1. What does the mediation process look like?
While mediation is not as formal as going to court, the process is more structured than many people imagine. Typically mediation will involve the following elements:
Much of the work actually occurs before the parties meet. As soon as possible after all parties verify they will participate in the mediation process, I will meet with each party separately. These meetings usually last between 30 minutes to one hour and can be in person, over the telephone, or using teleconferencing software (e.g. Skype). These meetings provide an opportunity for each party to air their perspective on the issues at stake and to raise any concerns they may have about the process. These conversations also guide me in my preparation so I may structure the mediation session to be as effective as possible. Unless a party gives me express permission, I will not share the specifics of these private meetings with other parties.
Mediation sessions are like snowflakes in that while no two mediations are identical, they all share a common core process.
- Opening Statements: Once all the parties have arrived, I will briefly introduce myself and give my synopsis of the key issues at play. I will then ask each party to briefly share their perspective. It is customary to ask all parties to refrain from commenting during someone else’s opening statement. From experience, I know that is sometimes impossible, so alternative ground rules can be agreed upon. During their opening statements, parties have an opportunity to comment on my synopsis and add issues that I missed.
- Main Session: What happens after opening statements is informed by my prior meetings with the parties as modified by suggestions made by parties in their opening statements. Logistically, the session will likely alternate between whole group discussion and private caucus between individual parties and myself. Unless a party gives me express permission, I will not share the specifics of these private meetings with other parties.
The purpose of these discussions is to distill an inventory of the each party’s core interests from the numerous issues, concerns, suggestions and proposed solutions they have raised. Once core interests are identified, it becomes easier to discover creative resolutions that serve these interests. The ultimate goal of the mediation process is for the parties to agree upon ways to resolve their dispute that they can all accept. Sometimes the parties are not able to reach this goal, but still create systems for managing the conflict more effectively and respectfully. All mediation participants benefit from a better understanding of each other’s needs.
- Closing: This is the end of the mediation. If an agreement has been reached, I will present the provisions to the parties orally and in handwritten form. The parties may choose to sign the handwritten agreement, they may ask for my assistance to draft a more formal agreement, or they may do nothing. I strongly encourage all parties to have any agreements reviewed by their own attorney before signing anything. I am not any party’s attorney in any case that I mediate. If no agreement was reached, I will review whatever progress has been made and advise everyone of their options, such as meeting again later, going to arbitration, or going to court.
2. How long does mediation take?
Typical mediation cases are usually resolved in the span of a half day or full day of mediation. Cases with multiple parties often last longer: Add at least an hour of mediation time for each additional party. Sometimes, parties agree to a “maintenance” program of regularly scheduled shorter sessions to address issues that arise after the first session.
3. How much does it cost?
I charge $225.00 per hour, which includes all time I spend in client communication, preparation, research (if necessary for preparation and agreed upon by clients), running the mediation session, and any post session work requested by clients (e.g. drafting a formalized agreement). I do not charge for initial brief conversations of up to 10 minutes per party prior to the parties’ agreement to move forward with the mediation process.