Mediation Checklist: 5 Questions to Ask Your Lawyer

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Hiring a mediation attorney is one of the most effective ways to settle a disagreement outside the courtroom. Lawyers skilled in the art of mediation can protect your legal rights and interests throughout the mediation process. If you have agreed to mediation, it is important to note that mediators are not legal experts. They are negotiators trained to listen to both sides of an argument and help the parties come to a resolution.

Whether you are in mediation with an employer or a soon-to-be-ex-spouse, you want a mediation attorney in your corner to ensure discussion and inclusion of all relevant issues in your case. Mediators cannot give legal advice. They can only make recommendations for settling a dispute. Your lawyer ensures you can negotiate your case from a strong position.

Before hiring a mediation attorney, consider following this mediation checklist to ensure you find the right fit for your needs.

Checklist question #1: Is mediation right for my case?

Not all cases can be mediated. As a rule, civil cases like business disagreements, employment contract disputes, divorce settlements, and landlord-tenant arguments are among the legal issues appropriate for mediation. Some non-violent criminal cases like harassment also may be appropriate for mediation under certain circumstances.

Even if mediation is suitable for your case, you may opt not to use it. Some reasons you might avoid mediation include:

  • The other party bears full responsibility for the disagreement. Mediation is all about collaboration and compromise. If you believe the other party is 100 percent in the wrong, there are better alternatives to mediation.
  • A binding legal precedent is warranted. Outcomes of mediation do not go on the record, meaning they have no bearing on future incidents with the same parties. For instance, if you go to mediation with your employer over a blatant contract violation, the mediation outcome for your case does not prevent the employer from engaging in the same behavior with another employee. Only a court ruling can establish binding legal precedent.

If you are unsure whether mediation is fitting to your case, you can request a consult with a mediation lawyer to ask your questions. Most mediation attorneys offer free consultations for this reason. They will ask questions about your situation and help you determine if mediation is appropriate. They also can discuss their role in the process.  

Checklist question #2: What is your experience with mediation?

Mediation is most cost-effective and less time-consuming than litigation in most cases. It also can prevent the breakdown of relationships between parties, which is especially useful in disputes involving family members. Given the extensive list of potential legal disputes that may require mediation, it is important to ensure your mediation attorney has the right experience for your situation. An attorney who is not well-versed in landlord-tenant laws, for instance, would not be a good fit for a dispute over the failure of your landlord to make needed repairs to your rental unit. You want a mediation lawyer who can maximize your results, so make sure you ask what kind of mediation cases they are most experienced in before agreeing to use their services.

Checklist question #3: How long does the mediation process take?

Traditional litigation is not known for its speediness. With the number of civil cases increasing in the courts each year, it is not unreasonable to assume some can drag on for years. If you have a situation that cannot wait for a legal resolution, mediation is a viable alternative. Some mediation cases can be resolved within a few days, while others make take several weeks.

Since both parties must be present during mediation, it is important to ask your mediation lawyer for an estimated timeline. Some people cannot obtain authorization from their employer to take a lot of time off, even if it is unpaid. For this reason and others, you must have an approximation of how much of your time is needed before you agree to enter mediation.

Checklist question #4: How do you manage conflicting goals?

When you have your initial consult with your mediation attorney, it is appropriate to establish your end goal for mediation. Is your priority conflict resolution or getting the best deal possible from the negotiations? They do not necessarily go hand in hand, so you will need to decide which is most important for you. Communicate your preference to the attorney to ensure they are on the same page. If you hire an attorney that aggressively pursues the best deal instead of resolving the disagreement through compromise, it could cause mediation to fail.

Checklist question #5: How much does mediation cost?

Successful mediation is the preferable outcome for all parties to avoid costly litigation. Lawyers spend countless hours preparing for your case, plus the additional time needed to litigate it in court. Mediation is a much cheaper alternative. You still must understand how the legal fees associated with mediation work to spare the headache of receiving bills you cannot pay later.

Some mediation attorneys charge an hourly rate, while others may work under retainer. If your mediation lawyer charges a flat fee (retainer), you will receive invoices showing how the money was spent. Any money not used during the mediation process must be returned to you. Make sure your attorney is clear on how they bill for their services and whether the options they provide work within your budget.

Getting started with mediation

Asking the right questions before the mediation begins can help achieve a better outcome. Answers about the mediation attorney you wish to hire are part of the process. Following this checklist can help match you with the right mediation lawyer. Ready to schedule your free consultation to discuss your mediation case? Give us a call at 505-750-2363 or contact us online to get started.

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