While everyone is fixated on the news about Coronavirus with armchair pundits let loose all over the airwaves and unexamined or uncorroborated statistics bandied around at will, I thought I would focus on some of the up-side that Covid 19 has brought. Mercifully for you this will not involve smug photos of the idyll of country life as compared to urban lockdown (although I could have done so, not least because Dorset has extraordinarily few cases) but an assessment of how adaptable people can be.
The majority of people have taken to deprivation of their liberty with remarkable equanimity. Networks of online volunteers have seen that the old, frail and medically compromised in our villages and towns have been supplied with food, medicines and cheer. Old dogs do learn new tricks: how many of you would have thought that grandparents around the country could share ridiculous videos or master the intricacies of Zoom? In fact Zoom now has a completely different meaning to most people, nothing to do with speed, all about being in touch.
Social distancing has meant that most mediators have had to entirely re-think how they engage with their clients. On the face of it that has been relatively straight forward. A MIAM can easily take place over WhatsApp or Facetime. Joint meetings require a more sophisticated medium that probably involves breakout rooms or the ability to share documents at the very least. And rather like a fledgling bird, people are shaking off their fears of technology and soaring into the online world so that they can keep their mediation businesses going and help people who are stuck at home.
Much has been made of security issues, gaining consent, privacy requirements and how does one read body language when you can only see someone's top half? But overall most of these obstacles have been negligible and can be ironed out with good will, common sense, attention to detail and the immediacy of someone's face as your bellwether as to what is going on for all participants.
Both I and the clients who have travelled with me on an online mediation journey have found it efficient, effective and if not just as good as face to face, pretty close to it. I would urge anyone who is mid dispute and feels that they need to wait for mediation until after lock down at least tries to meet in the ether. The worse that can happen is that you can decide it is not for you - mediation is voluntary! - and rearrange until we can meet face to face.
I sign off, wishing you all a safe and healthy next few weeks.