Foster Swift attorney Fred Dilley uses virtual mediation during pandemic


During this coronavirus pandemic, more and more attorneys, mediators and clients are looking at ways to collaborate and mediate matters remotely. Social distancing protocols have changed the way the legal world conducts business, and working remotely is the new norm.

Social distancing is particularly challenging for attorneys in litigation settlement discussions that must take place in the course of facilitative mediation. Although there is no substitute for being in the same room, video-enabled conferencing platforms are bringing a new dimension to the ability to communicate online and work with clients regardless of geographical locations. And without the need for travel time, scheduling difficulties are greatly reduced.

Foster Swift Grand Rapids litigator and mediator Frederick D. Dilley is among those using video-assisted Alternative Dispute Reso-lution (ADR), that allows for full-day mediation of cases with litigants and counsel “remoting in” from multiple locations.

“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the quick adoption of this technology in facilitative mediation matters,” Dilley says.

“In the facilitative mediations I do, lawyers and their clients—including some who have never used interactive videoconferencing before –adapt quickly and are quite satisfied. “Let’s face it—interactive video conferencing has become the new normal,” he adds. “Also, at the other end of this pandemic, I think everyone will be used to doing it and it will become much more widespread than it was before this emergency took over.”

The technology includes the ability for participants to have joint sessions, go into private caucuses in virtual breakout rooms for conferences with the mediator or with other individuals, as well as to share documents and other written material, all in the video conferencing format. One of the most trusted online conferencing platforms to host virtual mediations is Zoom; participants need a Wi-Fi Internet connection, a computer or Wi-Fi enabled mobile device, and the Zoom App, available from the App Store or through the Zoom website at https://www.Zoom.US.

“The Zoom video conferencing platform is particularly useful to me in my mediation practice,” Dilley says.

 “It has the capacity to set up virtual breakout rooms so that lawyers and their clients can talk privately with one another and then talk privately with me outside the presence of the other party. I can go back-and-forth between the breakout rooms and then convene joint sessions when necessary. Very slick.”


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