Instant Mediator Spotlight: Danielle Comeaux

Danielle Comeaux, a mediator at DANIELLE CLARKE COMEAUX, PC, and early adopter of InstantMediations, agreed to sit down and share her experiences mediating cases online. Danielle hosts multiple online mediations each week during the Coronavirus pandemic, and has become a go-to mediator for getting cases settled. Her insightful and candid responses below may be of value to other online mediators expanding into online mediations.

  1. Where do you work and what percentage of your practice is devoted to mediations?
    • I work at Greenway Mediation Center in Houston, Texas. 100% of my practice is devoted to mediation. I do nothing else other than mediate full time. 
  2. How long have you been doing online mediations?
    • I only recently started mediating online – courtesy of COVID-19. Prior to that, I was a die hard believer that face to face mediations was the only way to do it. I’m not sure, in the long run, my belief has change, but right now, I’m thankful for the alternative option as on-line mediation has allowed me to, overnight, convert entirely from face to face to on-line.
  3. Before the Coronavirus pandemic, were you prepared to handle parties and attorneys online for mediations?
    • No. In fact, I was a firm objector to on-line mediations. But, once it started to become obvious that we might not be able to accommodate face to face mediations because of the pandemic, I immediately sought out the best format to offer online mediations – and that was Zoom.
  4. What does your online mediation desk look like when you are hosting a mediation online?
    • I still go into my office every day. I have taken over one of our conference rooms. I have stacked some books upon which I place my laptop in order to have a better visual platform. I do have an Ipad I carry with me as well – some of my clients cannot use Zoom and need to attend via Webex, so I have a different device so I can accommodate different software running at the same time. I have since learned that I can run multiple on-line mediation software programs simultaneously on m laptop, and so I don’t need the Ipad as much now.
  5. What is one challenge you have faced hosting online mediations through Zoom?
    • The greatest challenge, because there are a few, is in the on-boarding – getting the lawyers and their clients into the meetings – it’s not something that people even knew about 8 weeks ago, and now everyone is having to figure this out. On the fly. I have a fantastic staff who is dedicated to help everyone join the meetings. From there, there are few challenges, if any.  Probably the only other major challenge I have to  face is the objection to doing it at all, and/or the medium to do it. I have a few clients that cannot use Zoom, so finding a way to utilize multiple software mediums at the same time has been an issue. 
  6. What is one surprising benefit you have experienced while hosting online mediations?
    • The willingness of everyone to try it out! I didn’t lose a single mediation when we had to convert from face to face to online. I am truly amazed at everyone’s willingness to participate. And, even the old dogs can learn new tricks! 
  7. What is one tip you would give mediators who are new to online mediations?
    • Be patient, both with yourself and with others. This is new to everyone, so patience is key for all. It always works out – just give everyone time. 
  8. What is one way the InstantMediations platform has helped you do your work as a mediator?
    • It gave me an immediate referral source to lean on to learn – everyone has been incredibly helpful, and we all share our issues and exchange helpful hints – it’s a great resource. And, connecting with people all over the world – well that’s just cool as all get out!! 
  9. What is one interesting thing about you as a mediator few people in the public know?
    • As a mediator, I’m not sure there is anything that sets me apart from others. Generally, I am licensed to practice in Texas and the United States Virgin Island, and I lived and practiced in the USVI for almost 6 years. There, I learned an entirely different culture and a way of life which gave me a tremendous outlook on different perspectives on cultures and ways of living.
  10. Are there any developments you hope to see in the practice of online mediations as this trend continues?
    • Honestly, for me, I’d like to see the return of face to face mediations because that’s what gives me the greatest joy as a mediator. With that said, I hope that now that we know we can successfully use technology to gather people electronically, we will have more “attendance” remotely when otherwise, parties would not intend to appear except by telephone.