I’ve been contemplating lately about how we have all been through such an enormous ‘thing’. The COVID pandemic has been such a rollercoaster of misery, grief, fear, uncertainty and often even hope. Even those of us (not me!) who were able to carry this ‘lightly’ it’s still been huge.
Imagine what it’s been like for those going through a break up/divorce too. They will experience all the same emotions: misery, grief, fear, uncertainty and hope along with a whole load of others. So that’s hard, that’s really hard. But luckily, they all opt for the easier, softer services I offer of mediation, hybrid mediation, collaborative practice and ‘round table meetings. Anything but court.
Many of the clients I’ve worked with over the last 17 months I’ve never actually met in real life. And yet, together we have started and finished their cases. I really do feel that our relationship has not been diminished, just because it took place on Zoom.
As Professor Elizabeth Stokoe says on my blog:
‘The benefits [of Zoom] you describe above are very real – no travel, the comfort of speaking from one’s own home, and so on. I’ve got lots of examples of ‘rapport’ being built in telephone calls, where one has fewer resources for interacting than online with video. Don’t forget that, in person or online, my top tip would also be not to buy into nebulous concepts like ‘rapport’. For me, ‘rapport’ is the outcome of an encounter, something you achieve if you’ve just had a smooth, minimal-misunderstanding, minimal burden conversation. You shouldn’t aim to ‘build rapport’ and then have an interaction. Focus on what the person wants and needs, and moving them through an encounter without having to keep asking for explanations of things they don’t understand, or asking what will happen next, or returning to a part of their story that was shut down earlier. These are the things that are important in any interaction, in any modality.’
So, will we go back to meeting ‘in real life’ or will we carry on doing some things, like the services I offer – online? I can of course do both and am open to either. At the moment my preference is for most things to remain online (easier for time management and it's less emotional for clients) but let’s wait and see how clients and other lawyers feel.