The Six Stages of MediationMore people than ever are turning to mediation to resolve their legal disputes. Not only does the mediation process usually cost less money than traditional litigation, but mediation often allows the parties to come to a mutually agreeable solution. Lawyers and mediators are different types of professionals who help clients with conflict resolution in different ways.

When lawyers become mediators, they use their experience and education to assist their clients in resolving conflicts. When you work with a lawyer who has an extensive business background, such as attorney Donna Solomon, you will benefit from her knowledge and business acumen. Every mediation process is unique, but there are typically six stages of mediation.

1. The Consultation
During the consultation process, the mediator will carefully listen to the details of the conflict you are experiencing. After you call or contact a mediator, the mediator will start gaining a comprehensive understanding of your situation. First, you will need to clarify your case to the mediator to determine whether mediation is the best path forward for you. For example, you may have to go through an arbitration process if your contract requires arbitration. In some cases, mediation may not be your best option, and you may need to proceed to the pre-trial process and eventually litigate your claim.

When mediation is appropriate, the mediator will discuss her specific processes, such as payment structure, scheduling, and the specific mediation model she uses. The mediator will also help you understand the cost of mediation and determine who will be billed and how the parties will share the cost. During the initial consultation,  it is important to ask the mediator about her qualifications and background. You want to make sure you work with a mediator who has the knowledge and skills to resolve your conflict effectively.

Finally, you and the mediator should discuss your expectations. What is the goal of mediation for you? What do you hope could come out of the mediation process? The mediator may also discuss her expectations for your situation. If you decide to go forward with the mediation process, the mediator will discuss mediation with the other party. If the other party agrees to mediation, your mediator will send an agreement to mediate for the other party to review and sign.

2. The Sit-Down
Before the sit-down session, your mediator will do background research and may communicate with the other party. The mediation session itself is typically about four hours in length. The mediator and other parties will meet at an agreed location to participate in the mediation process. The mediation location should be quiet, private, and safe for all of the parties involved. The goal of mediation is not to advocate for one party, but to help both parties agree. For that reason, it is important that both parties feel open and ready to discuss the case. The less defensive both parties are, the more progress the mediator will help them make.

3. The Opening Statement
At the beginning of the mediation session, the mediator provides an opening statement that includes logistics such as where to use the restroom, when breaks will take place, when the breakout caucus times occur, and where to get water and drinks. The mediator will also go over the requirement for both parties to participate in the mediation in good faith. Typically, mediators will set forth the main talking points that the parties will go over. It is important to try to stay focused on the main talking points, so the conversation does not go off track or devolve into discussions about issues that are not related to the main conflict. The goal of the opening statement is to help all of the parties get on the same page.

4. Open Communication
During the open communication phase, the parties express their concerns in front of the mediator and each other. They can vent their frustrations, voice issues that they feel are relevant, argue their case, and ask questions. The open communication section aims to get everything out in the open and on the table for all people in attendance to consider.

5. Problem Solving
After the open talk session, the mediator and both parties will transition into problem-solving. The mediator will help the parties consider what will help each other achieve their needs and interests. Sometimes this is referred to as the negotiation phase, but the parties are not always ready to negotiate a solution. Sometimes the parties need more time to problem-solve and develop innovative, creative, and new ways to overcome the dispute or conflict in which they are engaged.

Sometimes solutions that the parties proposed are non-starters or simply unworkable. Other times they may seem great but may not be realistic. The mediator will help the parties decide which types of ideas and solutions are feasible and which are not. During the problem-solving phase, the mediator may call for private caucuses or meetings in which she meets with each party separately.

6. The Closing or Continuation
The closing phase of mediation is the last step in the process. If the parties can agree and the mediator determines that they are doing so in good faith, the parties often sign a Memorandum of Understanding, stating that they will agree to adhere to its provisions. If they cannot reach an agreement by the end of the session, they can call for a new session to be scheduled, or the parties can withdraw from mediation altogether. Suppose a court referred the parties to mediation. In that case, the mediator will issue a letter stating that the parties attempted mediation but could not come to an agreement and submit that letter to the court.

Contact a Florida Mediator Today
If you are involved in a commercial business dispute and you are considering mediation, attorney Donna Solomon can help. She has decades of experience in negotiation theory and practice. She also has extensive knowledge of business law and practice. She uses her knowledge in the area of commercial law to help clients resolve their disputes effectively. When you need a mediator to resolve a complex business conflict, it is wise to hire an attorney who understands the intricacies of commercial law. Contact Solomon Appeals, Mediation & Arbitration today to schedule your initial consultation.