How does the mediation process work?
The mediation process works by the parties to a case, and each of the principal decision makers for each side, and each of the attorneys for each side, going to a neutral location. That neutral location is usually the mediator’s office. Mediators are specially trained to listen, sensitize themselves to the issues and bring the disputing parties together into a resolution. The parties will typically all meet together in one room around a conference table and the mediator will explain the process in more detail. The mediator typically explains that each side will have an opportunity to present its views, something in the nature of an opening statement in Court, then comments or questions are exchanged, and the mediator may make some inquiries at that time. The parties will be then broken into two or more groups, in effect isolated from each other for a number of reasons.
Some will be escorted to another room and the mediator will do a bit of a back and forth between all of the parties, visitting each of those rooms. During those visits, the mediator will discuss the case and the best parts and the weakest parts of each case and attempt to determine what direction the settlement should begin to take. The mediator acts as a go-between, but a good mediator is not simply one carrying numbers back and forth, offers and demands, as the numbers change, but a good mediator works to facilitate an understanding on the part of all parties as to where their common interest best lies. Some mediators are evaluative in this process from the beginning, others are more evaluative only towards the end of mediation and has not yet successfully resolved the case. Hopefully, before the close of the mediation, the parties will have reached an accord and execute a preliminary settlement agreement outlining the terms, promising to act in good faith to prepare and execute releases and closing papers for any suit that may have been filed, and to pay some amount. There may also be other issues than just money to be resolved and included in the settlement.