Zooming Through Mediation and UM/UIM Arbitration In the Time Of COVID-19

At the beginning of March, I had heard of COVID-19.  When I looked at my calendar for the month, I knew I had a UM/UIM arbitration scheduled on the 18th where I was an arbitrator. I was dubious as to whether we would go forward. As news of the pandemic in the U.S. grew, I emailed everyone in the second week of the month, asking if we were still on for the 18th. Everyone said yes, and I was worried. The next week brought news that some of the lawyers involved were not going to take the risk of meeting together, and we needed to come up with something else. And that’s how I learned to get five lawyers, many of whom do not consider themselves “tech-savvy” to conduct a four-hour arbitration with exhibits by Zoom conference. At the same time, across town, David Mason of Henson & Fuerst was going through the same experience, but with two meditations he had scheduled.
This week, NCAJ presented a free webinar (no CLE credits) allowing us to explain how this worked. The program is a conversation between myself, Rick Hunter (plaintiff’s arbitration counsel), Tammy Winstead (Hunter’s paralegal), and Kent Smith, our neutral arbitration. David Mason speaks for about 25 minutes on his experiences as plaintiff’s counsel in two Zoom arbitrations, one with mediator Mike McDaniel, the other with mediator Jackie Clare.
On both topics we discuss the new strategic and practical considerations of getting a Zoom arbitration and mediation to work for you and your client. Topics include: gaining consent for Zoom, confidentiality of communications, preparing witnesses, dry runs with technology, technology requirements, creative ways to show visual information, problem solving technical issues, recording (or not), and legal requirements for the mediation and arbitration agreements. We also talk about overall strategies for advocacy using this new medium.
The entire program runs about an hour and 10 minutes and has a good number of questions from the audience of over 100 people.
In a time when we don’t get a lot of good news, here’s some: All of the lawyers had positive outcomes for their clients using Zoom. So while we may not be able to lawyer like we normally do, we can still advocate for our clients in this brave new world. Find video of the seminar, Jackie Clare’s excellent tuturial and a slate of other COVID-19 related programs on the NCAJ blog COVID-19 Resources Page.

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