What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process in which a skilled neutral third-party (the mediator) facilitates negotiation between parties in conflict to help them reach a mutually acceptable solution. The basic format calls for the parties to express how they view the case and what they would like to see happen to resolve it. . Unlike an arbitrator who can decide the outcome, a mediator has no decision-making authority, but simply helps disputants communicate, evaluate their needs and interests, generate options and craft a workable resolution.
In essence, mediation is assisted negotiation. The goal is not to decide who is right or wrong; the focus is forward looking and creative. The events leading up to the dispute are not rehashed in detail, but are discussed only insofar as they are necessary to provide a picture of the overall situation and to release any pent up emotions that may be blocking the way to resolution.
Mediation focuses primarily on mutual benefits and calls for the disputants and their counsel to shift from the traditional confrontational approach to one of cooperation. The mediation process transforms adversaries into joint problem-solvers. The focus is not on losing or winning but transforming the situation to maximize benefits to all.
Mediation should also not be confused with arbitration. In arbitration, the parties in dispute authorize a neutral third person or a 3-person panel to make a binding decision on the dispute after hearing both sides. Arbitration is similar to a private court in which the parties choose their own judge. In contrast, in mediation, the parties may choose the mediator, but they do not authorize the mediator to make any decisions for them.
What is Alternative Dispute Resolution?
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) refers to the process in which disputing parties in a civil matter agree to have an independent neutral party guide and assist them in reaching a settlement outside the courtroom. Typically, ADR encompasses mediation, arbitration, early neutral evaluation and conciliation.
What are the benefits of Mediation?
- Expeditious – litigants save time by usually reaching a quicker resolution by finding common ground.
- Cost-effective – it costs far less than expensive, drawn out courtroom litigation.
- Confidential – mediation takes place behind closed doors and not in an open courtroom.
- Flexible – the parties agree to follow their own schedule.
- Professional – mediators are usually attorneys, retired judges, experienced business executives and/or field specialists in relevant fields.
- Non-confrontational – parties can maintain a relationship through mutual compromise.
- Proficient – preliminary studies have shown that 66% of the cases that go to Mediation are settled within 60 days.
Is Mediation mandatory?
Unless the court orders the parties to mediate, mediators provide their services outside the scope authority of the court system.
It is not necessary that mediation stem from an existing litigation. Mediating before a suit is filed may resolve the matter before litigation takes on a life of its own, increases anxieties, and results in exorbitant legal fees and costs.
For many reasons, mediation often succeeds where conventional settlement negotiations fail.
How Does Mediation Work?
- Each disputant agrees to mediation, pays their agreed share of the fee, and attends the mediation the mediation at a pre-determined and mutually agreeable date, time and location.
- The mediator will explain the procedure, and then each side gives a short summary of its case.
- The mediator will then meet privately with each side, and will explore what is behind the dispute, what the issues are, what is agreed, what is actually in dispute and what each side really wants.
- The mediator will not reveal to the other side anything said in confidence without express permission. The mediator acts as a go-between and as an imaginative problem-solver.
- The mediator’s task is to assist the parties to reach their own settlement and normally does not render judgment.
- The Mediator can probe issues or suggest solutions which parties or their counsel may be reluctant to bring up for fear of showing weakness or other reasons.
- Experienced mediators can suggest innovative solutions that allow each party to satisfy its important interests while resolving the dispute.
- Mediators can often overcome the limitation created by face-to-face bargaining between interested parties.