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The power of mediation

Mediation is a highly successful form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR).  In fact, I settle a significant majority of cases through mediation, without trial. Specialized training has helped me expand my skills in this critical area.

Mediation brings two or more parties in a dispute closer together by engaging them in a dialogue with a neutral third party, the mediator. A "true" mediator is totally neutral and does not offer any particular advice to either side of the controversy. The "true" mediator helps the parties define the issues, develop options and achieve a mutually agreed resolution of their own making. By fostering communication and interaction, she guides the parties to that outcome.

However, in disputes in which each party is represented by his or her own attorney, the mediator often is called upon to provide an evaluation based upon her expertise as a litigator. She encourages the parties to reach an agreement along lines in accordance with applicable law, reasonableness and fairness — not to mention reality and practicality. This kind of mediation is sometimes called "conciliation" because, in suggesting settlement terms and providing an evaluation, she helps achieve conciliation. In my mediation practice I am often asked to act as a conciliator rather than as a true mediator.

In any case, mediation and conciliation are relatively flexible processes because the parties forge their own agreement. To achieve success, all parties must be willing to mediate in good faith.

In contrast to arbitration, mediation does not create binding agreements unless the parties consent to an agreement they derived through the process. A mediator has no say in the outcome. An arbitrator (like a judge in court) imposes a binding decision on the parties.

I have found mediation to be the most effective way to reach accords, especially in cases involving a continuing post-mediation relationship among the parties, such as in neighbor and adjoining landowner disputes.