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Snyder: Remote Mediation Ethics

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The COVID-19 pandemic has made many things about our jobs more difficult. And yet, there is a silver lining when it comes to case resolution.

Teddy Snyder

Teddy Snyder

The inability to safely congregate has compelled lawyers and claims professionals to turn to video mediation. Some were surprised to learn the benefits. Among these are that people are more relaxed in familiar environments; they feel more in control. Less stress results in better negotiation.

Pre-pandemic, the real decision-makers often did not actively participate, instructing the attorneys, “Call me if something important happens.” These people missed getting the full picture. Now, there is no barrier (or excuse) for parties who may be hundreds of miles away to actively participate. Again, the result is a better negotiation.

Lawyers must not shun mediating via remote technologies like Zoom. On the contrary, they have an ethical duty to master the technology. California Rule of Professional Conduct 1.1 imposes a duty of competence, which includes the learning and skill reasonably necessary to provide legal services.

The rule specifies that if you don’t already have that learning and skill, go out and get it or hand the case off to someone who does. State Bar of California’s Formal Opinion 2015-193 addressed the question of technology competence in a case involving e-discovery. The opinion states: “An attorney’s obligations under the ethical duty of competence evolve as new technologies develop and become integrated with the practice of law.”

Of course, you will want to choose a mediator who is comfortable with remote mediation technology. One way for you to get comfortable with it is to ask that mediator for a free practice session.

Check out the Webinar I recently recorded for Continuing Education of the Bar, "Quelling Clients' Fear of Video Mediation (and Yours Too)."

Attorney Teddy Snyder mediates workers' compensation cases throughout California. She can be contacted through WCMediator.com.

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