When mediation lawyer Brent Smith negotiates a case, he moves from room to room, listening and sharing offers and counter offers. One goal of mediation is faster and less expensive resolutions to legal problems.
“Our goal as mediators is not to present our ideas about the issue, to not say that one offer is good or better than another,” Smith said. “Our goal is to help the parties settle the case.”
Judges increasingly order “alternative dispute resolution,” which includes mediation by a third party who helps bring the sides to a voluntary agreement outside of a courtroom. Mediation is most often used in personal injury cases, family law, real estate and business disputes. Both sides agree on the mediator.
Mediation is different from arbitration, in which the person or panel has the authority to impose a decision.
Smith sometimes needs to lower client expectations about what a jury might award if a case went to trial. He knows typical jury decisions in civil cases are far lower than the verdicts of millions of dollars making headlines.
Smith said good mediators:
- Prepare in advance, studying the case before the parties come to the office.
- Develop a trusted relationship with both lawyers and their clients.
- Are good listeners.
- Are skilled in bringing people together.
The vast majority of lawsuits are settled before court. If that does not happen, Smith said, “Anything said in mediation is not admissible in a courtroom. Settlement offers cannot be presented to the court or jury.”
Smith has had cases that were not resolved initially through mediation, but were later resolved short of trial. “Sometimes they call two or three months later and ask me to mediate again,” he said. “I enjoy it,” he added. “It is a challenge. It is an interesting process, and it’s rewarding when we can help people resolve their legal issues more quickly and inexpensively.”
Information provided by Brent Smith, mediation lawyer. For a mediator in WI, call him at 608-784-5678.