Mediating Cases Under The New (Ab)Normal

April 2, 2020By Bill RatliffUncategorized

Hello and sincere best wishes, from my home and family to yours.

I doubt any of us could have imagined, even two months ago, that our lives could be so radically affected by something as common to our experience as a flu virus. We are told that its effects will be long lasting, and I for one believe it.

As lawyers, we deal with problems every day. We’re trained to analyze situations and provide solutions. Together, I believe we’ll eventually solve this problem as well.

While we all practice social distancing, our new normal for mediations and arbitrations will be abnormal. I’ve conducted my share of telephone and online mediations in the past — and while it is definitely a different experience, it can work. My law school class at The University of Alabama is using the Zoom App to conduct virtual mediations, and it seems to work pretty well.

Need tips on hosting a videoconference?

The Wall Street Journal just published a very good article offering Best Practices advice for a number of videoconferencing apps — from Zoom and Google Hangouts to Skype. If you don’t subscribe to the Journal, but would like to see the article, email me — and I’ll send you a PDF.

That said, I’m still serving clients in mediation as we move forward in these challenging times, and I have some practical, preparatory suggestions for anyone planning a remote mediation.

  1. Exchange initial offers and demands ahead of time.

    This will allow both parties to do some preparatory spadework before any mediation sessions begin, and it will help ensure that both parties are serious before entering into the process.

  2. Prepare mediation statements to educate the mediator.

    Consider sharing a version of your statement with opposing counsel. This gives both sides documents they work off of, and refer to, during the mediation session.

  3. Consider using half-day mediations.

    Using half-days instead of entire days means everyone still makes a significant time commitment. At the same time, the reduced time frame should force the parties to get to “brass tacks” sooner.  If a half-day proves insufficient, it’s easy to schedule another half-day; moreover, the break between half-day sessions may provide the time needed to process information, reconsider positions and allow the mediator to work with the parties.

  4. Trust the mediator.

    Share your goals with the mediator. Enlist the mediator’s help in meeting those goals.

I’m confident we’ll figure out how to make this work for all of us. We will adapt. We always have.

ON A PERSONAL NOTE —

I have always prayed that the Lord would not “waste” a trial for my children or family. My prayer has been that God would teach me and my family about ourselves, and Him, through every difficult life situation. This trial is no different.

I believe humans are wired to search for God. Some conclude there is no God. Others conclude there is a God, but that He’s not for them.

Many of us have been led to faith in God through trials. Tim Keller, one of our time’s great Christian thinkers, put it as eloquently as I’ve ever heard: “Suffering, if faced rightly, can drive us like a nail deep into the love of God.”

I watched a recent livestream talk by Keller — Peace in Times of Suffering and Uncertainty — in which he explores what Christianity, and the other “major” faiths (including atheism), have to offer us in times such as this. Whether you’re comfortable in your own faith, or still questioning what you believe, I highly recommend it.

I also recommend a recently-published book by my friend Richard Simmons (author, speaker and founder of Birmingham’s Center For Executive Leadership), Reflections On The Existence of God, which I enjoyed very much.

It’s a well-researched, thought-provoking collection of short essays (short is better for me) examining evidence and arguments for the existence of God and Jesus. If you’d like to read it, send me your address and I’ll mail you a copy — free of charge — as long as my supply lasts!

That said, if I can offer you any assistance with mediations or arbitrations, please let me know. In the meantime, stay safe.

Continue on the journey!

Please Click Here if you’d like to review my calendar of available dates and schedule a mediation with me. And thank you!
—Bill Ratliff

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