AI Mediation: Using AI to Help Mediate Disputes

AI mediation is on the rise, with chatbots increasingly assisting human mediators in resolving disputes. Here’s what AI mediation is capable of—and where it falls short.

By — on / Mediation

AI Chatbox

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) tools such as ChatGPT and OpenAI has touched the world of negotiation and conflict resolution in numerous ways. The growth of AI has led to legal disputes over how chatbots have been trained. And chatbots have been used in procurement and as negotiation coaches.

AI increasingly has been enlisted to help mediate disputes. AI mediation might not yet be commonplace, but before long, it is likely to play an integral role in dispute resolution. Here, we consider the risks and potential benefits of using AI in mediation.

Mediation Secrets for Better Business Negotiations

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Download this FREE special report, Mediation Secrets for Better Business Negotiations: Top Techniques from Mediation Training Experts to discover mediation techniques for selecting the right mediator, understand the mediation process and learn how to engage the mediator to ensure a good outcome from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


Risks of AI Mediation

Currently, the biggest risk of using AI in mediation is the possibility that it will introduce errors into the process. Many of us have seen comical (and sometimes frightening) news stories of chatbots behaving bizarrely, as when ChatGPT produced strange “hallucinations” in response to simple questions, unsettled a New York Times reporter with creepy declarations of love, and produced inedible Thanksgiving recipes.

With chatbots in their infancy, the risk that they will deliver inaccurate or even harmful mediation advice is real. “We have all heard about lawyers using chat-based tools to augment their writings and including ‘hallucinations’ such as made-up case citations,” writes Christopher K. Poole, CEO of alternative dispute resolution provider JAMS. When unchecked by human mediators, AI mediation risks running afoul of laws and ethical standards.

In addition, generative AI is ill-equipped to help parties cope with the strong emotions that often come up during mediation. “Mediators’ skill in managing emotions such as anger, frustration, and fear—which may be fueling the conflict—is central to the dispute resolution process, and mediators create an environment where participants can express their emotions in constructive ways,” writes Joseph Panetta for Bloomberg Law.

For these and other reasons, when designing mediation software NextLevel, mediator Robert Bergman and his team concluded that chatbots such as ChatGPT should not be entrusted with making decisions in mediation but could serve as an effective assistant, “complementing and augmenting the mediator’s capabilities.” Most current forms of AI mediation similarly assist trained mediators rather than substituting for them.

Benefits of AI Mediation

Disputes often involve large volumes of data, which AI can quickly sift through and analyze. “Generative AI tools, trained on vast data sets, have exceptional capacity for natural language processing, allowing them to rapidly search, compare, summarize, and extract insights from large volumes of text, images, and data,” according to the American Arbitration Association.

The AI tool CoCounsel, for example, was trained with OpenAI to analyze documents and complete other tasks for lawyers. AI can save mediators and disputants time and money by quickly performing tasks that would take humans hours, days, or months to complete.

Increasingly in AI mediation, chatbots are more closely involved in the negotiations themselves. For example, generative AI tools can pose questions aimed at identifying parties’ underlying interests, propose offers, and predict the likelihood that such offers will be accepted. In AI mediation, human mediators might opt to compare their own lists of questions to those generated by AI technology to make sure they haven’t missed anything.

In addition, AI could theoretically make mediation more impartial by helping to correct for the biases that affect human decision making. “Because AI systems are not influenced by emotions or personal biases, they are less likely to make decisions based on subjective factors,” according to Miles Mediation & Arbitration.

A Novel Use of Chatbots in Mediation

In one recent mediation process, parties’ apparent skepticism about AI appeared to help them break through an impasse on their own—suggesting an interesting use of chatbots in mediation.

Experienced mediator Myer Sankary was mediating a contract dispute regarding the wrongful termination of a lease, write Sonja Weisheit and Christoph Salger in a Mediate article. The landlord was seeking $550,000 from the guarantor, who refused to pay more than $120,000.

With the parties at an impasse, Sankary asked ChatGPT for advice on what number to propose to the parties. The chatbot recommended $275,000. Sankary thought this was more than the tenant would be willing to pay. Still, he asked the disputants’ lawyers if their clients would agree to accept ChatGPT’s number—which would remain unknown to them—in the event of impasse. The parties agreed.

The prospect of abiding by ChatGPT’s advice motivated the parties to resume their settlement negotiations. Ultimately, the tenant offered $270,000—just $5,000 less than ChatGPT’s recommendation—and the landlord accepted. The two sides signed their settlement agreement, then asked what ChatGPT had recommended. After hearing the number, both sides remained satisfied with their negotiated deal.

In this mediation, Sankary cleverly capitalized on AI by motivating the parties to negotiate on their own. The parties’ desire to avoid entrusting ChatGPT with their negotiation led to a mutually beneficial agreement.

What experiences have you had with AI mediation?

Mediation Secrets for Better Business Negotiations

Claim your FREE copy: Mediation Secrets for Better Business Negotiations

Download this FREE special report, Mediation Secrets for Better Business Negotiations: Top Techniques from Mediation Training Experts to discover mediation techniques for selecting the right mediator, understand the mediation process and learn how to engage the mediator to ensure a good outcome from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.


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