Online Mediation: speed and security

CAM-CCBC procedures go ahead as normal with the support of remote communication tools

 By Sérgio Siscaro

The challenges brought about by the new coronavirus pandemic, which have limited circulation, herald the appearance of a “new normal.” Even after the current social distancing is no longer necessary, the trend will be for people and organizations to continue to use remote communication tools – quicker, more efficient and economic than commuting within large cities, travelling between cities and even countries.

CAM-CCBC has adapted to this new reality and is operating normally using remote communication solutions. In addition to having already held 3 expert testimony meetings and 8 arbitration hearings remotely[1], the Center has also been successfully conducting mediation procedures virtually.

And with good results: during the pandemic alone, 3 mediation cases have been received and 3 mediation sessions have also been held successfully, in line with the activity recorded in the same period of 2019.

“Our clients have been very receptive. They understand that this is the reality now, as they realize that both arbitration procedures and court hearings are being conducted virtually. The same is true for mediation cases,” says CAM-CCBC Secretariat coordinator, Sílvia Salatino.

CAM-CCBC virtual mediation procedures are carefully managed, aiming to ensure that the process is efficient and assure the security of all involved.

The parties initially establish a document – the Mediation Terms of Reference – through which they set the rules guiding the procedures. They can, for example, decide that documents shared electronically during the procedure be protected with absolute confidentiality. “The document is a contract, and involves the issue of secrecy,” adds the coordinator.

Technical support

She explains that support from the Center’s Information Technology (IT) team is essential to ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. “The day before the meetings, a test is carried out, through which potential problems can be identified in the equipment used by the parties, due to variations in the quality of the internet signal, etc.”, she says.

Regarding the choice of technological tools allowing greater safety and efficiency, case manager Maúra Guerra Polidoro points out that the internal team carries out regular tests on the Center’s servers and remote communication solutions, for example. “We seek to use Microsoft Teams, which is an end-to-end encrypted tool and which showed the best results in these tests. But we also use Zoom, which is often requested by clients,” she adds.

IT department support was essential to ensure CAM-CCBC activities migrated quickly and efficiently. “On March 16, we started to organize to work remotely – and on the 18th, there was no one left at headquarters,” recalls Salatino.

A possible weak point of the online version of mediation is the lack of direct face-to-face contact between participants – allowing a more accurate analysis of body language as a way to better interpret reactions throughout the procedures. “An effective solution has been to arrange private meetings, between the mediator and a party, in a separate virtual environment, in which the others cannot participate. This way, the professional can exchange perceptions of the case directly with the party involved,” the coordinator states.

New paradigm

This new way of carrying out mediation procedures may have been viewed with suspicion before the pandemic, but based on the experience of the past few months, it should become normal. “At first, the parties taking part in the mediation proceeding were more reluctant to use the online model, and some preferred to have face-to-face meetings. As this became unfeasible with the quarantine, people had to get used to remote meetings – and views of them have changed a lot,” says Polidoro.

Salatino agrees: “There’s no going back now. Now, when people feel insecure about face-to-face meetings, online mediation is a less costly and equally efficient option. So why not use it? In the past, we may have thought that technology alienated people, but now we see that technology is the only way to connect.”

Online rules

CAM-CCBC procedures for arbitration and mediation cases have been the subject of recent administrative resolutions, such as RA 40/2020 – which laid the foundation for the Centre to work remotely. At the end of May, notes on remote meetings and hearings were published, clarifying the model used during this pandemic period for the parties involved. The full text can be found at the arbitration and mediation webpages:

Arbitration: https://ccbc.org.br/cam-ccbc-centro-arbitragem-mediacao/en/arbitration/

Mediation: https://ccbc.org.br/cam-ccbc-centro-arbitragem-mediacao/en/mediation/

[1] Data as of May 19, 2020.

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