Online Mediation Resolves Disputes Productively, Positively, and Pre-Filing

In case you missed it, Veronica Cravener and Jessica Kavinsky published an article on Mediate.com about online mediation. Their article compares online to other modes of mediation at the Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus, Ohio. We share some highlights here. The whole article, Resolving Legal Battles, One Text Message at a Time, is worth a thorough read!

an image of a computer. a magnifying glass, and a cup of coffee with the words "Franklin County Municipal Court analyzes success of online mediation: more agreements, higher productivity."
Franklin County Municipal Court analyzes success of online mediation: more agreements, higher productivity.

Cravener is the court’s Small Claims and Mediation Supervisor, she worked with Kavinsky, an OSU student and contractor with the court. Together, they analyzed mediations conducted via an ODR platform (Matterhorn) and phone and in-person mediation. They looked at mediated cases: thirty mediations conducted online and thirty conducted in-person or via phone. They looked pre-COVID, between January 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019.

Online Mediations Settle More Often

People agree online. As evidence, the authors share that people in online mediations came to an agreement/settled 50% of the time (15 of 30 cases). Cases mediated offline settled 37% of the time (11 of 30 cases settled). So the participants on the ODR platform came to agreement as often or better than in-person and phone mediations. They also looked at mediation duration and the count of messages included in the mediation.

On the surface, it appears that online text-message mediation was more time consuming (an average of 77 days online versus a two-hour session on one day by phone or in-person). 

 However, this surface number does not tell the whole story.  The experience of an online text-message mediation was comparable to short, quick bursts of attention (enough to send or respond to a message sent by the party or mediator), while the experience for an in-person/phone mediation typically required one two-hour long stretch of attention from parties.

Additionally, in online text-message mediation, the mediator did not hear from each party every day during the “active” time.  Often times, there was gap in communication between mediator and party—sometimes for a few days, other times for weeks at a time. Each message to the mediator was similar in length to a text message—some just a few words, others a couple sentences or even just links to pictures or documents.  It was very rare to see a message of a paragraph or longer. 

Essentially, online text-message mediation was set up to allow participants to fit the mediation process in to their everyday lives, rather than accommodating their lives to the process.  

Veronica Cravener and Jessica Kavinsky on Mediate.com (line breaks introduced for ease of reading)

Online Mediations are Productive and Positive

People work productively together in online mediations. As mentioned in the article, the messages parties sent to each other and to their mediator on the platform were “overwhelmingly” positive or neutral.

Additionally, the tone of the messages in online text-message mediation was overwhelmingly either positive or neutral—meaning either hopeful, appreciative, or descriptive of the situation—which the mediation program considered to be productive to the mediation process.  Of the total of 934 messages analyzed, only 62 messages (about 7%) were negative in tone.  Overall, whether parties reached agreement or not, parties were able to maintain their composure and effectively utilize the online mediation website.  The mediation program was not able to track tone for phone or in-person mediations.

Veronica Cravener and Jessica Kavinsky on Mediate.com

Online Mediation: A Viable Option

Overall, the authors conclude that having an online mediation platform was a great option for people. The ODR platform gave people a way to resolve their disputes at their convenience, before it became a court case.

While online text-message mediation may not be the right fit for every participant or every dispute, it is a viable option to help parties resolve their legal dispute, one text message at a time.

Veronica Cravener and Jessica Kavinsky on Mediate.com

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