How Does Online Mediation & Arbitration Work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many significant changes in our personal and business lives. But legal disputes do not take a holiday and they must be addressed and resolved where possible. In fact, the pandemic has spawned new theories of liability and damages that will need resolution.

Judge Downey has been conducting mediations and arbitrations utilizing Zoom since March of 2020. The most common question concerns the maintenance of confidentiality in the private caucus in mediation. With the Zoom platform, the mediator is the “host” and controls the opening session and the private room caucus from his/her control panel. Litigants can be placed in separate virtual “breakout rooms” where they cannot be heard by their adversaries. The mediator goes in an out each room utilizing the control panel. At any time, the mediator can also bring everyone back together in a joint session and separate them again as needed. There is also a “screen sharing” feature that allows the parties to post on the screen documents, photos or videos that they wish to share with the mediator, the opposing party or both.

Arbitrations lend themselves very well to online presentation. Zoom allows multiple participants to be displayed on the screen simultaneously allowing everyone to see the arbitrator(s), the witness, the examining attorney and the opposing attorney. The screen sharing feature facilitates the presentation of evidence. Clients are connected to the proceedings like everyone else but their video and microphones are muted by the arbitrator until such time as their input becomes necessary as a witness or otherwise.