Mediation for all disputes

Whenever anyone asks me what I do for a living, and I tell them I’m a mediator, invariably their first response is “oh, like when people get divorced or separated?”. There appears to be a commonly held misconception out there that mediation is limited to helping divorcing couples work out their separation. Clearly, the family law Bar has done a great job getting the word out about the effectiveness of mediation. I’d love to spread the word to other disciplines that mediation is a highly effective tool for getting the job done.

For all types of disputes, mediation provides the chance for the Holy Grail of outcomes, resolution, but it also provides many tools to advance and streamline the litigation process, thereby making it more efficient and less expensive. An effective mediation is a very productive use of time and resources even if the matter doesn’t completely resolve.

Most disputes are multi-faceted, with two or more parties bringing opposing perspectives and beliefs to the proverbial table. What is an absolute fact for one person may be seen entirely differently by another. Those parties may talk at cross-purposes for months, getting more and more frustrated and entrenched as time wears on. A good mediator can help those parties get their facts straight; once everyone is comparing apples to apples, they can get on with the business of finalizing the agreement, or settling the disagreement.

Sometimes parties can get hung up on the little things, leading them further and further away from the bigger picture and ultimate resolution. A good mediator can help restore perspective, or can help resolve the smaller, peripheral issues so the lawyers can focus the litigation on the main issue in dispute.

And for many disputes, mediation as a means of resolution makes far more sense than dragging everyone down the long road to trial, either from a financial or an emotional perspective. A debtor/creditor situation, a product warranty issue, a will or estate issue, a neighboring feud, all of these disputes can and should be settled by getting the parties together, figuring out the main issues, identifying the obstacles and clarifying misunderstandings. What often takes months in litigation can be worked out in a day or two at mediation. If precedent isn’t an issue, if the facts are easily determined, if an ongoing relationship is important to the parties, mediation can be the more efficient and effective course.

Whether you use mediation to streamline your litigation or resolve it altogether, the point is that mediation has many uses, in diverse situations. I can’t wait for the day when I say I’m a mediator, and the response is “oh, like when you need help to settle a disagreement”. Yup. Just like that.

Posted on June 27th, 2011 by Renee