For the first time ever, I performed a mediation where was one of the parties was not present in person but chose to participate by phone.
One would think that this would be a major handicap in having an effective mediation. But then every mediation is different and I so proceeded without any preconceived notions.
As with any mediation, ensuring that both sides were on the same page regarding the facts is the key to having a productive discussion.
So I decided to start with the party (along with attorney) who was physically present and jotted down all the relevant facts on the white board. To reduce the number of iterations (given that one party was not on the premises), I also got an idea of the possible solutions that would be acceptable to the party who was present.
After doing that, I returned to the party participating via phone. To my surprise, there was practically no dispute regarding the facts. And when it came to the solutions, I immediately realized that the variations that the party over the phone was seeking was well within what I knew would be acceptable to the other side.
And when I took the proposed solution back to the party which was present, not only were they surprised with the solution (that had eluded them for over a year of arguments and litigation) but in fact offered a unilateral concession to sweeten the deal even further!
Lesson learnt – physical presence at mediation is not necessary – but being mentally prepared to resolve the dispute is essential.
And the both the party present and the attorney gave me a highly positive feedback and the party participating by phone appeared equally happy and promised to send a feedback by fax later.