At the firm, our focus is to provide cost-effective personal attention and dedication when our clients are confronted with an adversarial dispute. While we do not shy away from zealously advocating for clients in court, we also recognize that not all matters are appropriate for litigation and that other forms of conflict resolution should be explored.
When disputes first arise, our approach is to first attempt to resolve them in a timely and business-like manner. Sometimes, however, alternative forms of conflict resolution can be a formalized process. Consistent with our philosophy to attempt to resolve disputes in a timely and cost-effective manner, we are strong believers in forms of conflict resolution such as mediation. Attorney Ayanna Alcendor is an approved civil mediator with the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, who can help protect your interests while avoiding much of the cost, stress and time associated with litigation.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), where the parties to a lawsuit (or potential lawsuit) meet with a neutral third-party in an effort to settle the case. That third party is called a mediator. The job of a mediator is to listen to the evidence presented by both sides, help the parties try to understand the other’s perspective regarding the dispute, and then facilitate negotiation of a voluntary resolution of the case.
What is the Mediation Process?
While the mediation process does have some structure, it can have a more informal feel than traditional litigation. As a primer, the mediation process can include some or all of the following steps:
When the parties have gathered together, the mediator introduces participants in the mediation process and lays out the ground rules for that particular mediation.A mediator may also choose to present his or her goals for the mediation process, which is generally to help the parties come to a negotiated agreement or settlement of the issue and otherwise resolve the dispute amicably.
2. Opening Remarks
After introductions, each side has the chance to present its view of the dispute. Unlike traditional litigation, there is more opportunity in mediation for this to be a chance to discuss feelings surrounding the dispute at hand.
After opening remarks, the mediator and the parties (with the help of the mediator) are free to ask questions in an effort to understand and resolve each party’s needs. Mediators can often repeat back what they heard or ask for clarification, in order to keep the process moving. This process can also be known as “information gathering” as the mediator may ask open-ended questions and summarize what they have heard in an effort to build a rapport between the parties. If there is an impasse, the mediator will attempt to identify the obstacles to resume the mediation amicably.
4. Separate Confidential Meetings
Mediations may allow for the mediator to split off the groups and meet with them individually, subject to each of those meetings remaining confidential.
Lastly, the mediator helps to cultivate ideas and proposals that meet each party’s core asks, hopefully resulting in some form of settlement proposal from at least one side—or both.
Depending on the complexity of the issues at hand, a mediation could last just a couple of hours or take longer to resolve. If the mediation is successful—great! The mediator will likely memorialize the main provisions of the proposed settlement in writing and ask each side to sign the written summary. If the mediation was not successful, both parties still have the option to move on to more formal and binding processes. It is important to understand the advantages of engaging in mediation first, before initiating any longer and more protracted litigation with a binding result.
What are the Advantages of Mediation?
You are directly involved in negotiating your own settlement agreement. Having more control at an early stage will allow you to better evaluate your options and explore all avenues before deciding whether to engage in protracted litigation.
A settlement cannot be imposed on you—it is completely voluntary. The ball is completely in your court.
The proceedings are conducted privately, and generally, the content of those proceedings cannot be used if you do decide to move forward with either binding arbitration or full-scale litigation.
A lawsuit can often take a long time to reach fruition through the court system. Using mediation early in a dispute means that it is possible to reach a resolution more quickly than may be the case through the more traditional litigation route.
Costs are greatly reduced in comparison to pursuing the matter through the courts or arbitration.
A well-trained mediator may be able to offer innovative and alternative solutions that may not have been considered by the parties, or that would have otherwise been available through court remedies.
Mediation makes it more likely that you can re-establish a positive relationship between you and the other party or parties once the dispute is resolved, if that is something that you want.
Very importantly, mediation is just a “first bite at the apple”. If mediation is unsuccessful, you have not prejudiced yourself or sacrificed any legal rights in the process.
The process of mediation focuses on solving problems in an efficient and economical manner—keep in mind that you will be taking into account the costs of litigation, for instance, rather than focusing on uncovering the “truth” or seeking to impose known legal standards. Rather than traditional litigation, the merits of the dispute in addition to other non-legal factors are considered and outlined by a trained mediator.