Mediation? There’s An App For That

From Clare Fowler’s Fairly Legal Blog

I was just visiting the Fairly Legal website. I saw a game where you submit your problem and Kate Reed will answer it for you. Scoffing at what a mockery she is making of our profession, crying at what a travesty this was that she can minimize my job into an online game, I did what anyone else would do in my situation: I submitted a question. And, dangitall, she had a good response: confront the other person directly, humbly, tell them how it made you feel, and see if you can work out a solution.


This was actually sort of a good answer.


As much as I want to ridicule this Insta-Mediation approach, I have to admit it kind of makes sense. I think the world of mediation is beginning to change a bit to reflect the consumer’s desires. When I go to fix any other problem, like to pay a bill online, I want to be able to have instantaneous answers and quick-fixes. I expect instant. I expect convenience. I expect online. I think the world of mediation needs to begin incorporating some online, convenient tools in the ever-expanding mediator toolbox.


For instance, in one of my current cases, only half of the actual mediation takes place face-to-face. The other half takes place on the phone, via email, and via (dare I admit this?) texting. It’s true. I want to be helpful to my clients, and when they are ready to compromise a bit, I want to be accessible to honor that. So my clients can text me on a Saturday afternoon and say, “Maybe I actually don’t need the entire amount if it means w8ing longer. I think I’m ready 2 give up 25% if we could settle this today and be done with it.” What do I say? Gr8!


If it is a more complex problem (like, ach! I forgot to pay my bill and I’m late, please process this immediately and can you pretty please reverse the late fee?), then I want to speak to an actual person. In other words, much of the value of mediation is still face-to-face, reading non-verbal cues, and reacting to that body language.


But as mediators, if we deny what our clients are asking for, and force them into a box where everything has to take place in a mediation conference room, are we helping? or have we become our own obstacle to a successful mediation?

                        author

Clare Fowler

Clare Fowler is Executive Vice-President and Managing Editor at Mediate.com.  Clare received her Master's of Dispute Resolution from the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at the Pepperdine University School of Law and her Doctorate in Organizational Leadership, focused on reducing workplace conflicts, from Pepperdine University School of Education. Clare also coordinated… MORE >

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