Case Study – Online mediation of a high tech dispute


The disputing parties lived far apart.  One party, a smaller high-tech firm, was contracted by the other, a sizeable non-profit.  Both worked extensively online.

Issues in dispute included work quality and amount invoiced.  Payments were being held back.

I was contacted, initially by phone, by one of the parties and asked to assist in resolution of their dispute.  After a group Skype call, with both parties, there was tentative agreement to proceed with mediation.

The Mediation Process

Before any mediation starts, I always make sure everyone is on the same page, when it comes to what mediation is about, expectations, accountabilities, etc.  I drafted up a formal Agreement-to-Mediate document, for review and signature, by the parties.

The Agreement-to-Mediate outlines  how the mediation will be conducted, individual responsibilities (of each of the parties, and the mediator), rules around respecting the mediation process and confidentiality, and the mediator’s fees.  I prepared this document as a PDF, and had it reviewed and e-signed by both parties, via EchoSign (a web-based contract and e-signing application).

The mediation itself was conducted through a combination of Skype conference call and video,  chat (Skype and Google), email, and telephone.  Moving between these tools was a pretty fluid process, especially as the participants were tech savvy.

This case followed a pattern I routinely apply; whether face-to-face or online… the issues are identified, and explored, in detail, until it is clear what’s at the core of the dispute, both content and relationship-wise.  Some of our conversations were done as a group.  Others were done one-to-one, as private conversations.

As the mediation continued, both parties brought other people into discussion.  Each additional person was asked to sign a confidentiality agreement.  This they did.  It was all done online.

Once all the facts and interpretations were on the table, I summarized the situation-at-hand, and assisted the parties identify potential settlement options.

After some back and forth, and creative problem-solving, the parties agreed how to resolve things.  I drafted up a Settlement Agreement for the parties to review and sign, online.   Both parties agreed to the settlement terms, including enforcement terms, and signed off.

As a final step in the mediation process, the parties were asked to complete a simple online (Google Doc) survey, regarding their experience with the mediation process, and mediation outcomes.

The mediation mediation took place over the span of 3 days.  My total time with the case added up to 8 hours. he mediation session ended.