Each mediation is different, because each dispute is unique. But generally, a person who has hired us to mediate a conflict or dispute should expect the following general process:
Preliminary Mediation Conference
When the parties have a general idea of when they would like to schedule their mediation session, we usually schedule a preliminary conference with the mediator. The call usually includes all involved attorneys and any unrepresented parties. All parties involved in the dispute are welcome, but not required, to attend. The preliminary conference is held by videoconference or by a regular audio call. My preference (and suggestion) is that participants attend by videoconference, if for no other reason than to build familiarity with the process.
At the preliminary conference, I typically discuss several matters with the attorneys:
If the parties choose to conduct the mediation conference online, an invitation will be sent to the parties and counsel setting up the date and time when the mediation conference will commence. I also send a letter confirming the basic points of discussion during the preliminary conference and setting forth the rules that govern the process, including confidentiality. This letter is to be reviewed and signed by or on behalf of all participants and becomes an Agreement to Mediate.
On the day of the Mediation:
We usually set aside a whole day for the mediation session. We can meet in person, or from separate locations using an “online mediation” process. See the separate page regarding online mediation for more detail on that process.
We begin in a brief opening session where all parties are in attendance, provided no one raises a concern about being in the same virtual or real meeting room with another participant. The opening discussion is not confrontational; it is only informative. I usually inform the participants about the process that will take place in the remaining sections of the day, discuss the expectations parties should have about keeping things respectful and civil, and the confirm the logistics of the remaining sessions.
I usually separate the parties into separate meeting rooms, and meet with each participant and his or her representative confidentially. I begin to clarify facts and positions and work with each party on proposals they have which will move the parties toward some mutually agreeable outcome. The initial separate sessions are fairly long, but they move more quickly as the day goes on.
Success: Resolution of your Dispute.
If the parties put in the work required, the mediation process is most often successful. Success does not always mean a dispute is fully and forever settled, but it does mean the parties have clearly communicated about their different perspectives and shared what they would see as a good and fair resolution. If the dispute continues to more litigation, the parties will know why it must do so. The process can take a long time, or it can end quickly.
It is my practice to memorialize the agreements reached by the parties at the mediation in a written mediation settlement agreement. It is signed by all parties and lawyers at the mediation, and is intended to end the dispute. The attorneys then will draft and circulate for later signature other documents that will put the agreed settlement terms into effect.