Mediation is a private, informal dispute resolution process in which a neutral third party helps the parties reach an agreement. Mediation offers a timely, less expensive route for parties seeking a settlement of their issues and this process is applicable to virtually any type of dispute. The role of the mediator is to facilitate communication, determine common interests, and explore options that may lead to a mutually agreeable result. Trained mediators are experienced in helping parties come to their own solution without taking sides, and those who utilize mediation are more likely to feel that the result is their own, but are unable to provide either party with specific legal advice during the process.
The parties meet in a neutral setting and provide the mediator with background information. The mediator determines what issues are involved, and begins exploring the interests of each party. Parties involved in mediation are encouraged to work in good faith and generate as many options as possible.
A typical two-party mediation takes between three and five hours. More complex disputes could take longer and may require mediation briefs (written summaries of each party’s position) to be submitted ahead of time. Generally lawyers are not present during the mediation, but this is entirely up to the parties. If there are no lawyers present, any mediated solution arrived at is subject to the parties lawyer’s review and approval.
Once an agreement is reached, the mediator prepares a memorandum of understanding that is signed by both parties. Typically the parties’ lawyers then finalize the mediated memorandum by preparing a legally binding agreement.