Commercial law firm TLT Solicitors was recently involved in Europe's first online mediation demonstration, with head of mediation Kerry Gwyther acting for the defendant in a mock construction dispute that lasted four days.
"In theory, it works the same as a face-to-face mediation. The parties are normally in separate rooms for private sessions and the mediator moves between them all, hoping they'll reach a deal," explained Gwyther. "Instead of having 'real' rooms, we divide the parties into secure cyber chat rooms and the mediator moves between them."
Although Gwyther was impressed by the technology and believes it will catch on, he thinks the face-to-face option will remain the most popular.
He said: "This exercise illustrated the versatility and flexibility of mediation. While it will not be suitable for all types of dispute, I can see its uses for disputes where the parties are in different jurisdictions and time zones and are comfortable with the electronic medium."