Some disputes can be resolved easily, just by sitting down and talking. Other disputes are so intractable that no amount of discussion will resolve them and the only way forward is to let a judge or jury decide. But many disputes fall somewhere between those extremes. Even if you both feel that you are in the right, you might also recognize that fighting things out can damage relationships, run up costs, delay things, and put important decisions about your future in someone else's hands. When you find yourself in that middle category, a skilled mediator can often help.
How it Works
What does a mediator do?
Different kinds of disputes require different mediation techniques. For disputes between individuals, especially between family members, divorcing couples, neighbors – really any dispute where the people involved are going to have an ongoing future relationship – I've found that a facilitative approach works best. With that approach, I don’t take sides or evaluate the parties’ positions. Instead, I facilitate discussion and understanding, and help you work toward a solution that protects all parties’ interests. In the end, you control the outcome, not me.
How long does it take?
A typical facilitative mediation session lasts up to two and half hours and addresses a single broad issue. Disputes involving only one issue can often be resolved in a single session. For example, a dispute between siblings over an inheritance might be addressed in one session. More complex problems may require multiple sessions. For example, a divorcing couple might address property division in one session, parenting issues in a second session, and spousal and child support in a third session.
Can I bring my lawyer?
Lawyers are welcome, but not necessary. The only requirement for an effective mediation is that all parties be capable of protecting their own interests. A lawyer can help you do that.
You’re a lawyer. Can’t you give us legal advice?
No. I can’t be your lawyer and be your mediator at the same time, and I can’t represent both sides in a dispute, so as your mediator I really can’t give you legal advice. Plus, it's important that you control the result, not me. After all, you will have to live with the result, I won’t.
Can you at least evaluate our positions and tell us what a court would do?
I can, but I usually don’t. Usually my job is to help you reach an agreement, not to tell you what your agreement should look like. The main exception is in lawsuits involving businesses where both sides have lawyers and the only question how much money one side will have to pay the other to settle the case without a trial. In that kind of case, I will often help the parties and their attorneys do a risk/benefit analysis and come up with a a settlement value.