Any lawyer or insurance professional who has spent time attempting to settle a case through traditional mediation (both parties working with a mediator at the same facility) has likely been frustrated. It is difficult to find a day and time when all parties can meet. It is inconvenient to spend a day (or days) away from the office and life at home. It is expensive. But, perhaps most frustrating, it is inefficient. Between the posturing and delays, parties often leave mediations with little to show for their efforts.
Even with its inefficiencies, mediation has continued to become more prevalent in the legal system. Only three percent of civil cases go to trial. Disputants, therefore, often use Alternative Dispute Resolution tools like mediation to reach a settlement.
With the current legal system, we know that most cases are going to involve mediation. So, the question becomes, what is the best way to mediate? Is there a way to avoid the days of traveling, the posturing, and the scheduling conflicts?
In recent years, the online dispute resolution field has experienced global growth, and powerful online mediation services are becoming more available. By mediating online, parties can avoid many of the headaches of traditional mediation. As a negotiator, how do you decided when to use online mediation?
Online mediation is inherently more efficient than traditional mediation. The negotiators do not have to travel, no one needs to find a facility, and the online platform provides a more focused environment for getting results by establishing tighter deadlines for settlement. Thus, both parties save time.
In terms of economic efficiency, online mediation trumps traditional mediation. The cost of traditional mediation varies based on the geographic location, the nature of the matter litigated, and the reputation of the mediator. Mediators typically charge on an hourly rate, varying from hundreds to thousands of dollars per hour.
Online mediation is often offered at a flat rate that is much lower than the cost of tradition mediation. If an hourly rate is used, an online mediator is generally able to charge less than a traditional mediator of similar quality since they spend less time on each case. Additionally, there are little to no facility or travel costs. In almost every circumstance, online mediation will be more cost-effective than traditional mediation.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of online mediation is ability of the parties to be more candid with their settlement offers. Online mediation does not have the same reputation for posturing. Depending on the format, parties do not have time to sit around and offer unrealistic numbers. Online mediation is designed to be efficient, so there is much more of a push for parties to reveal the best settlement number and to actually reach an agreement. Technology also creates the opportunity to use innovative tools such as blind negotiating that would not be possible in a traditional setting. By encouraging parties to be honest and not waste their time posturing, online mediation gets results.
Getting the Other Side Involved
Online Mediation is relatively new. Although preconceptions in the industry are shifting to be more open to online solutions, there are only a handful of companies around the country who offer an effective online platform for mediation. Thus, it may be hard to get both sides to agree to try something new. Attorneys are far too accustomed to mediations lasting for days and costing thousands of dollars, so they may be skeptical about trying something different. Working with your online dispute resolution provider to communicate the process and get all parties comfortable is a great way to engage the other party in a dispute.
Discussion of Issues
There are some instances when parties need to use traditional mediation because of the nature of the case involved. Some cases require face to face communication, and it is important to consider such complexities before trying online mediation. Technology is helping here too. With the proliferation of videoconferencing, online dispute resolution can be more engaging than ever before.
Another consideration is the lifecycle of the case. Online mediation is designed to help parties efficiently reach a settlement. If either party know that they are not ready to settle, they should be encouraged to evaluate the case before they try any type of mediation. An online format is not a silver bullet that will solve any impasse, but it can be a more efficient way to learn if and why there is an impasse.
When to Use Online Mediation
The bottom line is that online mediation is not going to be perfect for every case. There are a small number of cases where traditional mediation or a trial is necessary to reach a settlement. However, it is worth considering online mediation for every case. Why spend thousands of extra dollars and countless hours on traditional mediation if there is a better option?
The first step to unlocking the potential of online dispute resolution is to find a provider who you are comfortable with. Learn more about First Court’s settlement services here.