Online Mediation and the Opportunity to Rethink Safety in Mediation

The pandemic and the rapid shift to online mediation affords practitioners and policy-makers an opportunity to revisit our codes of conduct for mediators in earnest. In particular, the ABA Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators are due for a reassessment in light of their many decades of service to the mediation community. The use of online mediation presents unique concerns in the area of safety, and addressing those concerns should lead to a broader discussion of mediators’ obligations to provide a safe process for participants. While there has been much discussion around adopting new standards for Online Dispute Resolution (“ODR”) which helps inform mediator obligations in areas like data security, mediators also need to be mindful of and help participants prepare for their own physical safety during an online mediation. This Article endorses an expansive approach to safety in mediation, arguing that in online settings mediators must be mindful of data security while also taking into account the physical and emotional safety needs of parties participating remotely in a mediation.