Virtual Mediation Technology Glitches

We are soooooooooo dependent upon our technology during this pandemic. Most of my communication with co-workers and attorney-colleagues is through email and text.
Even phone calls with my smart phone (which sometimes seems too smart… like creepy smart) have become complicated when I use my Bluetooth earpiece and it seizes the call whether I want it to or not.
At my house, I play music using “Hey Google” and I joke that you need an Engineering degree to turn on the television.
Just like the rest of the world, mediation and arbitration have become even more dependent upon technology during the pandemic.We are mediating and arbitrating using ZOOM, attaching special cameras to our computers and learning all about Breakout Rooms and Chat Boxes. Which is honestly great – I love learning new things and trying them out on unsuspecting victi … uh, I mean attorneys.But what happens when our tools fail just as we are set to begin using virtual technology professionally?This exact scenario happened …


Working from home presents some brand-new challenges:  your spouse is with you 24-7; your kids are home and attending school online; and you cannot leave the confines of your home.  So, this creates an opportunity to mediate some home-bound issues.
1.         What do we watch on TV?  Imagine a lovely evening with your family sharing the experience of watching a film; this is a fantasy of mine because we cannot agree on a movie.  I struggle with the violent films the men here like and they dislike the lighter rom-coms or Jane Austen-ish movies I watch.  The easy mediated solution is to separate and choose to watch your own film on your own device, but let’s seek a deeper different solution.  What about sharing control?  What if each person chooses one film and we all watch and stay open to the story without critical comment , at least while it is playing?  The person whose birthday is earliest in the year starts and you work your way through the family.  Or, how about agreeing to watc…
Virtual Mediation--Alternative Dispute Resolution has moved (kicking and screaming) into the virtual world.  My firm has handled over a dozen virtual mediations and arbitrations in the past few weeks and here is what we have learned:
-Virtual mediation can work.  During lockdown, with the courts out of commission, attorneys have time to mediate.  You can prep your clients, remotely of course, and write up pre-mediation statements to submit to the Mediator.  One obstacle to mediation is just scheduling the darn thing.  We spend valuable time trying to juggle the crazed schedules many attorneys and parties keep (or at least used to keep pre-pandemic.)  So that obstacle is now gone; we can actually get the mediation on the calendar.
-The Process is the same, but different.  Zoom allows for private breakout rooms so we can separate out and have confidential conversations.  It’s not flawless and takes some time for the Mediator to jump from room to room.  I encourage the attorneys and par…
This Too Will End What do winter and the Covid 19 pandemic have in common?  They both seem like they will last forever.  But we all know both will end, I promise.  Here in St. Louis we can walk outside, using social distancing, and as I take full advantage of this escape, I notice the flowers are blooming and the grass is greening up.  These photos are taken around my neighborhood within the last few days and I’m including them to cheer you up!
Here are a few Winter/Covid 19 suggestions I pass along:
--Think about taking time for yourself.  Read a book you have left sitting on your shelf.  I just finished “Hedy’s Folly” about Hollywood actress Hedy Lamarr, who patented a communications system between torpedoes and submarines during WWII.  With her co-inventor, George Antheil, an accomplished movie music composer, they collaborated to protect communications from enemy jamming.  Today, this invention is integral to bluetooth, GPS devices and wireless phones.  Who knew??
--Get in the kitche…


Starbucks holds a special place in my heart; I am a regular coffee drinker and by now my local store knows not only my name, but also my dog’s name.  The other day I was in line ready to order and overheard the customer in front of me laughing about her magic Starbucks card that showed a $0.18 balance but just keeps on working.  She used her magic card to pay and stepped off to the side to wait for her order.  Before I could mutter “Grande Cappuccino with Skim Milk,” my barista informed me their system was acting up and I could pay only with cash or the app.  Panic flowed through my body—I had forgotten my iPhone that morning, so no app, and very little cash on me.  The  previous customer must have noticed the rising alarm in my voice because she quickly interrupted by insisting that I use her Starbucks Card, referring to it as the “Community Card.”  I did and it worked perfectly.  I turned to the customer behind me and insisted she use the Community Starbucks Card too.  Elation reig…
What is your New Year’s Resolution?  Last January I started this blog and resolved to post at least monthly.  I did it (well, except for December, which as a working Mom, is excusable—in fact, I declare that henceforth December is off the table for all deadlines.)
Most lawyers and mediators are super swamped during December.  Insurance companies, law firms and others want to close cases before the end of the year—be it for tax purposes, a push from accounting or maybe just to start the year off fresh.  The week before Christmas I had four mediations in five days.  Wow-that’s a lot!  Three of the four settled, so these are great results.  The cases that settled had parties who were open to compromise, knew the facts of their situation and were serious about settling.  But what can we learn from the dispute that did not settle?  Let’s dig deeper and pull out what went wrong.
In the case that did not settle, both sides were represented by ex…
As a follow up to my last post on Med-Arb, I want to describe a new type of Med-Arb gaining popularity:  Med-Arb Baseball Style.  (Okay, I made up that name but it aptly describes this process.)
In Major League Baseball (MLB) if the team and player cannot agree on a contract price, the case goes to a neutral arbitrator and each side presents the Arbitrator with a dollar amount they believe represents a fair, final price and their justification for the price.  (Seems strange to speak of a price for a person, even if he is an awesome baseball player!)  The Arbitrator chooses one of the numbers presented and has no discretion to choose or do anything else.  Both sides have an incentive to be reasonable and give their best number.

Because this is St. Louis and we love our baseball, (and hockey too) this process has spilled over into contract disputes, particularly in the construction arena when disputes arise between general contractors and subs.  The contract (pre…