By Brandon M. Allen, JD
Anyone who has watched a few hours of television is familiar with traditional trial and courtroom settings. Judges in black robes and jury boxes full of people comes to mind when thinking of the way in which your case may be resolved. While this process of resolution has worked adequately for decades, it also comes at a cost to the parties involved. Trial preparation, expert witnesses, and other legal fees are not cheap. If I told you could resolve that divorce or business dispute without ever stepping into a courtroom, would you be interested in learning more? If so, continue to read below and allow me explain this handy alternative that modern lawyers keep in their tool belts.
What is mediation, exactly?
Mediation is a tool that allows lawyers to settle a case without ever entering a courtroom. The concept of mediation usually works like this: Each party sits down in a conference room or other office setting with his or her lawyer while the opposing party is in a separate room across the hallway. With video conference technology, it is even possible to do this without the parties being in the same building. A third party, the mediator, is also present at this meeting between opposing parties. The mediator will begin by explaining the process of mediation to both parties. This often outlines what the parties should anticipate happening during the mediation. The mediator will then go to work moving between both rooms determining the primary issues and what it would take to settle the case. Unlike a ruling in the courtroom, the parties are not required to reach a resolution in mediation unless everyone agrees they have reached common ground on the issue and are ready to resolve the case. If the case is not resolved in mediation, it will continue on its track to eventually be heard in a court of law.
Why should I allow my lawyer to set up a mediation?
In some cases, mediation may be required before the case goes to court. The process has proven to be a great way to settle cases without the need to go to court. This decreases the number of cases on the docket. Mediation can also be cheaper than court. The parties in the lawsuit will still be required to pay the mediator for his time and for their respective attorneys to attend the meeting; however, there is no need for costly trial preparation. It is important to remember that the mediator is not a judge and the typical formalities of a courtroom do not apply in mediation. The mediator works as a negotiator to help both sides identify their issues and negotiate agreements. He does this by remaining neutral throughout the process, meaning he does not represent either side and is able to freely move between both rooms and assist in finding a solution.
Are the benefits worth the cost?
Mediation will generally be complete in one day. Often times, mediators are only reserved for half-day sessions because any success from the mediation may be accomplished in this amount of time. This means that you will usually know up front how much this process will cost. Since the setting is more relaxed and courtroom formalities are not in play mediation can also be less stressful. Parties are able to focus more on their intended outcomes and less on the anxiety of a trial and the possibility of disappointing determinations. In mediation, the parties maintain control and if they are not happy with the direction in which the negotiations are moving they are free to end the discussion and leave the meeting. It is also important to note that the outcomes reached in mediation are confidential and these details will not be shared outside of the meeting.
If you have any questions regarding an upcoming mediation or other legal matter, feel free to give us a call any time at (865) 966-4343.