“Multi-tasking” took on a whole new meaning for me the other day when I conducted two mediations simultaneously, i.e. at the same time! Sounds strange, doesn’t it?

It came about at the last minute. I already had one scheduled for the morning. During the previous afternoon, defense counsel telephoned to advise that she had another matter with the same plaintiff’s counsel and asked if I would do the second one at the same time. I thought about it for a moment – as the logistics concerned me. Once I sorted out the logistics in my mind – two separate conference rooms for plaintiff’s counsel so she could speak to each client privately and one conference room for defendant – I figured “why not?” If counsel were agreeable and wanted to do it, I should give it a try. So, I said “yes,” albeit with trepidation.

That morning, I came to my office, feeling nervous and apprehensive as I wanted everything to go smoothly and was still trying to figure out how to make the most efficient use of time and not keep each plaintiff and the defendant waiting too long.

So. . . I started. While normally, I might start a mediation with a joint session, I knew using separate sessions throughout these mediations was the only way to do this. So, I met with one plaintiff and counsel, went through the preliminaries and then learned from her what her case was about. While I went to speak with defense counsel about the case, plaintiff’s counsel met with her second plaintiff. After meeting with defense counsel, I than met with the second plaintiff and counsel, went through the preliminaries and then learned about her case. As I left the room, I discussed with plaintiff’s counsel the defendant’s response to the first plaintiff’s position in the first case so that she could confer with the first plaintiff while I again conferred with defendant and her counsel on the second case. When I finished conferring with defendant and her counsel, I met with plaintiff’s counsel to discuss both matters. At this point, it seemed appropriate for me to meet with both counsel to discuss both matters and so we did.

. . .And so this round-robin continued with my going from room to room, trying always to keep neither the plaintiffs nor the defendant waiting too long.

Somehow, we managed to settle one of the cases and to determine that more information gathering was needed before the second matter might be resolved.

As I moved between the plaintiffs, I wondered how each plaintiff felt, knowing that she had only 50% of her counsel’s attention and guidance due to the other plaintiff in the other room. No doubt, plaintiff’s counsel felt it a bit awkward moving between her two clients. Was something lost in the “process” of mediation? Was it dehumanized? Had it become mechanical? I hope not. I tried to keep it personal and take time with each plaintiff but, at the same time, I realized I had to keep the “process” moving and do so efficiently! Needless to say, I did an awful lot of walking! I certainly got my exercise – both physically and mentally!

Would I do this again? Probably, but only if asked. It is not a process I would promote, or endorse as it seemed to “cheat” each plaintiff out of the “process” each came to participate in; to wit, mediation. Studies have shown that when we attempt to multi-task, we do each task less well than if we were focusing solely on one of those tasks. This is definitely how I felt about my multiple mediations; each lost something in the “process”.

. . .Just something to think about!

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