Steve MehtaBy Steven G. Mehta (published in the Daily Journal, March, 2008)

During most mediation hearings, the process of dispute resolution does not require a significant use of technology except for a whiteboard and coffee, perhaps. However, on several occasions, the mediator and the parties may find that technology can be very useful to the mediation process. Over the years, I have slowly discovered different technological tools that assist both the mediator and the litigants to either arrive at a resolution or to complete the mediation process. This article will address three ways that technology can be used in mediation. It is important to note that these technologies can also be used by lawyers in their practices. This article will briefly address those issues, but the main focus will address how to use these technologies in the mediation process.

Have you ever been stuck in a place and wanted to fax or email a physical document to a client who is not with you, but there is no fax or computer to scan the document? As long as you have your mobile phone camera and ScanR.com you can still do so. ScanR.com is a free service that allows you to take your cell phone camera to scan documents and make them into PDF documents. You simply have to photograph the document, send the picture by either text message (SMS) or email to ScanR.com, and then log on to ScanR.com from your phone and input the fax number or email number that you want the PDF document to be sent to. This technology can be used to scan an 8 ½ by 11 document, a whiteboard document with notes, or a business card.

This technology has been invaluable in many tight pinches. For example, in a recent mediation, the plaintiff was not present at the mediation and was available by phone in a different state. At the end of the mediation the parties arrived at a resolution but the plaintiff wasn’t present to sign the document. The problem was that due to the late hour of the night and the location of the mediation, there were no scanners or fax machines. This was the perfect time for ScanR.com. By photographing the document and sending it to ScanR.com, I was able to then send it to the absent client by email. He then printed the document and signed it and sent it back to my fax machine at my office.

Another use of ScanR.com is the ability to capture notes written on a whiteboard for future reference. By using the same ScanR.com technology, you can photograph the whiteboard and then email it to yourself. This same technology can be used for copying limited documents at a meeting or deposition. Just doing this kind of copying of documents always makes me feel like a secret agent such as James Bond. Perhaps next time, I will pretend that I work at the Law Offices of James, Bond & Moneypenny.

Another problem that often arises with mediations involving distant participants is the fact that you have drafted a document and you want to send it to other people, but you don’t want them to make changes to the document. If you email it as a word document, not only can the other people make changes, but they can also detect what changes you made in drafting the document in the first place. A free tool that can allow you to send documents is pdfcreator which can be downloaded from the website located at pdfforge.org. This tool allows you to create the document as a PDF document and to merge several documents together into one PDF document. This same thing can be done by adobe acrobat. However, why pay the $495 dollars that adobe asks you to pay simply to buy the same tool.

The final tool that can be used in a variety of circumstances is the ability to conduct a conference call for FREE. The ability to conduct a conference call is invaluable when you have parties, including adjustors who are not present. Conference call capabilities can allow you to have a joint session with multiple distant parties as well as one on one private conversations. I have used this several times where there are multiple family members who are not present at the mediation but are important to the decision making process. By including them in the mediation, I can generally help them buy into the concept of why the settlement makes sense.

The kind and altruistic folks at http://www.nocostconference.com have enabled people to conduct a free teleconference just like any other teleconference. The free service requires you to dial into a long distance telephone number. The reason they provide this free service is the hope that you will like their free service and want to upgrade to their enhanced service with toll free lines. However, their free service has quite a few bells and whistles.

Another choice for teleconferencing at a nominal cost of $.08 per minute is LiveOffice which can be found at http://teleconference.liveoffice.com. One of the advantages of this service as well as http://www.nocostconference.com is that you can control the conference call from the web. In addition, you can also record the conversation if you need to keep a record of the conversation. This recording ability could be helpful if you need to document that the absent party agreed to the terms of the settlement or in case you need to actually create an enforceable oral settlement agreement pursuant to Evidence Code section 1118.

In fact, the ability to record the conversation can be useful even if you have all the parties present and wish to create an enforceable oral settlement under Evidence Code section 1118. That section requires an oral settlement to be enforceable if the settlement is tape recorded in a specific manner by a reliable source of recording. Evidence Code section 1124 also provides for a means of recording an oral settlement. You can create a conference call with the parties to simply record the statements of settlement and the terms. Then you can have that recording emailed to you. Therefore, you can have access to a recording device despite the fact that you only are close by a phone.

Technology is not always required in mediation. Sometimes, all that is required is the good ol’ human touch. However, on some occasions, technology can be an invaluable tool to assist in the mediation.

Advertisements