Experts agree: Online Mediation is here to stay

by Petra Maxwell on December 16, 2010

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Toronto-based writer, editor and all-round tech savvy marketing guru, Luigi Benetton contacted me the other day about an article he was writing for The Lawyer’s Weekly – Canada’s pre-eminent national law journal.  Mr. Benetton has been researching the growing interest in mediation as a means of resolving disputes, and the extent to which mediators are using technology in their practices.  Luigi really did his homework and seems to have scouted around for the handful of us in North America who are dabbling in this arena.

Mediationline, I’m happy to say, is more than simply dabbling, though.  As I mentioned to Mr. Benetton, we here at Mediationline view online mediation as being a core part of what we do and central to our mission of making dispute resolution accessible to everyone.  I’d like to think that we’re staying way ahead of the curve so that we can be ready for our clients when they need us.

Thanks, Luigi, for your great article and insightful summary of both the pros and cons of online mediation.  Read an excerpt, below, and then click on the link for Mr. Benetton’s full article published last week in The Lawyer’s Weekly.  And then take a few moments to look around at the rest of Luigi’s website for more interesting article’s on marketing, law and technology.

The Benefits of Video Mediation, by Luigi Benetton

originally published in Lawyers Weekly Magazine, December 9, 2010

Face-to-face mediations won’t go away, but for cost reasons, they sometimes give way to videoconferencing.

Some professional mediators are banking on this trend. “It’s a great time to do online mediation,” Petra Maxwell says. The founder and CEO of New York-based MediationLine LLC, a “veteran” of about 15 video mediations (plus portions of others) gives several reasons why online mediation should take off. For starters, legal bills can quickly add up, and as the current economic climate continues to take a toll, people’s interest in saving money rises. Meanwhile, divorces, business disputes and other events calling for conflict resolution continue to occur.

There’s also an increasingly techno-comfortable market segment that expects such services. “In a divorce I recently mediated, the male was in New York, while the wife had already moved to California,” Maxwell explains. “They heard I handled mediation online and called me, asking to use Skype.”

Mark Shapiro is a newbie compared to Maxwell, having only participated in one commercial mediation so far. While with his former firm, the Toronto-based partner at Dickenson Wright LLP found himself in the offices of dispute resolution service provider ADR Chambers with the mediator (live) and the other party (via video feed from Ottawa).

“Sometimes you get cases in which dollar values aren’t huge, and this makes mediation cost-effective,” Shapiro says. “To mediate otherwise, lawyers and clients would have to travel.”

Allan Stitt, president of ADR Chambers, admits cost savings may be the only reason to use what his company calls eVideo mediation. “People can be in different cities and can cost-effectively participate in mediation,” he explains. “If somebody has a three-hour mediation, they’re only there for three hours.”

Driving home the cost savings point, he openly states that ADR Chambers charges $250 per remote location, “so lawyers ask whether they would rather pay the $250 or fly to another location for face-to-face meetings.” (Maxwell’s home page states that her services start at $249.)

[Read complete article here]

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