On July 3rd, my family — like many others I know — gathered to watch “Hamilton” on Disney Plus. We’d already seen it live — twice! — but the filmed version did not disappoint!!

For those who have seen it, whether performed live or now in the comfort of your own home, I don’t have to tell you it may be the single-most impressive work in the entire history of musical theater. For those who haven’t yet experienced “Hamilton,” it’s worth subscribing to Disney Plus just for that!

In the second act’s showstopper, “The Room Where It Happens,” Aaron Burr laments the fact that he is not invited to participate in negotiations between Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison concerning Hamilton’s controversial financial plan to assume the states’ debts and establish a National bank.

Lin-Manuel Miranda has described “The Room Where It Happens” as “one of the two best songs I’ve ever written in my life.” The song includes — among others — the following lyrics, which resonate with me as a mediator:

Two Virginians and an immigrant walk into a room
Diametric’ly opposed, foes
They emerge with a compromise
Having opened doors that were
Previously closed

No one really knows how the game is played
The art of the trade
How the sausage gets made
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens

Well, I arranged the meeting
I arranged the menu, the venue, the seating

No one really knows how the
Parties get to yes
The pieces that are sacrificed in
Ev’ry game of chess
We just assume that it happens
But no one else is in
The room where it happens

Having been in the room where it happens in more than 2000 mediations, I can tell you that some of my most successful moments — whether as advocate or mediator — have been those in which opposing counsel and parties were in the same room, communicating with one another directly.

Those who’ve worked with me know I’ve made it a cornerstone of my practice to connect with each attorney a few days before every mediation to privately discuss how best to design the mediation process for optimal results. During the course of these pre-mediation calls, I routinely inquire of counsel whether they are open to engaging in a joint session at some point during the mediation. With rare exception, the response I receive suggests a palpable distaste — sometimes bordering on actual disdain — for any form of joint session.

With Zoom, though, something has changed. Even those who usually bristled at the mere mention of a joint session suddenly seem more open to the idea, and some have actually warmed to it. Perhaps it’s because the parties aren’t actually required to be in the same room when it happens, but instead can interact with one another in a “virtual” room. Or perhaps we just find it easier to talk to each other now because we’re sharing a common experience — confronting a global pandemic.

Since March 15th of this year, I’ve already conducted more joint sessions than I did all of last year. Last week, I brought the attorneys together to talk to one another on Wednesday and Thursday. Last month, some form of joint session took place in more than 50% of my mediations.

Zoom makes it possible for claim adjusters and other decision-makers — who otherwise might have been available only by telephone — to get together in the same “room” and meet an injured plaintiff, engage in conversation, learn first-hand how plaintiff is doing and then make their own assessment of plaintiff’s credibility.

Zoom makes it feasible for counsel for 16 claimants — despite being in different locations physically and geographically — to be in the same “room” as they discuss and decide how to equitably allocate the proceeds of a $1,000,000 insurance policy.

Zoom makes it comfortable for attorneys to get together in the same “room” to explain their differing views of the facts and the law, to talk more candidly, and to explore settlement options.

These days, I tend to be an even bigger proponent of direct communication between opposing counsel and parties. With Zoom, it’s never been easier to be in the room where it happens.

As always, It would be my pleasure to assist you and your clients in the dispute resolution process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Best regards,

Floyd J. Siegal