We at Inheritance Disputes are great advocates of mediation. Compared to conventional litigation mediated solutions can be so much faster and, above all, cheaper. Here are six top tips on how to get the most from mediation.
In recent years the courts have become increasingly keen on mediation (as well as other forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution) and parties who don’t embrace the concept can find themselves facing the ire of judges and having stiff costs penalties imposed upon them. When you take this into account along with the clear economic benefits what's not to like about mediation? However, in order to make the most of the mediation process it is important for the parties to understand how it works. Here is a short guide to help you maximise the benefit from your day with the mediator:
Know what to expect
It’s natural for people to fear the unknown, so the more you know about the mediation process itself the more comfortable you should feel on the day. We always give our clients an overview of the philosophy behind mediation and what to expect. However, whilst the informality of mediation is one of its main strengths it does make the process very open ended. There are very few hard and fast rules and mediations tend to take on a character of their own according to the issues and personalities involved.
Prepare for an emotional experience
The focus of a mediation is on the parties involved in the dispute rather than their lawyers. This places the client in the spotlight and whilst lawyers will be able to offer guidance and assistance, the experience can be an emotional one for the parties concerned. This is especially the case where a claim has been running for a number of years and it the culmination of much time, effort and expense, or where the outcome is likely to have far reaching consequences for the client. It’s particularly important to bear in mind that you may come face to face with your opponent at the mediation and might even need to communicate directly with them. We recognise that this can be a particularly daunting experience in inheritance disputes and we can take steps to avoid the need for this if it is likely to be particularly stressful for you.
Phone a friend, or better still bring one
Some clients benefit from having a supportive and trusted friend, colleague or family member on hand to offer an opinion or talk things through with. You can bring someone along with you to the mediation if you wish. Alternatively arrangements can be made for them to be available at the end of a phone.
Get a good night’s sleep Mediation can be exhausting
It’s therefore important to get a good night’s rest beforehand so that you begin the process fully refreshed and energised. People often underestimate the physical demands of a mediation, especially when it is scheduled for an early start and a late finish. Occasionally a mediation will run over the time allotted to it, so this possibility needs to be born in mind by the participants. We have known cases to over-run by several hours and in rare cases they have even continued into the early hours of the morning!
Think about your bottom line
Before the mediation begins its worth giving some thought to what you wish to achieve and how far you are prepared to go to get it. It is likely that at some point during the day the focus will turn to specific settlement proposals and it will help enormously if you can have a clear idea of what compromises you are willing to entertain to achieve a resolution of the dispute. Think in particular about what your bottom line is. Consider what your position will be if settlement isn’t reached The aim of mediation is to reach a settlement. To achieve this it generally requires both sides to make concessions. Mediators often say that the sign of a good mediation is when the parties leave the table with a settlement that neither one of them is happy with! When negotiating its always important to take into consideration what your position will be if a settlement isn’t reached. In particular, what will the consequences be for you in terms of legal costs and funding if the case isn’t resolved at the mediation? These risks need to be fully weighed up when considering and making offers.
If you don’t understand what is going on, say so
Lawyers and mediators will usually do their best to explain the process and translate what is going on into layman’s terms. However, mediations can involve complex legal principles and complicated considerations which are not easy to communicate or to understand. Please remember that it is your day and your case. So if you are not 100% certain about anything then do not hesitate to raise your concerns with your lawyer or the mediator.
Our inheritance disputes and contentious probate lawyers are very experienced in conduction mediations and have an excellent track record of achieving settlement. For further details of how mediation may assist you in resolving your inheritance dispute please call our FREE legal helpline on 0808 139 1599.