By Carie Silvestri
Monday I talked about the importance of preparing clients for mediation, but there are also things the mediator needs to know ahead of time to be appropriately prepared for mediation. Oftentimes, the mediator has no idea until the parties walk in what the case is about, and precious time is wasted getting them up to speed. Communicating the key issues to the mediator ahead of time—either with a quick phone call or email—can help them prepare and focus on the issues at hand, facilitating a more successful mediation.
Following are some of the things to share or discuss with your mediator before mediation. Mediators need all pertinent information at least a day before mediation so they have time to review it.
- Relevant Background Information: Your mediator does not need all of the legal pleadings that have been filed to date, but do share any settlement discussions that have occurred and any agreements the parties have made. This gives the mediator an idea of where to begin in negotiation discussions.
- Special Accommodations: Oftentimes, clients are anxious about seeing their spouse and don’t want to arrive at the same time they do. Let your mediator know if you need to stagger the arrival and departure times of your client so they can accommodate your request.
Similarly, if someone needs to leave at a specific time—either the attorney or the client—the mediator needs to know ahead of time, so they can adjust the schedule and pace the day accordingly.
- Family Violence: If there is a history, threat, or concern of family violence, advise the mediator of this ahead of time. The mediator may wish to make arrangements to hold the mediation outside of their office for the safety of all parties, such as at the courthouse where a metal detector, bailiff, and other security measures are available If there are any untreated mental health issues that may impair the client’s ability to make a decision, it is helpful for the mediator to be aware of that in advance as well.
- Know the Mediator’s Policies: Check with the mediator ahead of time and be aware of their specific policies. Additionally, most mediators have cancellation policies. Know what they are and communicate them with your client. If the parties are trying to reach an agreement prior to mediation, they need to know the deadline by which they can cancel the mediation without having to pay a cancellation fee. Once mediation is scheduled, most mediators send a letter outlining their policies and procedures. Make sure you read this and share it with your client.