In business, disputes arise all the time. For example, a supplier could repeatedly delay delivering fresh produce to your restaurant, which causes you to incur losses.
You can file a breach of contract lawsuit against the supplier, but the time it will take to have the matter heard and determined, and the legal costs involved could take a further toll on your business.
So, instead of filing the lawsuit, you could try to resolve the dispute outside of a courtroom using Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), which is where a mediator could come in.
Who is a mediator? A mediator is a neutral third person who can facilitate communication between you and one or more parties you’re in conflict with to find an amicable solution to a dispute. The best mediators have superior analytical, problem-solving, negotiation, communication, and conflict resolution skills.
An experienced attorney or retired judge are perfect candidates to act as a mediator in any legal dispute you have.
What Kinds of Cases Can A Mediator Handle?
Mediators mostly get involved in non-criminal cases and those that don’t involve evidentiary or complex procedural issues. Examples of disputes they can handle are:
- Commercial transactions
- Personal injury
- Workers compensation
- Divorce or family law
- Real estate
- Labor or community relations
- Domestic relations
- Employment and management
The mediator can be called upon to try to settle a matter before or after it goes to court.
The Role of A Mediator
Once you appoint a mediator, the first thing they’ll do is reach out to all disputing parties or their attorneys to set up a date for the first mediation meeting.
If everyone involved in the dispute voluntarily agrees to attend the meeting, the mediator will take you through several stages, which could lead to a resolution.
Here is a breakdown of the steps followed:
Step 1: Introductions
The mediator will introduce himself and ask everyone else to do the same.
Once introductions are done, the mediator will explain what the meeting aims to achieve and encourage everyone to be open to settling the matter at hand.
They’ll also sign and ask disputing parties to sign an agreement outlining the terms of the mediation process.
Step 2: Disputants opening remarks
The mediator will allow each party to give their view about the dispute and the financial, emotional, or other impacts it has had on them.
As they make their remarks, a party can suggest how they would like the issue resolved.
While a disputant is talking, they cannot be interrupted.
Step 3: Disputants discussion
At this point, the mediator will ask the parties present to respond to the opening statements.
The responses can give a mediator a better understanding of the problem they’re dealing with.
During this period, the mediation may also ask questions.
Step 4: One-on-one meetings with the disputing parties
The mediator will put each party in a separate room where they’ll meet them to discuss their strength and weakness in the dispute and listen to any resolution offers that they can take to the other side.
This can be the longest part of the mediation process because the mediator will go back and forth between the parties until they reach an agreement.
If the issues involved in a dispute are complex the mediator may not be able to get the parties to agree in one meeting.
Step 5: Signing of a settlement agreement
If the disputing parties agree to a settlement during the private caucuses, the mediator will bring them back together, so they can all sign a written summary of their agreement.
The agreement can be a win-win, or one party can walk away not thrilled with it, but happy they avoided a long, expensive and uncertain resolution process through the courts.
If you don’t agree during a mediation meeting, the mediator will advise if future meetings are necessary to resolve the matter.
You also have the option to opt-out of mediation and file a lawsuit if you don’t see any chance of you arriving at a settlement at this point.
During the mediation meeting, even if the mediator is the chair, they cannot:
- Impose solutions or force a settlement. A solution can only be arrived at by the conflicting parties.
- Offer legal advice to the parties even if they’re an attorney. Parties should only get legal advice from their lawyer, who it is advisable to have present during the mediation meeting.
The mediator can, however, work with the parties to explore resolution options.
- Take sides. Through the mediation period, the mediator cannot show prejudice, bias, or favoritism to any of the parties.
If the mediator’s impartiality is questioned they should withdraw from the dispute resolution.
3 Benefits of Working With A Mediator to Resolve A Dispute
There are many reasons why you could decide to use a mediator to resolve a dispute over traditional litigation. Here are the three.
Faster dispute resolution
Most mediations can be resolved in a few hours or days, depending on the case.
If you go to court to seek damages caused by a dispute, it could take up to 2 years to get the issue determined. Which is a long time to wait for a resolution for your dispute.
To avoid expensive litigation
During the duration of your court case, you have to retain an attorney whose bills can quickly add up and put a strain on your business or personal finances.
So, to substantially reduce your legal costs, you could opt for mediation.
If you wouldn’t like the details of your dispute to be publicized, mediation will work well for you.
Unlike a court case during the mediation process, there are no spectators and everything that is said cannot be reported or repeated outside by any of the parties involved.
Information shared can also not be used in a lawsuit should you fail to find a settlement.
Therefore, the only details accessible to the public about your dispute is the settlement agreement.
Another advantage of mediation is that you and not a judge or jury decide on the resolution of your dispute. Something that increases the chances of you agreeing to a settlement you can live with.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced California Mediation Attorneys
If you’re looking to resolve a dispute using mediation we can act as the third party neural and guide you through the process. Gallagher Krich, APC can also protect your interests during a meditation meeting if you hire us as your attorney.
Please call us today for a free consultation on your case at (858) 926-5797. We have over 30 years of experience in mediation processes and have helped lots of clients achieve successful outcomes without having to file a lawsuit.