The future is now and it is here to stay at The Loyola Center for Conflict Resolution (LCCR), LMU Loyola Law School’s oldest on-campus social justice clinic for mediation.
Since COVID-19 led to court closures and the continuance of all civil matters, more individuals and business than ever have been clamoring for the benefits of Alternative Dispute Resolution, especially Virtual Mediation. Thankfully, for six years Acting Director Sara Campos has been facilitating Skyped family law mediations for divorcing military members, so LCCR was prepared to meet this new challenge.
Now LCCR’s entire staff and student interns are Zooming mediation. Demand has been especially high for Consumer Debt, Landlord/Tenant, and Family Law Cases. This means that students are learning not only the necessary skills for mediation (listening, questioning and empathy), but also acquiring invaluable experience for what may be the future of mediation: virtual waiting rooms, mediation rooms for joint sessions, break out rooms, and sharing documents with the parties in real time.
Rebecca Mandel (’21) has found this experience very rewarding. This semester at LCCR she conducted a divorce mediation over three zoom sessions. “The ending of a marriage is an emotional process,” she says, “and many important physical cues are lost over zoom. Because communication is strained . . . it has been important as a mediator to ensure that the parties’ emotions are still communicated in the virtual format.” Rebecca helped the parties to navigate these additional challenges on top of the division of their assets and debts, the delicate subject of child custody, and financial support issues—as well as spousal royalties and pet medical expenses.
The LCCR’s transition into virtual mediations has made legal services in civil matters more accessible than ever through cost efficiency. “Post Covid-19 Virtual mediation will continue to be more cost effective, faster and efficient than going to court” long after the pandemic ends, predicts Campos.