The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter November 2012

Making the Most of Your Client's Knowledge
by James Rainwater

Knowledge is power. In mediation, knowledge is not only power, it is also the fuel that can drive a settlement conference to a swifter conclusion. Consider this: Would you take a lengthy journey somewhere without a map, GPS, or mobile device? Would you fly to Paris without knowing where to stay or taking an English-French dictionary? As silly as an analogy they may be, attorneys frequently do not take full advantage of what their clients know and consequently are not as prepared as they could be.

What knowledge is usable at mediation? Nearly any tidbit of information can be helpful. It is certainly better to have too much information with you than not enough. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard the phrase from counsel: "Oh, I left that at the office;" and from the client: "I did not know I should have brought it." In general, it is a good idea to run through a pre-mediation checklist of pertinent documents to take.

Specifically, a basic grasp of the client's situation is essential. Here are some examples: For a family law case, the names, ages, academics, and specials needs of the children; for a personal injury matter, the names of those involved in the accident and those who witnessed it, the location and environmental details, and dates of importance, such as those of the accident, onset of pain, doctor/hospital visits.

Possessing these facts may not only streamline the mediation and prevent frustration and negativity, it also may make your client feel more included in the process. Be it a disinterested ex-spouse, an indifferent adjuster, or a no non-sense executive, all clients appreciate the personal touch of their attorney's ability to quickly cite fundamental information.

As the time for the settlement conference is finite, it is better to make the most of it. A firm understanding of the client's background and a working knowledge of those details pertinent to the case can only benefit the party's position. Your client can be a wealth of information. All you have to do is tap into it.

Rainwater Law