With the onset of COVID-19, everything is virtual – social visits, happy hours, work meetings, court hearings, and even appellate arguments. All of this is temporary, but is some of it here to stay? Professional neutrals believe virtual Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”) will likely be a lasting vestige of the times.
While the option to conduct mediations and arbitrations using videoconferencing is not new, it has not been widely used. Indeed, litigators have been slow to embrace virtual ADR, save for rare occasions where a party or counsel are unable to travel. Videoconferencing is now the only way most of us have been able to conduct business for the past several weeks, and many are hopeful that it will usher in a new wave of ADR proceedings. Indeed, during another recent blog post, we noted the potential for video trials in Georgia and proposed changes to Uniform Superior Court Rule 9.1 that may make such proceedings the norm.
How does virtual ADR work? There are several available videoconferencing platforms, including Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, GoTo Meeting, WebEx, and other specific solutions offered by services like Court Call for an additional fee. The neutral controls the platform and sets up virtual conference rooms – one for each party and counsel that is private and secure, and one for all parties to confer with the neutral. The parties can present arguments, share documents, display demonstratives, and examine witnesses. Some platforms offer the necessary security features to satisfy the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and many ADR service providers offer technical support and test runs to troubleshoot connectivity issues before and during the virtual proceeding.
Virtual ADR appears to be an efficient, convenient, and cost-effective option for both clients and counsel. The only question is whether it is here to stay.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with commercial litigation and other disputes, and have significant experience conducting mediations and arbitrations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.