March 2017

Why Mediation?

By Lawrence Huerta

Huerta Mediation

Mediation works.  It is an effective means of dispute resolution for any dispute not requiring a judicial or third party determination.  It provides a forum and an atmosphere in which parties gain understanding, become understood, and work together to explore options for resolution.  By resolving disputes in mediation, parties determine for themselves what is important and, ultimately the outcome of the situation.  It is important for new lawyers to know the possible benefits of mediation so that they can come up with the best legal strategy for their clients.  While the benefits of mediation vary somewhat depending upon the nature of the dispute, and model of mediation applied, the following are some of the benefits typically associated with mediation:

Recognition

In hearing and being heard in the mediation forum, parties gain the understanding of the other parties’ point of view, and an enhanced opportunity to be heard and understood themselves.

Empowerment

Parties are empowered to decide for themselves whether and how they would like to resolve a situation.  This self-determination aspect of mediation often corresponds to higher aspirations of how individuals and businesses want to conduct their lives and do business generally. 

Speed

In resolving or narrowing disputes through mediation, parties avoid the delay of a third party or judicially decided outcome.

Economical

In resolving or narrowing areas of disputes through mediation parties save an enormous amount of time, energy, and expense associated with protracted conflict and litigation.

Confidentiality

While lawsuits are matters of public record, what transpires at a mediation can be kept confidential by agreement.  Whether a mediation occurs before or after filing of a lawsuit, any form of communication generated at a mediation is normally inadmissible evidence.  In California, communications generated at a mediation are inadmissible and to be kept confidential under Evidence Code section 1119. 

Quality of Settlement

Studies indicate parties entering into voluntary agreements through mediation are far more likely to adhere to and fulfill commitments made in such agreements than they are with judicially imposed resolutions.

Reality Check Opportunity

In a private caucus, mediation can afford the opportunity to communicate important "reality check" information that may be easier for a client to accept from a neutral.

Avoid Bad Outcomes

Through mediation, parties avoid both the "win-lose" and "lose-lose", outcomes associated with litigation.  Many parties who "win" in protracted litigation often find the overall time, energy, and monetary commitment associated with litigation comes at an enormous cost and loss.  Those who lose in litigation surely feel even worse about such an outcome.  Mediation can spare parties from all of this and enable them to move forward from disputes efficiently and effectively.

Enhancement of Problem Solving Capacity

For lawyers, mediation is a powerful tool to enhance problem solving capacity.  Experienced and efficient lawyers understand mediation is a tool that empowers them to solve more problems for clients quickly, and efficiently.  The more problems a lawyer helps clients solve, the more their practice grows.  Mediation helps lawyers find quicker solutions and resolutions of legal issues, and serve more clients successfully.  In sports analogy terms, it provides lawyers with the opportunity to get "more touches", and thus, achieve more success in practice resolving more legal matters for clients, creating a larger referral base for the time you spend working earnestly in practice.

The foregoing are just some of the compelling reasons to mediate disputes.  Moreover, there is seldom any serious downside to mediation.  While some may hesitate "to put their cards on the table" in mediation, in this era of discovery driven litigation, the old "trial by ambush" days of civil litigation are increasingly becoming a thing of the past.  Mediation works not only because it focuses on the parties’ own interests and agendas, but also because it provides the opportunity for parties to move beyond disputes efficiently and chart their own future.  All lawyers, both new and experienced, who understand the benefits mediation offers can use it to their client’s advantage to try to attempt a more favorable result quickly, before engaging in additional and expensive litigation. 

This article is for information purposes only and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting an attorney. Any views expressed are those of the author only and not of the SDCBA.