Online Mediation

Jim Spink Continues to Conduct Mediations Online Amid COVID-19

The ongoing pandemic has required us all to adapt our work – to the extent possible – to new methods. We are finding our way to a new “normal”. Those of us in the legal and insurance professions are fortunate to be able to continue to work. We appreciate the need to protect ourselves, our families and everyone in the larger community and we observe – with gratitude – the extraordinary courage and commitment of health professionals the world over.

Happily, we can honor our shared objective to resolve disputes and lawsuits by moving from in-person mediation to online mediation. I have been trained on the preferred platform (Zoom) and have already conducted many mediations online. I’m pleased to report that it works very well and the move to online mediation has been seamless.

You will find that it differs very little from the in-person format you are accustomed to. We join together for an open session; I operate “breakout rooms” which provide safe and separate spaces for private caucusing. When we reach agreement, the attorneys and I work together (on screen) to craft a settlement agreement which I can then circulate online for signature. Within an hour, Adobe Sign sends the fully executed agreement to all participants.

At no expense, I’m pleased to offer pre-mediation dry runs to counsel (or to you and your client) to get folks comfortable with this format. Just let me know. I look forward to our mediation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to buy Zoom? Do I need training?

No. I do recommend that you go to www.zoom.us and download the free Zoom client program. It’s free and the website is helpful and you’ll be comfortable in no time. You can participate in a mediation with me without the program but it helps to have it on your computer.

  1. Go to https://zoom.us/ and click on the Sign Up, It’s Free button at the top right of the screen; or
  2. Go to https://zoom.us/, click on Resources at the top right of the screen, and then Download Zoom Client.

How does a mediation get set up?

You will find my calendar right here on my page and – with a few keystrokes – you can select an open date. My assistant (Gail Dixon, 802-864-9891 or gdixon@sheeheyvt.com) will promptly respond to lock in the date.

I then email counsel to collect emails of all participants. Then, a detailed email to all goes out with a “guidelines” sheet and the details of our upcoming mediation. A Zoom invitation goes out by email at the same time. You “accept” and we’re all set.

How do I join the Zoom mediation?

The Zoom invitation email I send you has a link. At the scheduled time, click on the Join Zoom Meeting link from your computer or other device and you will be connected to the mediation. The invitation email (both the Zoom invitation email and my email to all participants) contain the Meeting ID, any password you may need and a call-in number if the need arises.

Do I need any special type of Internet connection?

No but you will want a good, secure connection. It will work best with a strong signal (good WiFi or a hardwired connection) and it must be secure because mediation communications are confidential. Please: no public WiFi (coffee shops, airports, etc.)

How does an online mediation proceed? What should I expect?

Expect it to feel just like an in-person mediation except we communicate across screens rather than across the table from one another!

We will typically begin in a joint session for introductions and to hear any presentations.

Then, I create breakout rooms and I assign folks to their respective rooms and we begin our private caucus sessions. It works extremely well. In your breakout room, you will see and hear everyone on your team in that room and it is completely private. Nobody can see or overhear you from any other room.

Typically, there will be times when you will “kick me out” of your room so that you can speak privately without the mediator in the room. No problem. I can exit and then return when summoned.

Are we sure that breakout room conversations can’t be heard by the other side?

Yes. 100%

Are mediations recorded on Zoom?

Absolutely not. No recording is permitted.

What is “screen share”? Can I share documents online?

As host, I can permit “screen sharing”. Any participant can share their (computer) screen with everyone. This can be useful to show a document or even a PowerPoint presentation. For this purpose, you will want a Zoom account on your computer. Note: remember that – when you share your screen – everyone can see whatever is on your computer so exercise caution so as not to share client confidential documents.

Is there a limit to the number of parties or breakout rooms?

I can handle 100 participants on Zoom Pro. There is no limit to the number of breakout rooms so multi-party cases are easy.

When we settle, how is that documented?

No problem. I use Adobe Acrobat DC/Adobe Sign. I join with the lawyers in a breakout room designed for this purpose and we – together – craft and finalize the settlement agreement. I then circulate it for e-signature by everyone. Once signed, Adobe sends us all an email with the fully executed document.

What about Zoombombing?!

The risk of a hacker interrupting our session is miniscule. My sessions are encrypted and password protected. Hackers get in where session links are publicly shared. We don’t do that.

What do I do if my computer dies during the mediation?!

There are Plan B choices I outline in my email to you before your mediation. Remember that there is a call in number in the Zoom invitation. You can always use your phone to simply call in.

Can I do a test or dry run beforehand?

Yes. Absolutely. Just be in touch. No charge.