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Produced in partnership with Chris Fitton, mediator of IPOS Mediation
No mainstream provider yet offers a video conferencing platform tailored specifically for conducting mediations so for now, lawyers must look at what is commercially available and see what best fits mediation use.
In many ways there is little to choose between the providers: they all work interchangeably on both windows/macOS and android/iOS. And by-and-large they all allow non-account holders to join with little or no prior registration. They all offer audio and video quality, which is acceptable for mediations, volume and mute; private and ‘everyone’ chat; different screen view options; various screenshare options. This Q&A is not intended to be a technical review; instead it focuses on the main aspects which are particularly relevant to conducting mediations via video conference (VC) where there are notable differences between the platforms.
Of the scores of VC offerings currently available, remarkably few offer ‘breakout rooms’—the functionality whereby each party’s attendees can conduct their own VC meetings without being seen or heard by the other side/sides (replicating their private room from an in-person mediation).
Now it is quite possible to conduct a mediation on a VC platform that does not offer breakout rooms—the mediator could repeatedly re-initiate separate video calls, for example each time he/she returns from having met with the other side. But because most participants would consider that to be unsatisfactory, only VC platforms that offer breakout rooms (or near equivalent) are considered here—see Remote mediation—platform comparator table.
It is worth noting, however, that if the break-out room criterion were taken away, some big-name players come back into serious contention, notably GoToMeeting (25 faces on same screen—see below) and Lifesize (13 faces on the screen, soon to be 49 faces).
In the context of a VC mediation, participants may be first-time users of the chosen platform, and/or may not be IT-savvy. For the client attendees (maybe more so for their lawyers) it will be a stressful occasion, in which they are anxious not be disadvantaged. So simplicity/ease of use of the chosen VC platform is particularly important. Relevant factors here include:
Other whistles and bells available within VC software but which (for now at least) are unlikely to be relevant in the mediation context, include:
• automated post-meeting feedback
It is not difficult to see how some of these, once coupled with future, yet-to-be-thought-of VC conveniences could one day make having some mediations by VC the preferred option for lawyers and other repeat-players, over having their mediations in-person.
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