When I first began practicing law in the 1980’s, mediation was rare. If a case could not be settled, a client would be forced to file suit, spending a lot of time and money in resolving the case through the litigation process. By the early 1990’s, alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, were being used by litigants unhappy with the crowded court dockets.
Many clients may not know what mediation is or how it works. Mediation is an informal way to settle a case. This means, instead of taking a case immediately to a jury or judge, the parties attempt to settle a dispute using a mediator. A mediator is a neutral third-party, usually either a retired judge or an experienced lawyer. The role of the mediator is to aid both sides in reaching a resolution to the case. The mediator is hired and paid for by the parties based usually on an hourly rate.
The mediator’s purpose is to enable an open and confidential discussion between the parties. In doing so, the mediator allows both parties to present their sides of the case. The mediator then acts as a go-between, helping the parties limit the issues and putting them in perspective. It is common for each side to go to separate rooms with the mediator going back and forth, carrying the message of the opposition. The goal of mediation is to find a solution that is agreeable to both sides, without the expensive and lengthy litigation process.
Cases can be mediated at any stage of the process. In fact, some jurisdictions require mediation before a case can proceed to trial. Judges favor the mediation process since it helps lessen the volume of cases by promoting resolution.
Our firm routinely successfully represents clients at mediations throughout the year. I, along with the lawyers in my firm, have worked with hundreds of mediators across the state. If you have questions about your case or the mediation process, please feel free to contact us.