The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter August 2009

Preparing for Your Next Mediation
by James Rainwater

One thing that tends to recur during complicated mediations is a lack of vital information. It can range from a simple invoice, a telephone bill, a past court order, to letters exchanged between the parties. It can be puzzling how something so crucial to a party's case was not brought to the mediation conference. My advice to your clients: "Don't leave home without it."

I believe, like a good dinner party, it's better to have too much than not enough material at mediation. Just because it's brought doesn't mean it has to be used or even offered. Oftentimes, your clients may have their own working file of the case. I've seen some incredibly well-made notebooks brought by parties. This is something you may want to consider telling your clients: If they have such notes or documents, ask the clients to bring them. This will not only clarify the case, but it will also give the clients a strong sense of participation in an otherwise confusing process.

Another tip I can offer: Don't hesitate to bring along a copy of the appropriate state code. If it's a family case, bring the family code. Sometimes, all it takes is to show the actual wording to prove a point that clarifies the process and re-focuses the mediation. This can save much time and avoid having an issue put aside for the judge to rule upon at some point in the future.

Also, don't hesitate to offer the mediator your pre-conference position papers, petitions, or other documents that explain the case. This advance information can expedite the conference and help clarify the issues. As a mediator, it is tremendously helpful to have some tangible grasp of the issues prior to the actual conference. Again, these proffered documents can save time by helping the mediator to facilitate the vital points of the case more quickly and hit the ground running.

Rainwater Law