Mediation, without question, is a powerful tool with a host of benefits. Stripped to its essence, mediation is a negotiation between two (or more) parties that is facilitated by an objective third-party – a mediator. It is the mediator’s job to interact with the parties and to use whatever techniques are available and appropriate to bring the parties to a resolution of a particular conflict.
Our team at Doolittle & Tucker, P.A., has decades of experience mediating legal disputes involving the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, the Defense Base Act, and the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act. To learn more about our mediation expertise at Doolittle & Tucker, P.A., we welcome you to contact us today.
In this article, we touch upon the basics of the mediation process and its benefits. Most importantly, we give you the 3 vital tips that will help you select the mediator that is right for your legal dispute.
The Mediation Process
In Florida, mediation is used quite frequently for many types of claims, and in many instances it is legally required. It is not a formal court proceeding, and it does not typically occur in a courthouse. Rather, it is a relatively informal process, and it takes place right in the mediator’s office.
The mediation process tends to begin with the mediator addressing all the parties together. Then the parties split into different rooms, and the mediator shuttles between the rooms to see if a resolution can be found. Certain mediators may have their own procedure, but the above lays out how a mediation is typically handled. The length of a mediation can go from a few hours to a day or two.
The Benefits of Mediation
There are many benefits to mediation as part of your legal case:
- Realistic Case Assessment
- Focus on Parties, not Process
First and foremost, mediation is inexpensive relative to a full litigation. Make no mistake, the parties need to pay for the mediator’s time, as well as the lawyers and other experts required for the mediation. However, when compared to the lengthy and resource-depleting ordeal of a full trial, resolving a case through mediation is a cost-effective way to settle a dispute.
Second, mediation has none of the majesty and formality connected with court proceedings. That is a welcome difference. When the parties can be more casual and more comfortable, it puts the focus properly on getting to a solution, rather than on gaining favor with the judge, or engaging in one-upmanship before the court.
Third, and probably the biggest benefit to mediation (even if the mediation does not end in a resolution), is the fact that it is a phenomenal opportunity for the parties to get a realistic assessment of their case.
It has been our experience that each party to a dispute tends to have a sense of righteous indignation, a sense that their side is the only right one, and that the other side will “pay through the nose.” Mediation, which allows the parties to see each other’s legal positions, each other’s demeanor, and each other’s willingness to settle, brings a whole new perspective to the case.
When the parties are better educated about each side’s arguments, and educated about where the friction points are in the dispute, it tends to help immensely towards resolving a conflict. Indeed, it often happens that what one side sees as a major roadblock is actually something on which the other side is very willing to concede.
Fourth, and finally, mediation is a “party-centered” event rather than a “process-centered” event. What we mean by party-centered is that mediators focus on the needs, rights, and interests of the parties, rather than on following a specific, regimented court process. Indeed, the court process tends to keep the parties in their own silos, focused on the next court filing or court deadline. Mediation more quickly gets to the heart of the dispute and allows the mediator to readily find strategies that might expeditiously settle the dispute.
Selecting a Mediator: 3Valuable Tips
Tip #1: Choose the Mediator with the Right Level of Experience
While you should always want the most experienced mediator, you should also keep in mind that you want the mediator who has the right experience for your case. The key here is to match your mediator’s skill level with what is required to resolve your case.
A retired family law judge may have an incredible experience, but that may not be the right experience for your commercial dispute. Indeed, if you have a workers’ compensation issue, you would want a person who has experience in that field. Thus, a mediator with slightly less mediation experience than the retired family law judge will still add more value based on the mediator’s subject-matter knowledge.
Tip #2: Try to Find a Mediator Who Has An Approach That Is Best for the Case
There are various ways that mediators may approach a mediation. There is one style, called the evaluative approach, in which the mediator will give the parties his or her assessment of how the case should be settled. The evaluation is based on an objective review of the facts and arguments.
By contrast, some mediators emphasize a facilitative approach, in which the mediator is less inclined to give an opinion but rather seeks to have the parties reach the resolution for themselves. It can be characterized as the mediator taking a “frustrated therapist”-type posture.
Of course, the best mediators are the ones who are able to easily go back and forth between those approaches based on what the mediation demands. Accordingly, when looking at your choice of mediators, try to inquire about what approach the mediator likes to use.
Tip #3: Look for a Tenacious Mediator
Finding a mediator who really works hard to get to a resolution is someone you want in that mediation session. There are many different strategies and styles that a mediator can employ to help persuade, cajole, and inspire a party to come to an agreement. You want that mediator who goes the extra mile for a resolution.
Not all mediations come to an agreement. But you are well served if you can find a mediator who is able to have both parties gain a realistic view of the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the case, and the skill to keep the parties talking to maximize the chance for a resolution.
Doolittle & Tucker, P.A., employs highly experienced, skilled mediators who have handled thousands of mediations. We specialize in mediation for the Longshore Act, Defense Base Act, and Florida Workers’ Compensation Act disputes. Contact us to discuss having Doolittle & Tucker handle your mediation today at 904.396.1734.