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Distanced but not Distant: Connecting through Online Mediation by Gregory S. Clayton, Esq.

May 27, 2020 2:13 PM | Elizabeth Andrews (Administrator)

In a blink of an eye the world of mediation changed.  First, the hand-shaking stopped.  Then, people weren’t sitting close to each other in joint sessions.  Finally, and wisely, we stopped holding in-person mediations altogether.

Mediators who prized their ability to interact personally with people were now doing crash courses in Zoom and trying to figure out how to work with new technology.  We wondered how a craft founded on understanding, empathy and connection could survive if we were peering at people through computer screens.

We are not all the way there, but I can report this:  Mediations are going forward, cases are resolving and everyone is trying hard to make this work.

Images stay with me: 

  • The mother who did the entire mediation sitting in her car, the one quiet place she could find away from her kids and pets.
  • A couple involved in a horrific accident tearing up as they told their story, their emotions as plain on the screen as in person.
  • Over a dozen participants on a complex case, joining in on one screen and then working almost nine hours in breakout rooms to resolve a case that might not have been heard by the court system for years.

There will be many more images in the months ahead.

I see other positive changes. Mediators who once saw each other as friendly competitors are collaborating, sharing experiences and tips, and helping each other move forward.  During private discussions in breakout rooms, counsel and parties are talking openly about the new normal and life in isolation. We are connecting.

The transition to online mediation is not perfect. I still miss the personal touch.  But in times when personal touch might just be deadly, we have to, and will, make this work.

Originally published, April 03, 2020, on Greg's blog, Thoughts on Mediation

About the Blogger:

Gregory S. Clayton is a full-time mediator based in Camden, who mediates throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. He is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals and a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.

He may be contacted by email or at (207) 706 4977. CLAYTON MEDIATION, LLC

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