Friday, September 01, 2006

What Does The Mediation Table Look Like?

The Mediation Table varies depending on the type of case as well as what stage of the mediation the parties are in and the dynamics of the particular mediation.

In a basic two-party non-divorce mediation, everyone starts in a "Joint Session." Parties are typically then separated out into "Caucuses" and sometimes they all return to the Joint Session. A basic two-party dispute could be a disagreement over a contract, a landlord/tenant dispute or a personal injury matter and looks basically like this, with many variations:

Joint Session: The mediator introduces herself to the parties or counsel she does not already know. She has everyone sign the Confidentiality Agreement (more in a later post on this), discusses the basics of the dispute as she knows it and turns it over to the parties to provide summaries of the dispute. These "Opening Statements" by the parties are brief, five to ten minute openings in which the other parties are expected to listen, but not engage in a debate, which could foster defensiveness and hostility instead of cooperation and collaboration.

Caucus: After openings are concluded and everyone knows why they're at the mediation table, the mediator separates the parties in order to have private discussions with each party. The mediator asks questions and discovers information which is below the surface level of the stated disputes (e.g., why is this issue so important to the particular party?) and is able to work with all parties to discover common ground the parties might never have realized existed, as well as alternative and creative solutions for the unique circumstances of the parties.

Additional Joint Session: Often, when communication has improved and the emotional, counter-productive behavior has subsided, the mediator may return the parties to Joint Session to finalize certain details of the agreements made and have everyone sign a written statement of the terms of the agreement. The mediator then congratulates the parties on resolving their disputes amicably and voluntarily without the need for protracted (or continuing) and expensive litigation. This may have taken three hours or may have taken nine hours. Either way, the parties are to be congratulated for a job well done!

No comments: