Mediation Joins The Digital World

Published May 13, 2020

“Life finds a way.” – Jurassic Park

Anyone else find cheesy movie quotes relevant to today’s COVID-19 situation? I find the above quote pretty fitting considering the revolutionary uptick in the use of video conferencing. The mediation field has tinkered with the idea of virtual mediation for years. Some might even say for over a decade. Preference for face-to-face meetings, distrust in internet security, low quality internet connection, and other logistical concerns prevented the wide use of mediating online. COVID-19 forced many fields like mediation to revisit providing services online, and for business like DRS North Texas, Inc. the only choice for survival was to adapt. Thanks to high speed internet and advances in computer applications, the barriers that deterred mediating online have been subdued. The organization began testing the possibility of mediating online in March of this year. By mid-April, a sample group mediated the first selected cases on Zoom, and on May 1, 2020 the non-profit went public in announcing its adapted method for mediating disputes.

Looking Ahead
DRS North Texas, Inc. anticipates the need for mediation will increase as the dockets at courthouses grow incrementally. Businesses are taking steps to return things to normal now that state shut downs are phasing out. However, courthouses have above average daily foot traffic; therefore, fully reopening them could be a much slower process. As a long term employee of DRS North Texas, Inc., I have witnessed individuals litigating for the first time get overwhelmed by the regular length of time it takes to get to trial. Delays are frustrating, disappointing, and they add to the tension and anxiety litigants experience while going through litigation. Because of COVID-19 the number of disputes heard by local judges have been reduced to essential cases, and jury trials have been suspended. Unable to hear all cases originally scheduled on court dockets, the amount of pending cases grows. I can only imagine how much more congested court dockets have become or will become in light of COVID-19; but DRS North Texas is filling the gap by mediating cases online using Zoom’s video conference platform.

Moving Forward
DRS North Texas, Inc. has helped litigants reach mutually agreeable resolutions to legal disputes outside of court through the mediation process for over 35 years. Mediating online works just like face-to-face mediation only parties can participate from the safety and comfort of their homes. Why not consider mediating as an alternative to going to trial or even prior to filing a lawsuit? Now with mediation available online, it is even easier to get help resolving disputes faster.

Serving Tarrant County and surrounding areas, Dispute Resolution Services of North Texas Inc. is a non-profit community dispute resolution organization of professional volunteer mediators who provide affordable mediation services and teach mediation and dispute and conflict resolution, an effective alternative to litigation. Click here to learn more about the mediation process.  

Author: Annette Smith received her Bachelor’s degree in Communication from Texas A&M University. She has been an employee for Dispute Resolution Services of North Texas, Inc. (DRS North Texas, Inc.) for over 12 years helping develop the organization’s mediation training program, providing support to volunteers, and managing cases.


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