2020 was a unique year and many are hoping for new beginnings in 2021. 2020 brought out a lot of emotions in people. Whether it is about the pandemic, the lockdown, or politics, 2020 was a difficult time for many. Additionally, people had to navigate working from home and possibly even virtual school for their children.
The lockdown brought challenges for the Courts and lawyers as well. Suddenly, everything came to a halt and then Zoom showed up and life moved on. Lawyers had to rethink how they work.
Just a few years ago, a mediator would have said that virtual mediations do not work. Now, we have learned differently. We have learned that we can connect with people, even through a computer screen.People are maybe even more relaxed because they are in their own environment. Breakout rooms allowed us to have people in their own room like they would if it were in person. Digital signatures became exceedingly popular and easy. When the technology failed us, thank you internet, we even finished mediations up by phone. We saved trees with less paper because of the ability to share screen.
For the Courts, the Judges learned how to conduct hearings remotely. With the courthouses being shut down they created live feed links so that we could still watch the proceedings, from the comfort of our own home. As lawyers, our clients could feel more relaxed because they could stay at home instead of driving to the courthouse. We learned how to use exhibits in a virtual hearing. The Judges learned efficient ways to have docket calls and hearings. Some Judges eliminated docket call all together and created staggered hearings. We reduced costs to clients by not having travel time.
While there may be new beginnings in 2021, I hope some things from 2020 remain. I hope we continue to keep some virtual options. I know I plan to keep Zoom mediations going as long as people are willing to participate virtually.