Juris Videoconferencing Guidance
Online mediation is similar to live mediation in that it is a process controlled by the mediator which takes place through both private and shared discussions in meeting rooms. In online mediation, however, the meetings are controlled electronically and conducted remotely. There are other differences between the two processes and this guidance will assist users to achieve a satisfactory experience. Where questions arise, Juris has professional case managers who are available to help.
ZOOM VIDEOCONFERENCING – HOW IT WORKS
Juris uses Zoom Videoconferencing. It works in this way:
- Each participant will receive an invitation by e-mail to participate in the mediation videoconference. The invitation will include a code and a password which should be kept securely.
- Each participant may log in directly from the invitation or by download the free zoom application for a wider range of controls. A laptop or tablet with a microphone and camera is essential. It is wise to familiarise yourself with the zoom controls and practice with friends or family.
- At least five (5) minutes before the hearing each participant should accept the invitation by clicking on the link provided and following the on-screen instructions.
- Each participant will be admitted to a Waiting Room where they will wait until the Mediator admits them to the Mediation hearing. Participants may have to click tabs on the zoom screen to activate their video and sound and can adjust the “gallery” control to arrange the images on their screen.
- At the beginning of a mediation, the mediator may have all parties present in the same virtual room but will later separate the parties into private rooms (“breakout” rooms) for confidential conversations.
- Participants are requested to let the mediator, as host, lead the discussion in their room but they are not compelled to wait in silence and may attract the mediator’s attention by clicking the button “Raise Hand”, found on the control bar usually located at the bottom of the screen. The mediator can, where necessary, mute some or all of the participants.
- The mediator will shuttle electronically between the rooms conducting negotiations. Juris mediators will seek to avoid having participants wait more than 15 minutes in their rooms without returning to provide a progress report.
- If a participant needs to speak urgently with the mediator, he/she may press the “Help” button on the control bar. This will relay a message to the mediator who will respond as quickly as practical.
- When in rooms, those not speaking may communicate privately with one another by using the “Chat” button found on the control bar but Juris recommends (because of the risks of losing confidentiality) that neither confidential nor personal messages are sent in this way and that this button is used simply for getting someone’s attention during a conversation.
- Participants may also be invited by the mediator to leave one private room and go to another room for the purpose of private conversations. Such invitations are a normal part of the process, allowing the mediator maximum flexibility to talk candidly with everyone involved.
- Sometimes, for technical reasons outside the control of the mediator, screens may become frozen or a participant may be dropped from the videoconference. In either case, participants should wait briefly to see if the problem resolves.
If the problem does not resolve, the participant should disconnect from the meeting, using the leave meeting button and seek to reconnect by clicking the original invitation as they did at the beginning of the conference. Thereafter, the mediator should be able to see them once again in the waiting room and readmit them to their room.
If not readmitted within a minute or two, the participant should telephone his legal representative and/or the mediator so that the mediator can admit them from the waiting room or send a fresh invitation to join the conference.
- The Zoom program also allows participants to show, highlight or create documents and some representatives may find it helpful to master the techniques for doing so all of which are explained on zoom.com.
PREPARATION FOR THE MEDIATION
- Juris recommends that opposing parties or their representatives speak to one another directly to see if it possible to prepare an agreed set of facts or to narrow and define the issues and where possible to exchange meaningful settlement proposals.
- Each side should decide who should attend the videoconferencing mediation, recognising that it is important to have decision makers present and available throughout the day.
- Significant progress may be made before the mediation through advance calls from the mediator to either side.
- It is prudent to have an electronic signature available on each participant’s laptop or tablet to facilitate finalising any settlement reached.
NO LATER THAN 1 WEEK BEFORE THE HEARING
Legal representatives or unrepresented parties must deliver* to the mediator:
- A detailed but succinct mediation brief which sets out the identity of the parties, all relevant facts, any pertinent law, the issues in dispute, any settlement offers and any known barriers to settlement.
- A mediation brief is most effective if it is contemporaneously provided to the opposing parties or their legal representatives so they may be properly prepared.
- Either indexed ring binder(s) or electronic files containing all relevant documents. Ask the mediator for his/her preference. Key documents for use at the hearing may be uploaded to the Juris secure server.
- A list to the mediator with the name, title, telephone number and e-mail address for every person, including representatives, who will attend the videoconference.
- A copy of the Confidentiality Agreement attached to this guidance signed by every person who will attend the videoconference.
*Delivery may be by post, delivery service or electronically. Electronic delivery may be directly to the mediator or to the Juris secure server. Electronic delivery is subject to size limitations and should be limited to key documents.
- Even though you may be at home, dress appropriately for a legal proceeding and remember that while there will be ample opportunity for you to obtain refreshment, it is not appropriate to eat or drink on camera.
- Respect the confidentiality of the proceedings. This means you should not have anyone who has not been disclosed as a participant and who has not signed the confidentiality agreement watch or listen to the proceedings.
- It is best to have a head and shoulders image on the camera without a distracting background. Eliminate background noises such as children or telephones. (You can mute your microphone but don’t forget whether it is on or off.)
- There will be periods of activity and inactivity. You will need to pace yourself. It is sensible to give yourself time away from the screen but be sure to discuss any breaks with the mediator and be accessible except when excused. Tell the mediator how you are feeling.
- Because of the potential for screen fatigue, the mediator may choose to take more breaks than at a live conference and may also choose to split the hearing into different days.
- The Mediator may consider it helpful to conduct an in-person meeting with one or more of the participants, subject to any social distancing and travel restrictions then in force. A videoconference mediation may therefore proceed in whole or in part as in person mediation with the agreement of the mediator and all parties.
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