Navigating the COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenge for everyone. This is especially true for those involved in business disputes or dealing with legal challenges, in general. The virus has been an unprecedented disruption and those involved in legal matters have been forced to find new ways of dealing with their situations. One of the most effective tools during this time has been business mediation.
How can business mediation help you navigate the COVID-19 outbreak and how is mediation different now than it was a few months ago?
Generally, there are five factors to consider when it comes to conducting business mediation in the COVID-19 world. These include:
- How you will go about conducting remote or virtual mediations
- How you will coordinate with neutrals and everyone else involved in the process
- Whether deadlines need modification
- How you will deal with the changes you implement
- What you will do to prepare for uncertainty
One of the most significant impacts of COVID-19 is the inability to travel. International travel is all but banned and domestic travel is, at best, a significant inconvenience. Some businesses have even implemented more severe travel restrictions on employees, so you should assume that face-to-face meetings are not only inadvisable, they might be impossible for the foreseeable future. This means the best option if you want to keep the dispute resolution process on track is to plan for a remote mediation.
Conducting a remote mediation is not that different than conducting the process in person. It is also easier than ever before thanks to technological advancements that make remote communication convenient. Mediations are being held via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, and other platforms that allow for virtual meetings and communication.
It is important to be sure everyone involved in a business mediation is comfortable with these tools before beginning the mediation. If training is needed, it should be scheduled at least a few days in advance of the proposed mediation date. There is always a chance for uncontrollable glitches when meeting remotely, but you reduce potential problems a great deal by making sure everyone can confidently use the virtual meeting software.
What the New Approach Means for Negotiations
Assuming all parties agree to remove mediation, it is important to consider how the new approach will change negotiations, incentives, and leverage. Everyone should understand the benefit of using business mediation during this time, just as they would if in-person mediation were an option. For instance, mediation in any form tends to be more efficient and move a dispute to resolution faster than litigation. This is more important than ever since courts will be backlogged for months once they re-open entirely.
The COVID-19 outbreak might have to change the mindset of those involved in the dispute, as well. Understanding everyone’s current position is essential to a successful mediation. What was the case a few months ago could be drastically different at this point.
The more proactive and flexible those involved in a business dispute can be better. Preparing for the worst is more necessary now than ever before and serves everyone, especially with the uncertainty we currently face.