Texas Lawyer magazine has published Hicks Thomas Partner Robin Harrison’s recent article on remote mediation. In the article, “Remote Mediations: The Show Will Go On” (subscription required), Mr. Harrison discusses the rise of remote mediations in the age of COVID-19 and their importance in allowing the courts and trial lawyers to keep their dockets moving.
In the article, which recounts suggestions and observations that emerged from two recent panel discussions he moderated, Mr. Harrison acknowledges that, while trial lawyers and mediators believe in-person mediations are preferable, “some believe that remote mediations can be as effective as in-person mediation in almost all cases.”
After reviewing remote meeting software platforms and features currently being used for remote mediations, Mr. Harrison offers important advice for handling key aspects of a remote mediation, including:
- Conducting the joint session: When the joint session is conducted remotely, it is best to keep the presentation brief, as remote presentation attention spans are short. Although many are beginning to skip the joint session, most mediators consider it an important part of the settlement process.
- The importance of the mediation memorandum: The trend is to exchange detailed mediation memoranda among the parties. This can serve the purpose of a joint session (if the parties elect to skip that step) and allows the parties to get to the negotiation and trading phase of the mediation faster.
- Preparing for mediation: Remote technology can facilitate mediator-lawyer communication before mediation day. It allows the mediator to get up to speed, allows the lawyers to develop rapport with the mediator, and shortens the time that will otherwise have to be used for that purpose during the mediation.
- The negotiation: While mediators may find it more difficult to “read the room” or communicate separately with the lawyers, multiple Breakout Rooms, as well as texts and phone calls, can facilitate the negotiation.
- Documenting the settlement agreement: Counsel is encouraged to prepare in advance a form of settlement agreement tailored in anticipation of the significant terms that will be negotiated and to anticipate how the parties will sign the agreement remotely.
“Remote mediations will be with us at least until the COVID-19 pandemic passes,” writes Mr. Harrison. “In the meantime, settlements can be accomplished to our clients’ benefit during the pandemic restrictions with an appropriate understanding of and preparation for the new remote mediation processes.”
Robin Harrison is board certified in civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has been recognized in commercial litigation by Chambers USA, Best Lawyers in America and Texas Super Lawyers. To schedule an appointment, contact our firm today.