Disagreements happen. Be it in business, family, or love, differences of opinion (even heated ones) are a part of life.
Some disagreements are more difficult to resolve than others. That’s what the judicial system is for—the courts are here to help people reach a legally binding conclusion when parties need outside help to settle a disagreement.
But what if you find yourself somewhere in the middle? What if you are involved in a dispute that would benefit from the involvement of a neutral third party but doesn’t seem like it requires the full-on Twelve Angry Men/Glen Close in Damages approach?
Good news: you have options. In fact, for many types of legal disputes, court proceedings are not the only – or even the best – course of action. Let me introduce you instead to the concept of mediation.
What is mediation?
Mediation is the non-binding process in which one person (a mediator) attempts to help two parties arrive at a mutually agreeable solution to an existing disagreement.
Mediators aren’t providing judgments, nor is mediation legally-binding. In fact, the only point at which mediation produces a legal outcome is after a mutually agreeable solution has been reached. At this point, the parties often put their agreement in writing, which then becomes a binding contract and an official resolution to their case.
Why choose mediation?
Let’s look at an example of why mediation can be effective.
Say that my business partner and I run a carwash. He is moving and I want to buy him out. However, we have a disagreement about how much he has put into the business over the years as well as how to determine the exact value of the operation. We could either go to court or pursue mediation.
But let’s say we go with mediation. How does that help both of us?
Mediation can save you money.
Litigation is expensive. For the dispute above, hiring an attorney would cost me ten to twenty times more than hiring a mediator would. This is in part because my partner and I would split the cost of the mediator and in part because mediation is typically quicker than a court trial.
Unlike litigation, mediation is private.
Court proceedings are matters of public record, but mediation is private. You can imagine that, as a business owner, this is important – going to court could be hard on my business’ reputation, not just my pocketbook.
Mediation is more time-efficient than litigation.
While court proceedings can drag on for months, mediation can wrap up disputes in less than a day. Less than a day! That’s a huge difference. And if I, as a business owner, have to choose between sitting in court and running my business, I’m going to choose the latter.
Mediation can result in more amicable resolutions.
Court cases have a winner and a loser, but mediation tries to find a compromise: a resolution that both parties can live with while also saving everybody the time, expense, and stress of a trial.
Additionally, mediation gives both parties a say in the eventual outcome of a dispute; a resolution is only reached when both parties agree to the terms. This is less emotionally taxing for everybody involved. My business partner and I might choose this option to spare ourselves (and our friendship) from the pressures of a court case.
Mediation might be your best option during COVID-19
There’s another reason to consider settling disputes via mediation right now: in 2020, mediation might be your ONLY option.
Many courts are closed right now due to the coronavirus pandemic. When they reopen, the backlog of cases could take a long time to clear. Mediation helps you keep things moving without getting bogged down in drawn-out legal proceedings.
How do I proceed?
If you are wondering whether or not mediation is right for you, enlist the help of an attorney with experience in business mediation. They can advise you whether mediation may be right for you and suggest your next steps, which may involve drawing up a pre-mediation contract or helping you decide what an acceptable range of outcomes might look like.
If you have questions about mediation and if it’s right for you, contact our offices for a consultation.