The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter June 2011

Cultural Issues in Mediation
by James Rainwater

As San Antonio is a multi-cultural city in an increasingly diverse nation, it seems fitting to address the impact that different cultures can have on the mediation process. Mediation can be a daunting activity by itself. Add different cultures and backgrounds to it, and unforeseen obstacles can arise. What preparation can be made to ease potential issues?

If a client does not communicate well in English, a translator who is trusted by the client should attend the conference. This can be the client's attorney, although this sometimes does not completely eliminate the language barrier. Such a client needs full confidence in the process, and having a trusted friend who can translate may be advantageous to the time spent in mediation.

In family law matters, attorneys should be cognizant of potential religious differences. It is not unusual for ex-spouses to adopt new and vastly different religious beliefs. These changes can derail a mediation before it begins. Attorneys need to address such issues with their clients prior to the conference. The focus should always be returned to the well-being of the children and what is best for them.

Clients who come from other countries may have quite different perspectives on a whole host of areas -- from family issues, to personal injury, to contract disputes. These parties may require some tutoring on American customs, as well as the American legal system. Again, a little preparation may be able to save time and energy expended during the conference explaining and re-explaining how our processes work.

In the end, the parties need to see the issues as closely aligned as possible. The attorneys can assist immensely in this respect. By proper preparation and education of the client, an attorney will help promote the best possible environment for settlement. By preparing the client for these potential landmines, the client is less likely to be consumed by them. The mediation process is about maintaining a focus on resolution and not a preoccupation with differences.

Rainwater Law