The court closures necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as continued public health restrictions, including restrictions on in-person proceedings and the need for physical distancing, have made ADR a more attractive means of dispute resolution than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for the flexibility of ADR to meet parties’ needs during unprecedented times. In fact, the vast majority of ADR proceedings are now being conducted virtually, and ADR service providers are operating at pre-COVID case levels.
Many ADR practitioners already had experience incorporating videoconferencing into our toolboxes as a way of expediting meetings and hearing the evidence of out-of-town parties, witnesses, or experts. I found this technology to be extremely effective long before any of us were talking about the novel coronavirus. For those of us comfortable with the technology, videoconferencing brings with it the ability to instantly share files, to share computer screens, to break into private rooms, and so much more. Proceeding virtually saves our clients time and significant amounts of money without sacrificing the quality of the proceedings.
While some may argue that virtual proceedings are a poor substitute for in-person mediations or arbitrations with all parties in the same room, there is little doubt that virtual proceedings have proven effective and readily available. There is also little doubt that virtual proceedings are here to stay, either on their own or in some hybrid live/virtual format. The convenience and the cost-savings simply cannot be overlooked.