The process of taking legal action is expensive, time-consuming, stressful and unpredictable. It disrupts people’s lives and damages relationships and often produces results that are rarely satisfying.
There are many benefits to seeking resolution to a conflict through mediation first before attending a trial before a judge. For one, mediation provides a less hostile and confrontational environment for resolving disputes, where parties can attempt to resolve their differences between themselves. This can be empowering for those involved in the dispute as both parties can take ownership of the decisions made, making them more sustainable over the long term. A mediation outcome is not like having Court Orders, handed down from on high, but mutually made conclusions. The parties involved sort things out for themselves, within the framework of mediation, taking into account legal advice and the outcomes reflect what they need and want. The whole process is more respectful and also often more amicable.
It can be possible for a lawsuit to degenerate into something resembling warfare which has the result of creating lasting animosity between the parties involved. Also, the high expense involved in hiring lawyers and the cost of the preparation of litigation only adds to the bitterness. After a trial, no one feels that their time has been respected or well-spent and the possibility of an outcome that only one party wants or neither party agrees with, only fuels the resentment. There will always be wreckage involved in litigation and there really are no “winners”. By contrast, the framework of mediation preserves relationships through mutual understanding and collaboration in finding a workable solution for all parties involved.
Mediation is also much more convenient than the court process as those involved do not have to wait for a court calendar but can simply choose a convenient time with the mediator and the session goes forward at a much faster pace than any litigation process. The court process is notoriously slow and some lawsuits can take years. Backlogs and delays in litigation are common and even after a trial concludes parties must wait for a judgement. In some cases, an appeal process follows. Litigation is not only a slow grind, but it also requires an inconvenient time-commitment from the parties while they are waiting. They are required to spend hours appearing at hearings, responding to document production requests, answering interrogatories and affidavits and dealing with other procedural issues. Then there is the trial itself, which can last day, weeks or even months. For business people, resolving a dispute with a trial translates into substantial time away from running their business and companies; for individuals, it means time away from work, family and other pursuits they’d rather be doing.
When people use mediation, it is quick. Their conflicts are resolved in a small fraction of the time that it would take to go to trial. It is not unusual for cases to be completely settled in a mediation session, lasting only a day. The parties schedule their joint mediation session for a convenient time and there is little waiting; court processes and rules don’t bog things down, and everyone is focused on a settlement outcome and works at a faster pace. All of this translates into a more efficient, streamlined process for resolving disputes.
The court system does not allow people in conflict to speak for themselves freely. In mediation, everyone involved has an opportunity to offer their perspective on the dispute. It is basic human nature to want to feel heard and understood and to not want to be misunderstood. People can accomplish this only if they have an actual chance to speak and be heard. The courtroom does not allow for this kind of communication.
Mediation, on the other hand, is the ideal environment for creating and promoting understanding. Although there is an opportunity for everyone to tell their side of the story in a mediation session, the focus quickly shifts to the future and how the parties can resolve their dispute. The majority of time is spent collaborating on a solution and reaching an agreement. When a dispute goes to court, a judge or jury decides the outcome and it is imposed on the parties. In mediation, the parties themselves determine the outcome by working with the mediator who helps them negotiate a settlement. Unlike the court process, mediation concerns itself almost exclusively with discovering what’s important to the parties, then allows them to collaborate on a settlement that meets those needs not just the law.
When parties litigate their disputes, private matters are disclosed in a very public setting. By contrast, mediation allows the parties to avoid public disclosure of private matters. People who aren’t involved in the case will not be in a position to access details of the conflict because there will not be a publicly-accessible judgement from a judge or a transcript.
As you can see mediation is a wise alternative to the court process and in many cases a much more effective first choice.