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Online mediation practice

An interesting new initiative from the  Association for Conflict Resolution Hawaii Chapter   is an online mediation service that works across a range of technological platforms and uses video conferencing.

The creator of the Virtual Mediation Lab describes its goals as being:

  1. To help mediators from around the world practice and improve their skills – for FREE (starting Monday, April 21, 2014) – by participating with a Coach and other mediators in online mediation simulations
  2. To teach mediators how to mediate online and integrate face-to-face, online and mobile mediation
  3. To promote mediation and online mediation around the world

As far as I can see, the arrangement is not entirely free, as there is a $5 charge to view videos.  However given the technology involved and the opportunity this interface presents,  a notional charge seems quite reasonable.

Many dispute resolvers have long dreamed of using technology to carry out mediations –  and technology seems finally to have caught up.  And yet, nothing quite matches the impact of real, face-to-face interaction.   For example, researchers have consistently shown that the delay and other features of video conferencing hamper the development of trust between parties – and of course this trust is critical for effective dispute resolution.    See, for example, Nguyen, David T., and John Canny. “Multiview: improving trust in group video conferencing through spatial faithfulness.” Proceedings of the SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems. ACM, 2007.

If you have had any experiences of online dispute resolution, particularly using video conferencing,  we’d love to hear your impressions.

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Self-Represented Litigants – a Canadian study, needed in Australia too

Professor Julie Macfarlane from Windsor University in Canada is running a very interesting project on self-represented litigants.   Her blog post yesterday (2 February) brings to my attention a phenomenon I had simply never considered before –  the ’roundabout’ nature of many clients engaging with legal advisors –  they come and go when (if) they have funds available to pursue their case, and at other times may be self-represented.    The phenomenon of course is very wide spread – Macfarlane found that 53% of self-represented litigants commenced their actions with a lawyer.    It would be very worthwhile undertaking similar research in Australia –  I suspect the percentage might be even higher here.