Mediation and the Law

One of the classes I am taking right now in law school is Mediation. Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution where both parties discuss their issues and needs pertaining to the lawsuit in an attempt to avoid going to trial. At mediation, a neutral third party known as the ‘mediator’ assists the parties in (hopefully) achieving a settlement. Working with the Rice Firm has afforded me the opportunity to witness a mediation take place. I learned the overall process from witnessing a mediation in East Memphis.

I did not know anything about mediation prior to watching one for the first time. First of all, I did not realize that mediations typically take an entire day. This makes sense of course, since the purpose is to try and reach a settlement. Parties may start at complete opposite ends of the spectrum, and thus it takes around seven hours to reach middle ground. Some mediations take days to complete, and proceed in stages. The mediation I attended was one where the parties reached a settlement in one day. The parties were introduced to the mediator, and then placed in separate conference rooms. The mediator met with one party and discussed their terms with them. The mediator gave candid legal advice but did not interfere with opinions. Then the mediator took that proposal and brought it to the opposing party in the other room. The opposing party then adjusted the terms according to their preference, while the mediator explained that some middle ground should be reached. With this gentle guidance, the parties worked towards give and take that ended with a settlement at the end of the day that both parties were able to live with.

Mediation is an excellent tool for an attorney to use as it avoids the expense and time consumption of a trial for the client. It also helps the client to vent frustrations to the mediator and to have his pseudo “day in court”. Finally, mediation brings each party to a place where they end the lawsuit and are comfortable with the settlement. In mediation, the client controls the situation and may walk away at any time. In a trial, the judge is in charge, and so one of the parties may be unsatisfied with the result. Mediation helps to keep the result on neutral ground, and both parties are likely to be pleased.

I feel very fortunate that I have learned mediation first hand instead of simply from a book.Knowing the process has made understanding the classroom material much easier.Thank you Larry and Jenn for giving me the opportunity to learn by doing!

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