Commercial Mediation: How Long?
Having owned businesses and having worked with many dissolving entities in 35+ years of law practice and mediation, we understand the difficulty of operating a business for which the owners are not on the same page. It can have an impact on the business, the employees, customers and clients, and the product and services being produced. Not to mention the stress on the owners and their relationships with everyone else. It can be totally preoccupying and draining. Can commercial mediation help?
The answer is a resounding “YES!” You can read about the benefits of Commercial Mediation on the Resolution Point website. But we thought we’d share something that we’re often asked: “How long will a mediation that leads to a reorganization or dissolution take?” In reality, how long a mediation on any topic takes is influenced by many factors, very few of which are within the control of the mediators. Some of these factors include:
- What information needs to be gathered to assist the decision-making. For many clients, the kinds of financial and organizational documentation needed for this type of discussion are readily available. Often most can be identified and brought to the first session. But sometimes information may be needed from third parties. How long it takes to gather the information can impact how quickly you can complete the mediation.
- The clients’ interest in reaching a prompt settlement. Although superficially this sounds straightforward, it may in fact not be. When asked, most clients will say “of course we’d like to reach agreement and get this done quickly!” But the more difficult question is whether the clients’ interest in completing the process includes a willingness to find a solution that may not be perfect from each client’s perspective, but is “close enough” from both clients’ perspectives. Successful mediations require a willingness to listen, negotiate, and compromise. As you might guess, each participant has more control over this than the mediators do.
- How complex a final agreement might be and therefore how long it might take to draft and review (with counsel if desired). Sometimes what’s needed is very short and succinct. Sometimes it can be quite complex. We’ve had commercial clients resolve all issues with a couple of pages created while together in session, and we’ve created lengthy contracts when the situation warranted it.
- Everyone’s availability obviously impacts scheduling.
All of that fails to answer the question: “so how long would it take?” For what it’s worth, efforts to resolve business reorganizations and dissolutions tend to be completed fairly quickly because most owners are eager to “move on.” Delay tends to harm the value of the business. We have completed this process for some business entities in one session (about a week from beginning to end) while others have taken many months.