COVID-19 has changed the face of nearly every aspect of society, including the way we handle disputes. Businesses and individuals who would normally handle their disputes in one fashion have found the need to adapt.
Obstacles to Litigation
The pandemic has caused courts at all levels to delay most hearings. Some courts are shifting some of their meetings and operations to a virtual platform, whereas others are simply delaying all but the most pressing hearings until things clear up.
As a result, most lawsuits will be delayed even longer than normal. While litigation tends to be the slowest and most expensive option when it comes to dispute resolution, the current situation makes it an even less desirable option.
Alternative Dispute Resolution during a Pandemic
With courts cutting down on their operations, alternative dispute resolution, or ADR, will likely see more use in the near future. It’s easy to handle the process through virtual meeting applications and conference calls, which makes options such as mediation and arbitration more feasible than taking disputes to court.
Using Remote ADR
Virtual ADR can be handled just as securely and seamlessly as arbitration and mediation in person. It can be a powerful way to handle disputes for a variety of reasons.
ADR typically costs less than lengthy court battles, but it still often required parties to travel in order to be present for hearings. Remote ADR using virtual technology eliminates the need for travel and its associated costs of time and money. While those particular benefits may be a moot point during this crisis, they do make a solid case for using virtual ADR in the future.
Same as in-person
Those who have tried ADR via virtual conferencing have found it to be no different from meeting in person. The software used allows participants to meet together, see one another, and communicate in real time. In addition, the neutral party mediating/arbitrating can speak privately with individual parties in separate “breakout” rooms, making it no different from meeting in a brick-and-mortar building.
The flexibility offered by remote ADR makes it likely to remain in use long after this pandemic is over. It makes it easier than ever for the parties involved to meet together, hear the testimonies of expert witnesses, and discuss their disputes without the need to meet in a specific spot.
Best Practices for Dispute Resolution in Difficult Times
While virtual ADR offers a great deal of flexibility over other options (and is generally the only option during this time of social distancing), it does need to be handled appropriately.
Security is a major issue, so it’s important to make sure your networks, software, and sessions are handled appropriately. This is especially appropriate for cases where data may be sensitive or subject to strict regulations.
The same rules that apply to in-person dispute resolution apply to virtual hearings. All communication should be handled in an orderly fashion.
Qualified neutral party
Finally, the neutral party you choose should be qualified to handle the proceedings professionally and help facilitate the discussion. An attorney, such as us at Hart David Carson LLP, can help you through the process.