Our professional strategy
We offer the same high, professional standards and follow virtually the same processes for online mediation as for traditional face-to-face mediation. Online mediation is simply about making the best of simple technology.
We use technology just a little more widely than most mediators in dealing with the planning and administration of a mediation, whether the ultimate meeting is face-to-face, or via the Internet, or there is none.
The advantages of telephone, email and Internet conferencing
There is less to diarise; less to arrange.You want to arrange your online mediation right now? OK, fix it right now. You are in charge.
We all write more precisely than we speak. That is largely because we have the opportunity to fine tune what we write. This is particularly useful when you come to draw your settlement agreement. You already have the record of what has been agreed in the email messages passing earlier in the day.
On the face of it, email/Internet arrangements are flexible. There is less pressure to think fast and more time to consider. You can make time to confer with a colleague or discuss with your solicitor. That is obviously an attractive proposition. However, it gives rise to a serious problem.
Most people who come to mediation come because simple discussions have failed. A dispute may have been escalating for three months or three years. For that reason, the Mediator is unhappy to accept an instruction to undertake a mediation process which may drift over days, if not weeks.
Our online mediation procedure is therefore offered over a fixed number of hours – in much the same way as a face-to-face mediation works. That means both participants, and the Mediator, devote a specific period of time to settling the dispute.
However, there are exceptions. There are many possible circumstances where online mediation has been chosen as the best way forward simply because it may be conducted over a longer period of time than one day. The Mediator is flexible and will discuss your requirements – whatever they are.
- Time less critical
One of the problems of face-to-face mediation is simply to find accommodation which will be available after 5.00 pm. This is a requirement both for a full day mediation which might need extra time, and for a late afternoon or evening mediation. Of course, working online this can never be an issue. Hours are flexible.
- Common cause
The act of making arrangements for mediation tends to bring the participants closer together before they have even started negotiating. This is just as true for an online mediation as for a face-to-face procedure. The mediation cannot take place unless the parties are prepared to cooperate to that extent.
- No need to meet face to face
Our online mediation process involves an Internet conference via Skype or zoom (or some other software) at the start and the finish of a fixed appointment lasting some hours. Between the two meetings, the Mediator will “shuttle” between the parties by telephone.
This process involves both participants being comfortable to talk to each other through the conference system. Clearly, if a participant is for some reason fearful or concerned at speaking face-to-face across a table, then an Internet version provides a softer and more protected environment. For example, if a participant has felt threatened in the past, the ability to negotiate remotely and via the Mediator, can be a great relief to her/him.
Technical help: if you are fearful of using online software, we assure you that it is easier than you might worry about. We can also give you a little guidance on how to present yourself online.
The benefit of extended online mediation
As many disputes arise in cross-border trade as at home.
If the two participants are located 200 miles apart then of course online mediation really has to be considered a first choice to settle a dispute – particularly if each side has a whole team in support.
There are alternative ways of looking at the timescale for online mediation. Where possible, we prefer a fixed appointment of a day or half day just as we offer for face-to-face mediation. That way, we have a controlled process where every participant knows what to expect. A great deal more can be achieved in a planned day or half day than by extending the communication process over an unspecified period of time.
The alternative – essential for the circumstances of some disputes – is for the Mediator to provide availability over a fixed period of time, such as one week. During that time the mediator will still act in his usual role but meetings will be comparatively short and flexible. This flexibility will be essential when the subject matter of the dispute requires input from multiple people – particularly if they are located thousands of miles apart.
An extended mediation may also be essential when the circumstances “on the ground” are changing, and not static. In some cases even the participants may have to change from one meeting to the next.
Even where a physical meeting is essential to hammer out final points, it is still useful to take the mediation process as far as possible by telephone, email and conference software, before the parties travel a considerable distance for a face-to-face meeting.
Of course, online mediation presents no problem with regard to timing differences. The participants simply have to decide who is going to stay up late or get up early!
Out go the stress and cost of travel arrangements, venue cost, inconvenient timing, car parking, travel time and travel cost. Add the cost of senior management time and the saving is enormous.
Why face-to-face mediation is usually preferred
- With no physical presence and therefore no face to face communication, it is psychologically more difficult for the mediator to influence the parties.
- Internet mediation may require a fixed appointment time when both parties are available to exchange messages with the mediator or confer in a telecon. In that situation, the parties might get bored by inactivity and become distracted by other work, losing the mental thread of the mediation.
- Body language communicates. The human race has evolved to recognise body language whenever we communicate face to face. It is said by psychologists that body language is 75% of a communication. Whatever the percentage, it is self-evident that we understand body language intuitively. So, to communicate in any way that is not face-to-face puts both sides at a disadvantage.
- In normal circumstances face-to-face mediation is to be preferred. Online mediation will be your first choice if the advantages we have set out above are more important to you than the advantages of human interaction.
Note: there is no saving on the actual mediation time. The Mediator is as careful, thoughtful and thorough when handling the online mediation process as when dealing face-to-face.