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?

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