Written by Lee Wallace,
5. Better Relationships
One of the chief advantages of mediation is that it can preserve and salvage the relationship between the parties.
Trials are brutal, scorched-earth events where one side wins and one side loses. And both sides lose the relationship that they had before the case was filed.
By mediating the case before trial, the parties have a chance to talk to each other, often for the first time since the lawsuit began. They have one last chance to salvage the relationship that they had before the case started. “Salvaging the relationship” does not necessarily mean that the two sides reconcile and the plaintiff tosses the suit; it simply means that each party has the chance to acknowledge the basic human dignity of the other side, and to fashion an agreement that respects the needs and wishes of both sides. If one party wants to apologize, he can do so without worrying that it will impact whether or not he wins the case.
And while it is true that the relationship is always important in a divorce or custody case, business relationships also can be important and worth preserving, particularly when businesses are operating within a small industry.
6. Decrease Stress
Think you have enough stress in your life already? Wait until you add a trial! One of the great advantages of mediation is how much less stress it brings since the parties can avoid going through a trial.
At a trial, both parties will be sitting in the same courtroom for days or weeks. One side explains in detail why the other is completely wrong, and then the other side says just the opposite. The process is tough on pretty much everyone, and particularly on the parties. After a steady diet of you’re-wrong-and-I’m-right, both sides may find themselves frazzled and frustrated.
At BAY Mediation, where I mediate, the environment is very different. The facility has numerous conference rooms, with comfortable chairs and calming decor. The parties typically meet together for the first little while and then separate so that each side has its own conference room. I meet with the parties in turn, conveying offers and explaining the other side’s positions in a non-confrontational way. The whole process is over and done in a day.
Sound less stressful? It is, and it’s yet another reason to mediate your case!
7. More Predictable Outcome
At a trial, you put one of the most important financial decisions of your life into the hands of 12 complete strangers. Before the trial starts, the judge makes sure that you have never met any of the jurors and that they know absolutely nothing about your case. Would you make any other business decision that way? Of course not!
When I was a law student at Harvard, I took a trial advocacy class. We spent weeks honing our presentations for a mock trial that would determine whether a fictional character, played by a classmate, was guilty. Our trial took place in a courtroom in downtown Boston, before a jury of students from a local high school.
Through some glitch, two groups of high school students wound up in our courtroom. The two juries saw the same witnesses and the same lawyers and heard the same testimony and the same arguments. But at the end of the trial, the two juries made opposite decisions: one found the defendant guilty, and the other said he was innocent.
As you prepare your case, you don’t know who will be on the jury or what they will think is important. At mediation, on the other hand, you get to know what you are buying, so to speak. You can evaluate the offer before you decide whether to take it.
8. Clients Can Process What Has Happened and Move On with Life
For lawyers and particularly for clients, it is hard to move on with life while a lawsuit is pending. Clients cannot process the emotions, like grief, or the business ramifications, while a suit is pending.
For personal injury plaintiffs, it can be tough to move through the stages of grief while you are waiting for litigation. A fellow lawyer told me about two of his clients who were suing a doctor for medical malpractice that they said caused the death of their young son. In the years waiting for trial, every night the father took a tape recorder into another room and played a recording of the little boy talking. The family told their lawyer that the mother wanted to pretend, just for a few minutes, that the boy was still alive. After the trial, the family was finally able to move forward with the grieving process.
That case is an extreme example, prompted by extreme circumstances. But the principle holds true; both plaintiffs and defendants may put parts of their lives on hold while they wait for the resolution of their lawsuits. Mediation lets the parties close the chapter and move forward.