COVID

ALTERNATIVE

INDEPENDENT ALTERNATIVE

In mid-March, with COVID looming large, I had to make the decision to learn a virtual platform or wait for the "all clear" whistle on COVID. Not knowing if that wait would be a month or two years, and guessing it was somewhere in between, I signed up for Zoom classes and joined four practice groups to navigate the intricacies of what I was learning. I viewed a virtual platform for mediations and arbitrations as an inadequate and very imperfect lifeline for preserving some portion of my practice. Many mediations, and one very long arbitration later, I am a convert. Virtual works. It works well, and as with computers and smartphones, the technology will only get better and better. I envision the not too far off time when I sit in my office with several 40-inch screens - one for the "speaker view" close-up of the witness or party; one for the "gallery view" of everyone at the hearing; and, one for documents that the parties wish to present.
 

In what ways does virtual work better than in person?

  1. In one highly charged sexual harassment case, a clinically depressed claimant (who claimed her depression was caused by the harassment) could stay in the safety and comfort of her own bedroom and not face employer representatives, whom she was too upset to confront, even though the alleged harasser was not there.

  2. During long private caucuses with individual parties, it allows the non-participating parties to focus on other things in their offices and be summoned back when it is time to caucus.

  3. During a long day, virtual reality allows you all the comfort food and environmental support you need, in the privacy of your home or office. During breaks, you can do yoga or meditate. In a mediation, one counsel began the day at his desk in the morning, moved to his couch in the afternoon and was comfortably laying on the top of his bed's comforter in the evening.

  4. In "speaker view" you get an intense close-up of a witness or participant, far closer than you would have in any physical reality, literally 18 inches away. Every blink, grimace, nod or tensed muscle is as front-and-center as a movie close-up.

  5. On a virtual platform, there are no stressors of missed or delayed flights, expensive hotel rooms, interminable travel time, jet lag and all the things that come with moving vast distances in real space.

  6. Stress levels are lowered, because you control your own environment. And dress is casual below the waist. You can mediate or arbitrate barefoot!

  7. Virtual reality affords an increased sense of independence and control. If you decide to walk out of a mediation, there are no elevators to wait for and no commute back to your office. One click and you are gone.

  8. I never thought that I would view virtual reality as anything other than a temporary lifeline. I now view it as a more-than-viable alternative to holding in-person hearings.

© 2017 Judith P. Meyer, Esq. All rights reserved.