The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter November 2009

Environmental Factors of Mediation
by James Rainwater

I've conducted enough mediations to know whether a client is feeling comfortable or agitated. Subtle body language can communicate a great deal, and as a mediator, it's helpful to be able to interpret these non-verbal expressions.

One thing that is a near-constant during mediation is the anxiety of an inexperienced or timid client. Occasionally, attorneys overlook or forget the immense stress that can develop in a person who is not familiar with legal matters and procedures. For us, it's another day at the office, but for the client, it can be a life-altering meeting.

The central theme of mediation is neutrality, and as such, I am a believer in utilizing a neutral place for mediation conferences. Regardless of the amenities, one party's hosting of the mediation most likely bears some negative impact upon the visiting party. It's only natural, and it's all the more apparent with a reluctant client.

Average citizens are daunted by the legal system, and their participation in a mediation may be their only exposure to it. As such, clients need some reassurance that the process is fair and unbiased. Mediating at a neutral location can help give them that peace of mind. Of course, room to confer in private, comfortable spaces, ample snacks and refreshments, and office facilities also contribute to the likelihood of a successful mediation conference.

To my mind, a private, neutral venue is the most beneficial way of creating a productive environment for mediation. For your clients, this may be one of the most pivotal events of their lives, and it should be treated as such. Mediators and attorneys owe that much to the clients.

Rainwater Law