July 6, 2020
Data Protection – the Return to Work Safely Protocol
When the Return to Work Safely Protocol was published in May, we outlined the main considerations for employers. You can read this piece here. In this piece, we outlined that...
The Covid-19 pandemic has profoundly changed our lives and forced us all into a ‘new normal’. The legal system is no exception. The Courts will be piloting remote hearings from the third week in April, ICT infrastructure updates already under way have been accelerated to allow the administration of justice to continue during the emergency.
The acceleration of these schemes is welcome news as we’ve seen how in Australia and the UK, among others, e-filing, can increase speed and efficiency when it comes to litigation. The emergency has also made a very strong case for remote mediation.
With court hearings significantly reduced and an increase in employment, contract and liquidity-related concerns for businesses, lawyers need to find ways to engage with their clients, each-other, and those empowered to adjudicate, to resolve disputes in an effective manner, while adhering to the necessary social distancing measures.
On the face of it, mediation is easily transferable to a remote situation. No Court officials are required, simply the parties involved, their legal advisors and a mediator. Most video-conferencing facilities offer solutions that allow mediations to happen in a ‘business-as-usual’ manner.
Most video-conferencing apps allow the organiser to set up rooms or channels so that parties can have private conversations away from the wider group. Chat functionality is also standard so you can message your client or the mediator while in the meeting. Documents can easily be shared with all parties via One Drive, Google Docs or even email. In fact, remote mediation has much in it’s favour in terms of time and cost savings, even pre-Covid-19.
One of the key advantages of mediation, besides removing costly litigation procedures, is that taking a day or half day out in a location that is set up specifically to encourage parties to work together, can often lead to a favourable resolution for all those involved, that may not have been possible in a courtroom setting. Those of us who are involved with Mediation understand the importance of the setting and environment being right, even in terms of who sits where in the room.
With online mediation, the ability to create a comfortable environment and to empathise with the parties face-to-face is gone, and as they say, only 7% of communication is verbal. Empathy and the ability to gain trust are key skills for mediators and this can be tricky to do when you’re not in the same room as the parties involved. But a good, well-organised mediator can circumvent these issues.
About the author: Marc Fitzgibbon, Senior Partner and Head of Employment Law at Lavelle Partners.
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