Becoming embroiled in a legal dispute, small or large, can be a stressful and potentially costly situation.
If things escalate to the point that the legal system becomes involved – such as through the filing of a lawsuit – then circumstances can even become life-changing.
One option that potential litigants should seriously consider as a way to resolve their conflict is to participate in a mediation hearing.
A mediation hearing is a useful process that can be used to resolve a dispute before it becomes a full-fledged legal battle. At a mediation hearing, all conflicting parties and their lawyers meet with a neutral mediator to discuss their cases and work to hash out a partial or full resolution of their conflict.
When undertaken in good faith, a mediation hearing can be a highly productive process for the parties involved.
Not only can it lead to a settlement of the issues involved, but even without a full resolution, a mediation hearing can be very revealing, and ultimately, can serve as a valuable gauge by which each side’s legal standing can be evaluated.
Mediation is an informal process by which parties who have a dispute between them can present their sides of the conflict to a neutral, unbiased person with the objective of either resolving the entire matter or at least settling one or more of the underlying issues.
One of the key aspects of mediation is that the parties, and not the mediator, ultimately determine whether a resolution can be achieved.
During a mediation hearing, the warring parties and their attorneys gather in front of the mediator to discuss their cases in intimate detail.
Mediation hearings can range in duration from an hour to a full day depending on the complexity of the issues that need to be worked out and the degree of cooperation and compromise between the parties.
What to Expect at a Mediation Hearing
While on the surface, a mediation hearing may have the appearance of being a contentious part of the legal process and yet another facet of adversarial proceedings, it is in fact quite different from a courtroom setting in front of a judge.
Make no mistake, a mediation hearing is serious business, but its underlying premise is to have opposing sides engage in frank discussions, with the assigned mediator acting as a neutral facilitator.
Ultimately, the shared objective of participating parties is to settle their differences and resolve a dispute before it escalates into full-blown litigation, which by all intents and purposes, is the point of no return.
Generally speaking, there are certain things to expect at a mediation hearing, namely:
- Like a judge, the mediator is completely neutral and is only there to facilitate a settlement of differences by engaging with both sides, listening to their arguments, and letting them air their grievances.
- Part of the mediator’s job is playing devil’s advocate and exposing potential weaknesses in the parties’ cases in order to promote the idea of settling the matter without going to trial (and potentially losing).
- In having all parties and their lawyers present at the mediation hearing, there is an adversarial element to the proceedings, but those involved in the dispute will have an opportunity to speak out and be heard, and in so doing, an atmosphere of frank and open discussion is encouraged.
- Each party’s objective in attending a mediation hearing is not necessarily to win but to find common ground with the opposition in order to resolve the matter amicably and expeditiously.
The one aspect of a mediation hearing that must be kept in mind at all times is the fact the mediator is not there to decide the merits of the case. Rather, if there is any resolution to be reached, it will be by the parties’ actions and their willingness to compromise.
What Does a Lawyer Do at a Mediation Hearing?
Although a mediation hearing does not take place in a formal courtroom or in front of a judge, the involvement of lawyers is critical to its effectiveness and the potential outcome it can produce.
Not only is each party’s lawyer tasked with presenting arguments to the mediator, but perhaps more importantly, the attorney can provide counsel to their client regarding the worthiness of any settlement proposal.
If the mediation is successful, the attorneys can also help draft the documents that validate the resolutions agreed upon by the conflicting parties.
What Types of Mediation Hearings Are There?
Mediation hearings can be held in relation to any general civil matter, which is basically a dispute between two or more private individuals or companies that does not involve criminal law.
As far as the types of mediation hearings that are out there, these are the most common:
- Facilitative – this is the traditional form of mediation where the mediator attempts to facilitate a resolution between the parties.
- Court-mandated – in certain cases, a court of law will require the litigants to participate in a mediation hearing as a way of reducing the court’s caseload and encouraging a more efficient legal process.
- Evaluative – in contrast to facilitative where the mediator remains steadfastly neutral throughout the proceedings, in an evaluative mediation hearing, the mediator will actually render an opinion as to the merits of each side’s case.
There are also more complex forms of mediation hearings that combine elements of arbitration, and also a virtual format for participants where distance is either a challenge or a necessity.
Gallagher Krich, APC: Experienced California Mediators
The value of participating in a mediation hearing cannot be overstated. If a resolution is reached then the parties are able to settle their matter without spending too much time and bearing the expense of full-blown litigation.
Even in the event of a partial settlement or none at all, the potential strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case can be revealed.
If you’re involved in a legal dispute and would like a mediator to resolve it for you or are looking for an experienced attorney to protect your interests in mediation, get in touch with Gallagher Krich, APC at (858) 926-5797 or send us an email through our contact form to schedule a free consultation with us.
Our attorneys have successfully used mediation to resolve complex legal problems for many of our clients. So, you can count on us to use our 30+ years of combined attorney experience to do all we can to help you avoid going to court over your legal matter.