Over the past 20 years or so, mediation and other dispute resolution mechanisms have become an increasingly popular choice by litigants to resolve active legal disputes. These days, it’s not uncommon for state and federal court systems to mandate some form of an early resolution process, and most of those familiar with the process give mediation “two thumbs up” when comparing it to litigation.
So, what is mediation? It is a process where the parties to a dispute invite a neutral person to help in the efforts to resolve the conflict. In employment-related matters, a mediation often results in a mutually agreed final outcome between the parties, memorialized in a binding agreement.
The attractiveness of this process is, in some ways, self-evident. Who wouldn’t rather resolve a legal dispute in just a few days, with less expense? Most plaintiffs are not relishing 18 months of litigation, attorney’s fees and the possibility of losing at trial. Likewise, defendants usually welcome the certainty and finality associated with resolutions. However, the value of mediation can be much greater and less obvious.
When parties are solely focused on their individual interests or think in binary win/loss terms, the options for resolution can dwindle to a few unappealing choices. However, good mediators specialize in the art of listening and can sometimes detect alternative acceptable outcomes agreeable to the parties. Reframing, subject matter clarification and the identification of mutual interests are just a few of the tools that can help to fashion a meaningful outcome. All-in-all, mediation is frequently a valuable means of dispute resolution that can benefit all parties involved.