The Mediation Process
If you have not been able to negotiate a settlement of your dispute directly with the other party, mediation may be the best way to solve it. Mediation is quicker, more private, more fair, and less expensive than filing a lawsuit. Mediation sessions are usually scheduled within a few weeks from the time of the request, and most mediation sessions last only a few hours or a day, depending on the type of case. In contrast, lawsuits can take many months, or even years, to resolve.
Mediation is particularly valuable when your dispute involves another person or business with whom you want to remain on good terms. This may include family members, co-workers, business partners, your landlord, neighbors, or others with whom you have a continuing personal or business relationship. Lawsuits polarize and ultimately ruin relationships, so a huge advantage of mediation is its ability to get a dispute resolved without destroying a relationship.
Another advantage of mediation is confidentiality. With very few exceptions, what you say during mediation cannot legally be revealed outside the mediation proceedings or used later in a court of law. By contrast, one of the drawbacks of going to court is that almost everything said or submitted in connection with a lawsuit becomes available to the public. So whether your desire is to protect your trade secrets or just to avoid airing your dirty laundry in public, your privacy will be substantially greater with mediation than with litigation.
Mediation will almost always save you money. You can often resolve complex cases for a fraction of the cost of bringing a lawsuit. A half-day mediation of a personal injury claim, for example, may cost each side about $500. By comparison, a full-scale court battle could cost $50,000 or more...sometimes much more.
Even if you are already involved in a lawsuit, mediation offers a huge benefit. It gives you a way to resolve the dispute and leave the court system behind. Many courts require mediation before they allow the case to be scheduled for trial. And the majority of those cases settle without the need of a trial. Because the parties can speak for themselves in mediation, they often bring up creative alternative solutions. Sometimes, lawyers are so focused on winning a case that they lose sight of opportunities for resolution that could include repairing the parties' relationship. The mediator can point out, in different terms than those of the lawyers, the strengths and weaknesses of each side's position. That, in turn can change the parties’ views of the prospects of winning or losing at trial, and can frequently open the door to a mutually acceptable settlement.
Finally, agreements reached through mediation are far more likely to be carried out than those imposed by a judge. When parties go to court, the losing party is almost always angry, and will often look for ways to violate the letter or spirit of any judgment. In contrast, a number of studies show that people who have freely resolved their disputes through mediation are significantly more likely to follow through on them.
If we can be of assistance to you, either as mediators, or as your advocate in the context of mediation, we encourage you to consider this approach to conflict resolution. Although almost any dispute lends itself to this approach, we particularly recommend mediation in family law cases, commercial disputes, and foreclosure.