The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter April 2010

Mediating Governmental Entities
by James Rainwater

Unlike most mediations, those involving a governmental entity present a different set of factors to consider. These factors can affect the plaintiff most profoundly. When the defendant is the government, such as the county, the city, a school district, etc., both the client and attorney should be aware of potential hurdles unseen in many other areas of mediation.

Typically, these governmental entities have pre-set settlement limits. Unlike an insurance settlement case, where the attorney and/or claims adjuster can call the home office for immediate approval of a higher dollar amount, government attorneys usually require the approval of a higher body. Depending on the amount of money sought by the plaintiff, this permission may rest with a single manager, a committee, a county board, a city council, etc.

Again, both the client and attorney will need this awareness, coupled with a fair amount of patience. Convincing the government's attorney is one thing; getting a group of unseen people to agree to a certain value is quite another. Also, this process may take a lengthy amount of time, due to the meeting schedules of these various entities.

While mediating with a government attorney offers a businesslike and professional interaction, the inherent bureaucracy of government may test the limits of the plaintiff and counsel. The plaintiff is not simply in mediation with one attorney; the plaintiff is negotiating with a whole host of elected and non-elected officials. By presenting a sound, logical, and dispassionate argument, combined with a great deal of patience, the plaintiff can reduce the amount of stress normally associated with resolving disputes and focus more on the issues at hand.

Rainwater Law