We are endeavoring to comply with Florida Supreme Court administrative orders, local ordinances, and state laws regarding safety procedures and protocols including social distancing, face protection, and disinfecting. At this time, we are recommending Zoom video conferencing for all mediations. Zoom is user friendly, free and allows joint and private conferences. Zoom also has video as well as teleconferencing capabilities. Videoconferencing information below.
VIDEO CONFERENCE MEDIATION: AN INTRODUCTION
Instead of everyone convening in the same physical location, the participants join an online meeting. All that is required is a high-speed internet connection and a video camera such as that built into most laptops, cell phones and iPads and tablets. The Mediator provides everyone with a link to join the conference.
Parties and counsel may appear from as many separate locations as they desire.
We establish separate connections so that we can separately hold joint sessions and private caucus sessions. For the caucus sessions, the Mediator “walks” from one video meeting room to the other by joining and then leaving each side’s private caucus video meeting room. Counsel and the parties may confer privately when the Mediator leaves the caucus room. All participants have the ability to return to the main meeting room at anytime, but only parties assigned to the caucus rooms by the Mediator may join the caucus. We set up the rooms to mimic the rooms at our office: typically, a plaintiff caucus room, a defendant caucus room and an additional invitation-only room for “kitchen” chats with the lawyers.
We recommend Zoom online meeting service (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/categories/200101697-Getting-Started) for our video mediations. Zoom is free and user friendly but requires the program be downloaded before the videoconference. The technology is similar to Skype and Facetime, but with additional features such as the ability for us to assign parties to private caucus rooms (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/206476313-Managing-Video-Breakout-Rooms) as described above. Before the Mediation, we will email you the detailed, step-by-step instructions (https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/201362193-How-Do-I-Join-A-Meeting) for joining the video conference. We can also set up a test session in advance of the conference so that you and your clients will be comfortable with the technology.
As we all know from Skyping or Facetiming with family members, video conferencing is not the same as meeting in person. Nevertheless, video conference mediation can and does make sense for many cases.
In any event, we always ask the parties and counsel to agree to tele-video conferencing beforehand. We cannot dictate or direct the parties….it is still discretionary and can be objected to (until and if the Court system mandates its use).
VIDEOCONFERENCING POLICIES AND PROCEDURES
- Participants should have strong and secure Wi-Fi connections or Ethernet cable.
- Wired desktop, laptop, or iPad are preferable. Cell phones are capable but less than optimum.
- Equipment needs to include a camera and microphone. Most computers have these features built-in but older models may not.
- When videoconferencing select a secure, private location. Please avoid possible distractions such as other non-related electronic devices (TV, email, cell phones, etc.) Make sure the area is well lighted in front of you – lighting behind you will create a shadow effect.
- Videoconference mediations must be kept private and confidential. No recording of any type. Persons not a party or not affiliated with counsel’s office may not attend or listen.
- Typically, all parties and counsel will be participants of the videoconference. With Zoom, a participant can also access by telephone audio only. As with any mediation, any deviation from standard, in-person mediation should be agreed upon by counsel beforehand. Videoconferencing, like teleconferencing, is permitted only with the express agreement of all parties and counsel. The mediation cannot demand or dictate that a mediation be conducted telephonically. It is still a voluntary, optional alternative. (Until now, local courts have not mandated its use).
- Zoom mediations begin with a “waiting room”. We suggest logging in 5 to 10 minutes before the start time. The mediation will begin with a “joint session” and all participants. The mediator shall act as the “host” and separate the participants in their own “break out” or caucus rooms. These are private and confidential.
- Screensharing is also a feature of Zoom which will allow sharing and presentation of documents, photographs, PowerPoint, etc.
- Please be aware of possible technology glitches beyond our control. The quality of the videoconference is a function of the strength of the internet signal and equipment. Make sure all equipment is adequately powered and maintained (software up to date). The technology is relatively new and some may not be familiar with the process. Be patient and understanding. If a connection is lost, restart and repeat login procedure. I will also have my cell phone available for emergent situations (813-748-5282).
- Above all, we are committed to maintaining the neutrality of the process. Please advise us of any issues or problems that may occur during the videoconference so that we can address and rectify them.