Court battles: people yelling, reputations destroyed, astronomical fees, anger, and bitterness. And when a dispute ends up in the courtroom, no one really "wins". Not even the lawyers. After all, even when a client gets the result they want, it will have come at a huge cost — it's not exactly a process that encourages repeat business. There's no denying we live in a litigious society but I'm increasingly aware that this is changing. People have had enough of this approach. They know there must be a better way.
And there is.
Mediation is no longer seen as the last resort considered only after folks have already duked it out and drawn their lines in the sand. More and more clients are beginning to appreciate the positive aspects of early mediation, not only as a way to avoid an expensive court battle, but as an effective path to a peaceful solution for all parties.
Let's look at some of the ways early mediation could benefit you:
Early mediation minimizes emotional turmoil.
Early mediation moves things along quickly — there simply isn't as much time for the mud-slinging and frustration that often accompanies a long drawn out lawsuit. All parties will thank their attorney for moving things along so quickly.
Early mediation minimizes damage to family relationships.
When one spouse wants "justice" and the other wants to save what is left of their savings, early mediation is ideal. When the misery of a lawsuit is reduced from several years to several months, the damage to family relationships is minimized, particularly important if there are children involved and a "clean break" just isn't possible.
Early mediation minimizes damage to business relationships.
The bitterness that comes with extended litigation is much reduced, possibly saving a business relationship that would otherwise be destroyed.
Early mediation may preserve neighborhood relationships.
Whether you live across the fence from your next door neighbor for another 15 months or 15 years, you'll likely bump into each other. Often. Early mediation may help preserve the relationship and avoid years of awkwardness or waiting until the cover of darkness to put out the trash.
Early mediation takes less time.
Depending on an appeal, litigation may take up to 36 months or more. If properly managed, early mediation can be done in a few weeks to a few months.
Early Mediation leaves stones unturned.
An attorney is obligated to leave no stone unturned, no cupboard-dwelling skeleton undiscovered. Parties must decide whether the risk of not turning every stone is a fair exchange for less damage to their mental health, their relationships, and their bank balance. In most litigation, only a small percentage of the stones turned provide meaningful information, and because early mediation moves quickly, the party's focus remains on the main points. There may not be time to hunt for skeletons or other issues that distract the parties from the real concerns.
Early mediation is cost effective.
Is there a risk of missing something by not doing all possible discovery? Sure there is, but it may well be worth the reduction in both cost and misery. Early mediation keeps the costs under control by limiting pre-trial discovery to the most cogent exchanges of information needed for decision-making. In other words, the other side cannot force you to spend money where you don't want to.
Early mediation protects reputations.
Maintaining privacy during or after a lawsuit is practically impossible — it's a PR nightmare. Mediation is a confidential process, helping parties preserve their privacy and often their reputation.
When conflicts arise, the thought of "having your day in court" or charging into battle can seem appealing but most people find that months of fighting and mounting attorney fees gets old pretty fast. And while not every conflict can be settled with early mediation, the majority do find a swift and satisfactory resolution that preserves their relationships, their sanity, and their finances.
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