The Closer

A Mediation Newsletter January 2010

New Year's Resolution: Resolving to Resolve
by James Rainwater

Well, it finally happened. I was summoned for jury duty just before Christmas. It was the first time in my life and, hopefully, the last time. Combine waiting at the driver license office, being stuck in traffic, and sitting through a long, horrible movie, and you'll get the idea of a day in the life of a jury panelist. I arrived at the Central Jury Room at 8:00 in the morning and finally left the courthouse at 5:15. It was the best $6.00 I ever earned!

This experience brought home to me why mediation is such a brilliant concept. Parties can give decision-making authority to six or twelve disinterested and bored people, or they can choose to take control of the outcome. Conversely, those six or twelve jurors may be quite the opposite and seek to inject their own idea of right and wrong. I imagine most attorneys would settle for an indifferent jury rather than one filled with activist citizens. In either case, mediation removes that possibility.

As fortune swayed my way, I knew half of the attorneys in court, and I was passed over for the final selection. The long day gave me time to ponder the actual employment of a jury. It reinforced my belief in the mediation process because of its efficacy - efficiency combined with effectiveness. Parties already know the issues, and a strong mediator can cobble together the foundation for settlement.

Ultimately, the parties must decide how long they want to prolong the dispute, in time and money. A truly good faith mediation can reduce both and leave the parties, if not pleased, at least satisfied that the issues have been put to rest. And that represents a certain level of control a trial cannot offer.

Rainwater Law