Why we Use ZoomThere are several online videoconferencing platforms out there, such as Zoom, Skype, Skype for Business, Google Hangouts, Facetime, Vidyo, WebEx, and GoToMeeting. All of these have their strengths and weaknesses.
We use Zoom because, as ADR professionals, we believe it has the best combination of necessary features and ease of use that are crucial to making the VideoADR experience most closely resemble the traditional, in-person ADR experience. In addition to ease in scheduling and logging in, among Zoom’s strengths (specific to VideoADR) are Breakout Rooms and Screen Sharing.
Breakout Rooms allow the neutral to meet privately with some but not all of the people in the meeting without the others hearing – all without anyone having to leave the meeting itself nor having to “dial in” again to separate room for the private meeting. So, in mediation, the mediator may caucus with the attorney(s) and party on one side of the mediation confidentially, without the other side hearing it, and vice versa. Likewise, in arbitration, the arbitrator may have sidebar discussions with counsel, without the witness hearing the substance of such discussions.
Screen Sharing allows the neutral or counsel to show documents, photos, presentations, and the like during the process. So, whether counsel wishes to add a visual component to a mediation opening statement or an arbitration closing argument, whether a mediator wishes to brainstorm visually with a party and his/her counsel in caucus, or whether a witness needs to be shown and testify about an exhibit, these can all be accomplished within the VideoADR meeting.
(Please see our discussion on Security, below)
CostThere is NO ADDITIONAL COST to you for attending a VideoADR session with us. While you are welcome to purchase a Zoom Pro plan, you need not do so. With the free Zoom client software or app, you will have all the functionality you should need during a VideoADR session.
Moreover, since you may attend the VideoADR session from your office or home, you will incur no travel expense or hassle: no need to try to find a parking spot!
SecurityLike all online videoconferencing platforms, Zoom has some weaknesses. Principal among these are publicized concerns about unwanted interlopers “Zoombombing” the meeting. While Zoom itself works on increasing its end-to-end security, there are already several things in place that we can – and we do – use to maximize the security of any Zoom VideoADR meeting we host.
First, we require a password to join the meeting (according to several articles, most “Zoombombers” randomly input 10-digit Zoom Meeting IDs until they find a meeting they are able to join. With the password required, such random-input folks cannot get in).
Second, we use the “Waiting Room” feature, so that, whenever someone first joins the meeting, s/he is kept isolated until we specifically let the person in. Note: this requires a specific, intentional act by the ADR Neutral, rather than just happening automatically. That intention adds another layer of security; if the Neutral does not recognize the person, that person is not let in.
Third, after all expected attendees have been admitted to the meeting, the ADR Neutral (as host) can lock the meeting, preventing anyone else from joining without an invitation from the Neutral.
Fourth, we configure the in-meeting Chat feature so that only the ADR Neutral may send chat to everyone; all other participants may only send chat to the Neutral.
Fifth, screen-sharing is initially controlled by the ADR Neutral, so that only intentional screen sharing, by the Neutral or counsel, is allowed.
Even with taking these steps, there is no guarantee that can be given (nor is one made here) of absolute communication security; we hear every day of corporate data breaches by determined bad actors. We simply believe taking these steps makes the Zoom VideoADR experience the best combination of benefits and mitigated risks. (For an interesting perspective on the security issue, click here.)
Having said that, if you would prefer to use another VideoADR platform, which you believe would be more secure, just let us know; we’re happy to accommodate, with agreement of all parties.
Participant RequirementsEquipment Requirements: All participants in a video mediation must have access to an electronic device with a camera and microphone: most newer laptops, mobile phones, and tablets have these built in. Accessories such as a USB plug-in camera and/or microphone are typically used with desk top computers.
Free Software/App Requirements: All participants agree, well in advance of the mediation session, to download and install either the free Personal Use software or App from Zoom.us (as required based on the equipment you intend to use) necessary to participate in the mediation session. Once downloaded, please familiarize yourself with the operation of Zoom.us, to enable you to operate the system and participate in your mediation session. Tutorials are available at Zoom.us
Secure WiFi or Ethernet Connection: All participants need a secure WiFi or Ethernet (hard-wired) connection for your computer or electronic device. Do NOT use a public access WiFi connection, such as those available in public spaces or businesses, as they are not secure and your information may be at risk in that situation.
Why VideoADR is not ‘ODR'You may have heard the term “Online Dispute Resolution” (“ODR”). Generally speaking, ODR is different from VideoADR in two principal ways. First, ODR, as implemented in most of those court systems and online auction/commerce sites that have chosen to take part, tends to be limited in scope and function. Often, these systems do not employ, at least initially, the services of a person to facilitate resolution; many are simply opportunities to exchange offers (for ODR mediation) or decisions rendered by algorithms (for some ODR arbitration). Second, ODR is, typically, asynchronous – meaning each of the parties interacts with the system at their own time and pace. While this may offer some convenience to each party, it often protracts the process unduly.
In contrast, VideoADR entails the parties and their counsel (if any) meeting at the same mutually convenient time, and interacting with one another and the ADR Neutral (a real-life person), who facilitates resolution of the dispute (whether by mediation or arbitration) in real time. This generally makes the process quicker and more satisfying than ODR.
Why VideoADR is MUCH BETTER than a Conference CallAs Neutrals, our experience has been that in-person ADR processes are the best for all concerned. Of course, in this era of social distancing and related public health concerns, in-person, face-to-face ADR meetings are either prohibited or pose an undue threat of contagion. While conference call ADR addresses that risk, it is, for many reasons, an unsatisfactory substitute.
For example, live, face-to-face mediations are significantly more likely to yield a deal than are mediations where some or all of the persons attend by telephone conference call. There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is that, when everyone is at the same location, we all tend to focus our energies more on the dispute being mediated, with extraneous concerns having less likelihood to distract anyone. Further, not being able to see one another (as occurs on a telephone conference) can make it harder to understand what each person is saying, since we lose all the nonverbal aspects of communication. People attending mediation by phone feel more remote from the process than those who can see one another. That lack of connection with (or engagement in) the process often leads to loss of patience and, correspondingly, increased chances of impasse (no deal).
Likewise, live, face-to-face arbitrations are generally preferred. If an arbitration is conducted by phone, the arbitrator and counsel are not able to see one another or the witnesses, which can take away an important tool for helping judge witness credibility: demeanor.
VideoADR is, in our opinion, the best of both worlds: providing the benefits of seeing one another during the ADR process while avoiding the risks of contagion. And, VideoADR has other benefits:
Convenience: no travel (or travel expense), can participate from almost any location
Comfort: all participants may be in any place of safety or comfort, whether home or office
Safety: mitigation of risks associated with high-conflict matters or intimate partner violence, social distancing, or other health concerns
Accommodation: can enhance the ability of disabled participants to take part
Flexibility: When a party is represented, we forward the online invitation information to the counsel listed. The parties and their counsel may log-in independently from wherever each chooses to participate or they may still be face-to-face (although socially distanced) and join the VideoADR together