The Benefits of Mediation
Mediation has a number of significant benefits over other methods of resolving disputes. Some of the benefits of mediation include:
Parties Can Avoid Some of the Risks of Going to Court. Mediation can protect parties from some of the extra problems associated with civil litigation, such as punitive awards, if applicable. There is no jury in mediation, and the risk of a huge, unwarranted and unpredictable award is greatly reduced by the fact that an experienced mediator is usually a seasoned professional who is unlikely to be swayed by emotion or superficial arguments.
Faster Agreements. Court cases can drag on for several years. In California, budget cuts have forced courts to reduce staff and even cut the number of days courts are open, all of which means it takes longer to actually get to court and reach a legal resolution to your dispute. Mediations, on the other hand, occur on the participants’ timeline and can be done much more quickly, and can often be scheduled within a few months or less. The much faster timeline for mediation also has the added benefit of avoiding the legal costs that mount over time.
Clients Control the Outcome. Mediation clients decide the terms of their own agreement with the assistance of the mediator. There is no final agreement unless both clients agree to it. Mediation allows you to eliminate the possibility that a judge will order something that makes no sense to you, or take the risk that a jury will not find in your favor.
You are a Full Participant. In mediation, the parties are full participants and can express their own opinions and concerns, whereas in civil litigation the parties’ attorneys are the only ones who represent their party unless the party “takes the stand” and is subject to cross-examination by the opposing attorney.
Reduced Cost. Traditional litigation is very expensive, and the total cost is highly unpredictable. Additionally, litigants can be required to pay the other side’s attorney fees as well. Mediation costs far less because the focus is on constructive resolution, not “destroying” the other side. Mediation is also less expensive because you spend your time actively working on resolving your case rather than filing motions, deposing other parties and their experts, and all of the other activities that drive up legal fees and costs. Mediation costs are predictable because you are present for most (if not all) of the time the mediator spends on your case. Moreover, in terms of alternate dispute resolution, the other alternative is arbitration. Though arbitration has some of the benefits of mediation (it is private, faster and less expensive than litigation), arbitration is in effect a mini-trial. Like all trials, lawyers need to prepare you and your company for arbitration, and that will cost substantial fees.
Mediation Agreements are Enforceable. If there is a full settlement of the dispute and the agreement is written, that agreement is a contract that can be enforced in court, if necessary. Generally, there is no appeals process, so your agreed-upon outcome can be readily obtained.
Mediation Maintains Privacy. Mediation is a private process which usually takes place in a mediator’s office rather than in a public courtroom. Generally speaking, mediation clients are allowed to decide what goes into any paperwork that gets filed with the court (which still becomes public record). Mediation avoids public knowledge of the existence or details of your dispute (and possible media attention), and can forestall the ugly allegations and personal information that can be put into the public record in litigation.
Preservation of Relationships. Whether in business or in family disputes, preservation of relationships can be a key benefit of mediation. Mediation helps participants focus on effectively communicating with one another as opposed to scheming to attack or gain an advantage over the other party.
Less Time Away from Work and Family. Litigation is expensive in more than money. It also requires that you spend time away from work in court hearings, depositions, and meeting with your lawyer; and time away from family as you gather documents, meet with your attorney, and plan family schedules around case and courtroom events. With a mediated agreement, you can avoid that distraction, and you will be more effective in your workplace and more present for your family.
Greater Satisfaction. Parties that participate in mediation report a high degree of satisfaction with both the process of mediation and the mediated agreements they reach. In a case that gets resolved in court, a litigant may be satisfied with the outcome, but they are typically very dissatisfied with the cost, stress, uncertainty and acrimony associated with litigation. Further, if one litigant is happy with the outcome, that usually means the other litigant is unhappy. The losing litigant may file an appeal, and the relationship with the other party may be irrevocably impaired (if that is an important factor).
Michael Kerry Burke has extensive experience in mediating disputes, and is a certified mediator. If you are considering mediation, call to schedule an interview.