As lawyers, people come to us for legal advice and options. It is our responsibility to know the law and how the dispute can be resolved. Under the conduct rules we need to give advice to our clients about the law, the likely range of outcomes if their case proceeds to trial and other options about how to resolve their matter.
Litigation has historically been the means to the end for lawyers. It has been the way that legal disputes have been dealt with. Litigation is a process. I liken it to a conveyor belt that once on by issuing proceedings it heads in the direction of trial before a judge. However, neither you nor your client have any control of the speed, direction or length of the conveyor belt. Litigation takes its toll on the client, in more ways than on; stress, time and money. The worst part for the client is that the judge decides and the outcome isn’t always ideal for the client let alone any other party.
Mediation on the other hand, is a creative outcome. Mediation resolves disputes in shorter timeframes and at a better cost for your clients. The process has a beginning middle and end and the mediator controls the process and helps the parties to move forward with a future focus. Unlike informal conferences between solicitors with clients, there is a process and no expectation to try to persuade the otherside about the law or how the parties are in the situation they now face themselves in. It is about generating and evaluating options for your client and offers another dispute resolution choice for your client when deciding how to resolve their dispute. Mediation resolves disputes out of court with your help.
Mediation doesn’t take you out of the picture. It requires teamwork between you, as the lawyer for your client and us, as the mediator. Teamwork is expected and necessary in mediation because we have the same client! Your relationship with the client is as their trusted legal advisor on the law. Our role as the mediator and our relationship with the client is different. As the mediator we are in charge of the process of mediation and ask the questions. We are the independent challenger of the client’s interest and reality even your confidence in your client’s legal case.
As the lawyer to the client, we also need your help to manage our client’s emotions from anger to frustration and despair to help them and empower them to make the best decisions possible for them overall to move past this difficult time and to get on with life. This is the purpose of mediation.
Lawyers that are client focused, will take the time to outline the dispute resolution options for the client at initial meetings, and then ask the client, how they would like to proceed. Greater trust and rapour can be built by offering choices and explaining them over taking a matter directly to court. This usually only occurs out of frustration arising from the other parties not responding to your letters of request and then demands.
There will always be legal disputes to be sorted. Surely, a happy client that gets a quicker result over a client losing hope, running out of money, and having a negative response to you as their lawyer over time, is the best testimonial and outcome you could want in business. It’s easy to stand out today. The choice is yours.