Contrary to common depictions of the legal world in popular television shows, a vast majority of lawsuits do not go to trial, over 95% to be specific. Many of these cases are settled between all parties before trial, and many of the most painless and efficient cases involve the assistance of mediation by a qualified and experienced professional. To understand whether mediation is right for your case, we must get a good handle on what exactly mediation is, what are its advantages, and when is the right time to start the mediation process.
What is mediation?
Mediation, at its heart, is a private process between parties in a lawsuit where a neutral, third party mediator helps discuss the facts of the case and reach a solution agreeable to all sides. During mediation, parties discuss their side of the issue, provide information, and explore possibilities for negotiation and agreement. Mediators do not directly exercise any influence over the case, determine the facts, or give legal opinions, but instead bring parties closer to an agreement that is mutually acceptable and help draft language to the court to make that agreement binding.
What are the benefits of mediation?
There are a plethora of reasons that many parties find mediation easier and more effective than traditional litigation. Mediation is often cheaper, as cases can reach an agreement before large expenses like expert depositions become necessary, saving money for everyone involved. Mediation also allows cases to be decided substantially quicker. While litigation often takes anywhere from 1-3 years to conclude, mediation can offer a solution in a matter of days. Mediation also allows for a space of privacy and confidentiality in cases, which can be vital for explaining disagreements when emotions are hard to keep in check or when sensitive data is being discussed. Mediation also allows parties to generally preserve relationships between one another more easily, improving the likelihood that parties interact successfully with one another in the future if necessary.
When should you use a mediator?
Mediation can be done at any point throughout the trial, though it is often done most efficiently after all parties have a good understanding of the facts of the case. Usually, mediation is most effective after the discovery period, but before parties have issued heft payments for expert depositions. This saves parties both time and money, allowing them to discuss the case with care and confidence without spending large amounts of money on services that are not always necessary for reaching an agreement.
How to go about choosing a good mediator?
Good mediators are professionals who understand how to actively listen, ask important questions, determine needs from wants, and help guide parties to several possible solutions. Usually, good mediators are individuals with experience in the law and in mediation, particularly those with legal experience on both sides of the docket. Having information on where both parties are coming from can prove invaluable to understanding both sides of the case, asking important questions, make concrete and reasonable suggestions, and avoiding implicit biases against one party or another. Many mediators have experience fighting for plaintiffs, those who bring a lawsuit, or defendants, but the best mediators often have substantial experience with both. If you are involved in a lawsuit, it is important to consider mediation and reach out to an established and professional mediator about your options.