Due to the current stage 4 Covid 19 lock down in Melbourne, I have just had my first virtual mediation interpreting experience in Zoom last week.
As my laptop had just updated its driver for my speaker, I had difficulty with my audio at the beginning of the mediation. I had to use a spare laptop to connect. That wasn’t a great start, and my mediator had to allow me back into the meeting a couple of times.
But what I didn’t know before was Zoom actually allows different meetings to be set up in different virtual rooms simultaneously. So we have a joint room, where the mediator briefed us at the beginning, and then we received invitations to go to our own break up room: interpreter, client and solicitor. It was just the same as what we would have if we were onsite, without the room hire cost.
I stayed with the client throughout the mediation in the break up room, except for a quick bite at lunch time, while the solicitor shuttled between our room and the joint room to put the offers. The mediator also turned up in our room from time to time to give his opinions on the parties’ positions and encourage the parties to settle. Leaving the break up room was just a matter of pressing the ‘leave’ button, and then you would be prompted with the question ‘Do you want to leave the break up room’, and if you clicked yes, you would go back to the joint room. It was sort of like the scenes in the Harry Potter movie, where the wizards appear into a room out of no where, like a teleportation.
At one point, shortly after the solicitor left our room to go to the joint room to put an offer, the client has changed her mind, so I had to quickly go to the joint room to get the solicitor back before the solicitor put the offer to the mediator. I clicked ‘leave’ and ended up in the joint room. But after conveying the message to the solicitor, I automatically clicked ‘leave’ without even thinking about it. So instead of going back to the break-up room, I exited the meeting. I then realized I would not be able to go back to the break up room without the invitation from the mediator who set up the meeting, so I had to click the invitation link again to get back into the joint room and had the mediator put me back to the break-up room.
We didn’t reach a settlement at the end of our mediation, as my client was mentally exhausted and couldn’t think clearly, but the difference was only a couple of tens of thousand. The other side agreed to leave the last offer open for 7 days so my client could seek further information.
I think my client’s fatigue is more likely due to the emotional stress from the case than 7 hours of staring at the computer. I was glad that I was able to see my daughter after 10 minutes, rather than the usual one hour to get home from the city.