COVID-19 Expected to Affect Future Mediation Procedures
COVID-19 has affected most areas of life and that includes mediation. In many cases, mediations have been postponed because of the inability to travel and attend the session in person. Though many sessions can be conducted virtually, some states, including Indiana has rules in place that prevent virtual sessions. According to the Alternative Dispute Resolution Rules, all parties must be present at the mediation.
In some cases, rules have been altered to allow for virtual sessions. And many legal experts predict that rules like this could be changed permanently. They claim that conducting mediations virtually is more efficient than requiring everyone to attend in-person because there is no need to accommodate the travel needs of multiple parties. This also results in cost-savings because nobody needs to pay for travel.
There is also a time-saving benefit that occurs during the actual mediation process. Mediators can meet with parties privately, just as they would when mediations are in-person, but everyone remains physically in the same position. A mediator can move from virtual room to room without physically moving. Not needing to shuttle back and forth several times reduces the length of time it takes to discuss various issues.
Legal experts note that virtual mediation is not perfect and reduces the number of strategies attorneys can use to negotiate. However, for most people, the good outweighs the bad, and virtual mediations still permit the spirit of mediation to remain. Parties are free to negotiate in good faith and keep their issue outside of the courtroom. Only time will tell if the post-coronavirus world will embrace virtual mediation sessions.