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STOP THE WORLD (PLEASE!) I WANT TO GET OFF!

“Stop the World: I Want to Get Off” was a musical with Anthony Newley. It originally opened in London in 1961 and made it to Broadway in 1962. It was followed by a film in 1966 and a revival in 1978.

In the play, whenever something unsatisfactory happened to the lead character, named Littlechap, he called out, “Stop the World” and proceeded to address the audience directly.  This occurred multiple times throughout the performance.

During the week of March 9, 2020, there were numerous occasions where many of us wanted to scream “stop the world” as the markets plunged, the world of sports was put on hold and our country struggled to come to terms with a combination of threats (health, social, and economic) that most of us have never witnessed in our lifetimes. The coronavirus, Covid-19, has now been added to our lexicon.

We, as individuals, cannot do much about most of these things except to “soldier on” and follow good health habits.  The world continues to spin and our economy must go on as well. We cannot yell out, “stop the world.” It won’t work. We obviously are prioritizing the health and well-being of our employees, colleagues and families while keeping our organizations and economies moving forward.

The court system is practically on hold. Leadership has pushed the pause button. That does not mean, however, that legal matters must vegetate and become even older than they already are. Just because you cannot get your jury trial, that does not mean you cannot resolve your case in mediation or in arbitration. We all know that over 90% of all cases within our civil system settle before trial, so why delay?

The answer is Virtual Mediation and Virtual Arbitration.

What should you look for in order to accomplish either a virtual mediation or arbitration?  As you search for the right ADR vendor, who has both ADR and technical expertise, you may want to consider asking the following questions:

  1. Will my people be able to converse (virtually) without being in contact with the adversary? Are private virtual conference rooms available through your service?
  2. Will my exhibits be easily exchanged and used by the witness and my adversary? Bottom line, do you utilize and support document sharing technology?
  3. Will my staff be able to use their own devices from home, office or even on the road? Or must they be using specific equipment provided by the vendor?
  4. Is special software needed for my employee’s equipment and, if so, is there training available for my people as well as technology support during the course of the mediation or arbitration?
  5. What about security? How do you, the ADR vendor, provide for cybersecurity? Remember, as a lawyer you have an ethical duty to protect your client’s secrets. This carries over to how you choose a vendor. You have the responsibility for vetting a vendor who will, in some fashion, be in possession of your client’s information which may, or may not, be of a confidential nature.
  6. Does the ADR vendor offer flexibility in providing for multiple parties in different locations?

Remember the importance of your choice. This could be a substantial savings to you and your client in travel costs. And, perhaps more important, the ADR vendor you select should be able to provide you and your client with the confidence of a physically safe environment.

Remember also that one of the advantages of mediation is that it puts you in control of your case and not the court system, which should make for a more efficient and cost-effective process.

What may have been a nice novelty to experiment with a month ago, virtual dispute resolution is now a necessity, and appears to be for at least some months to come. Don’t wait. At least look seriously into the world of virtual mediation and arbitration as soon as possible. You might actually impress your clients with your ability to find an ADR firm that has successfully harnessed technology to serve your clients’ needs and save them money, now and in the future.

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Hon. Ira B. Warshawsky, is a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, Nassau County, Commercial Division. He is a member of NAM’s (National Arbitration and Mediation) Hearing Officer Panel and is available nationwide for arbitrations and mediations.  He was voted a Top Ten Arbitrator in the New York Law Journal Reader Rankings Survey in 2013, 2015 & 2016.  Further, in 2018, he was named a National Law Journal Alternative Dispute Resolution Champion, as part of a select group of only 46 nationwide. Judge Warshawsky is Of Counsel to Meyer, Suozzi, English & Klein, P.C., in Garden City, NY. 

Click here to view article on National Arbitration and Mediation (NAM)

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