Note: This article has been repurposed from another blog of mine.
Recently, I confronted a situation that is fairly common. I had been appointed to mediate a case, but one of the parties lived out of state. Traveling to my office was financially challenging and practically difficult given the party’s work obligations. As a mediator, I find that mediations work much better if people are physically present and not merely sitting on a speakerphone. (Or, worse yet, being called by the attorney as new proposals are made.) A party’s absence deprives that person of the nuances and discussions that help people resolve their differences.
While I highly doubt that my solution was “a first,” I suggested that the out-of-state party appear for the mediation via Skype video chat. I used my laptop (a MacBook Pro with built-in iSight camera), and she used her laptop with a web cam. It worked like a charm (and better than I expected).
For my colleagues who are mediators, you might give some thought to this solution. Web cams are built in to many laptops these days, and even if yours doesn’t have one they are rather inexpensive. Skype-to-Skype connections are free (at least for now and hopefully that won’t change) and the quality of video and audio is excellent.
In the past, I’ve suggested video chats as one way for non-custodial parents to stay in touch with their children who live some distance away. While the phone is nice, there’s nothing like being able to see a child’s smile. Courts are using video conferencing more and more, and there’s no reason lawyers can’t do the same in the day-to-day practice.
How have you used video chats in your practice? Did it go smoothly or were there hiccups?