If you’re about to start mediation, you are probably hoping to save lots of money on attorneys’ fees and court costs. And you WILL save on these expenses. However, throughout your mediation, there are a number of times when you may want to consider getting advice from your lawyer.
Review Agreement to Mediate. Before the mediation begins, you will need to sign an “Agreement to Mediate.” While this document doesn’t commit you to solving your issues through mediation since mediation is voluntary, it does commit you to a process and certain legal obligations throughout the process and afterwards. Depending on the complexity of the matter and hostility of the parties, you may want your lawyer to review this agreement with you.
During the mediation, many topics may be raised about which you are very uncomfortable, particularly if you are unsure how your legal rights may be affected. Consider checking in with your lawyer throughout the mediation.
Discuss Your Lawyer’s Role. If your lawyer accompanies you to the mediation, there is an important dynamic that a lawyer adds into the mediation. Discuss with your lawyer ahead of time his or her role. Will your lawyer speak on your behalf? Will your lawyer interrupt the mediation if he feels that your rights are in jeopardy? You may wish to remind your lawyer that you’re entering into mediation to avoid some of the pitfalls of an adversarial process, and you need your lawyer to respect that goal. Sometimes, an experienced mediator will meet with the lawyers separately to set up some “ground rules” on the representation and advocacy.
Regardless of whether your lawyer is present during the mediation, your lawyer may have some creative suggestions on how you might achieve your goals through the mediation in ways that are productive in preserving the relationship with the “other side.” Take advantage of that creativity. The more minds you have working on your concerns, the more likely you are to come to productive conclusions.
After Mediation Discussions. After the mediation discussions are complete, a Memorandum of Agreement or other agreement such as a “Property Settlement Agreement” will often be drafted. Sometimes the mediator will act as scribe for the parties. When lawyers are involved, the mediator may make a list of “points of agreement” which will then be provided to the lawyers who will draft the legal agreement. If your lawyer is not actively involved in the drafting, you may want your lawyer to review with you the draft agreement. He or she will certainly give you points to consider (and perhaps have redrafted) before signing the agreement.
Remember, even if everything said during mediation is confidential, the resulting agreement may not be confidential and will affect your legal rights. You can ask your counsel to help you understand and protect your rights.
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Resolution Point offers remote mediation services at no extra charge when parties can’t be in the same room due to schedules or other conflicts:
- ▪ 4-way phone conference calling
- ▪ Video conferencing
- ▪ Internet connectivity which allows parties to watch everything remotely on their computer screen as it’s happening in our office.
WHAT OTHERS SAY
“I wanted to introduce myself as the attorney who has been retained by [one of your mediation clients] to review, and comment upon, the draft settlement agreement that you previously prepared…. I have been practicing matrimonial law for 34 years in Northern Virginia, and I told [our mutual client] that I have never seen a more thorough and professionally-drafted settlement document. I feel compelled to simply inform you of my personal belief that you have constructed a marvelous agreement for both parties; and can rest assured that your name has now been put at the very top of the ‘mediator referral list’ for all four attorneys in this law firm.”