As an alternative to a lawsuit, mediation can help resolve legal issues. Mediation is initiated when two or more adversarial parties seek out a neutral third-party to resolve a dispute. The neutral third-party is referred to as a mediator. However, unlike a lawsuit, the adversarial parties do not have to reach an agreement; as mediation is a voluntary process. The mediator, unlike a judge, cannot make a final decision regarding the case; rather, they help the parties reach a compromise. Cases typically resolved through mediation include personal injury claims, disputes between small businesses and/or family members, and breaches of contract.
Mediation is a multi-step process, that typically begins with the mediator introducing the parties. They will then explain all of the rules by which all parties must abide, and will explain the goal(s) of the mediation. For example, when one party is talking, another party cannot interrupt them, as per the rules.
Next, the involved parties will describe the issue at hand from their own perspectives. They will provide details about their losses, any damages, and financial stakes if any exist. If the parties seem to be receptive to each other’s arguments, the mediator may allow the parties to respond directly to each other. However, if the parties seem hostile, they will be separated and will meet privately with the mediator; discussing the strengths and weaknesses of their prospective cases. The mediator will also exchange offers between the parties, helping them negotiate with each other.
Typically, the previous step concludes negotiations. However, if the parties do not reach a compromise, the mediator may decide to bring the parties back together to negotiate directly.
Upon compromise, the mediator will write up a contract, outlining the details of the agreement. All involved parties must sign this document. However, if the parties still have not reached an agreement, the mediator will help the adversarial parties decide if they should continue their negotiations in person or via phone conference.
The cost of mediation is significantly less than the cost of litigation (or a lawsuit). Mediation costs less because there are no associated court fees. Additionally, this price difference stems from the difference in the hourly wages of attorneys and mediators; the latter being significantly less than the former.
Mediation also provides privacy for both parties. Mediators cannot report or repeat what takes place during mediation to any third-parties. The only record of the proceeding is the settlement agreement; signed by both parties.
Further, mediation allows both parties to actively participate in the proceeding. No conclusion or verdict is reached until all involved parties come to an agreement. However, the parties do not have to come to an agreement.
Mediation can also improve client satisfaction for attorneys. It will improve case management and resolution times. An increase in case resolution, in turn, can create time for additional clients; generating overall greater client satisfaction