costs: Costs in mediation are generally far lower than resolving matters through the courts. Traditional litigation can be expensive and costs unpredictable.

How can mediations take place during lock down?

Whilst mediation has traditionally been carried out in person, (with parties, their representatives and the mediator meeting at a neutral location to try to resolve the dispute), the ability to ‘meet’ remotely has opened up new possibilities.

Holding mediation over the phone, or using such platforms as ‘Zoom,’ ‘Teams’ or ‘Skype’ has meant mediations can occur more quickly and efficiently.

The many advantages of ‘remote’ mediation are as follows:

  1. There is no need to delay trying to achieve a resolution of the dispute, as mediations can take place notwithstanding the lock down restrictions currently in place;
  2. The ability to decide where you want to be during the mediation; be it in your own home, home office, or garden; thereby enabling you to be in comfortable and familiar surroundings;
  3. It is possible to switch off the camera and mute the microphone if you need a break or wish to have a completely private conversation with someone in your household;
  4. There is no need to travel and therefore no need to incur the costs or time spent required to book purpose built meeting rooms or the cost of travel to the agreed venue;
  5. There is no need to worry about child care, dependants or pet care arrangements;
  6. There is no need to worry about access if you have mobility issues;
  7. It is easier to utilise your time doing other things whilst the mediator is engaged with the other party.

The process is still structured. The mediator may still hold joint sessions with all parties and will speak to each of the parties privately to help broker a deal, however, it eliminates any stress associated with travelling to and attending mediation, plus you may have the support of family members or friends to help alleviate stress or to use as a sounding board.

Where a matter is extremely contentious and the parties do not want to see each other, the mediator is able to facilitate separate “fallout rooms” online so that the parties do not need to come “face to face” online. These separate “rooms” also provide privacy so that you can speak to your solicitor privately and in confidence.

What do I need?

The minimum equipment required is a laptop, PC or smart phone with access to the internet. Mediators usually provide access to their own preferred software so there is no need to purchase software in order to mediate.

Lots of mediation providers are facilitating remote mediation and it is likely that we will continue to see this as an option even after lockdown.