Make the Most of Mediating Over Web or Phone

  • May 07, 2020
  • Marshall Schnapp

Counsel today need to be comfortable mediating online or by teleconference with their parties if they’re to move files forward.

You’d be surprised how much you can get accomplished with web or phone mediation, if you follow some best practices.

Tip #1: Create the right environment

Take the time and set things up for a mediation to run well, whether over the web or phone. 

If meeting online, ensure both you and your client have a strong Wi-Fi connection to avoid delays. If this isn’t possible, a mediation over telephone may be a better option or a combination of online and telephone.

While the parties may not be meeting in-person, that doesn’t mean a physical space isn’t important. Find a spot in your office or home with enough space to have ready any key documents you may need to reference or show during the call.  A private space is important as well, since this will limit potential distractions. 

Ahead of mediating online, test out your webcam and position yourself so you can be seen easily and the background is not a distraction.  You want to be sitting close enough to the screen so that your face can effectively convey non-verbal cues to the other parties. Being too far back from the screen creates the impression you are disengaged.

During the actual mediation, it is good practice to mute your microphone when not speaking and silence distracting background noise.

Tip #2: Prep work is critical

"Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” This adage is especially true when you are face-to-face online with the other side or on the other end of the telephone.

Yet I often see counsel and their clients delay the start of the mediation to strategize about the case. This can be very off-putting to the party on the other end waiting for the online or phone mediation to get going.

Being ready to go right at start time is crucial for a few reasons. If you’re unprepared, it sends a negative message to the other party that you’re not taking the mediation seriously. Or even worse, that the delay is some kind of negotiation tactic.

Getting to an agreeable finish often starts with a good start.  It shows the parties are there to get things done and resolve the file.