Once the decision has been made to go to mediation, each side and their attorney should prepare. Some attorneys spend a good amount of time getting ready and others spend little or no time. The better practice is for the client and the attorney to put in time preparing since there is so much at stake. The opportunity to work out a favorable settlement should not be squandered.
So, what can you do to prepare? Here are some tips for the attorney and party to meet and work on.
- Identify the important issues. Hopefully, the attorney already knows what the goals, needs and interests of the client are. Sometimes, however, a goal may change in the course of the case. For example, at the beginning, a party may want revenge or to punish the other party (not necessarily a course of action I would endorse, by the way). After time passes, sometimes the anger cools and the party decides he or she just wants to get the case over with. It is actually very common for goals and needs to change. A client should tell the attorney about any changes of attitude or plans.
- Figure out the other side's goals, needs and motivations. You can put together a series of positions you might be able to take to compromise and come to an agreement. You probably need to build in room to make some concessions so the other side will feel like he or she has won something.
- Gather needed paperwork. Find out what paperwork you may need and then have it ready for the mediation. It usually helps to have updated print-outs of all financial accounts so you can work with current and accurate numbers. Your attorney can tell you what you need.
- Adjust your attitude. Don't dwell on emotional issues, especially anger. Think of the negotiations as a business deal. Don't let personalities into the mix. You can make a better deal if you can stay calm and rational during the mediation session. Think of the advantages of getting the dispute resolved and being able to move on with your life.
- Ask questions. Your attorney has probably done lots of mediations and may not explain every detail or may assume that you know or understand something that is confusing or foreign to you. Take the time to ask questions. Your attorney wants to help you, so help yourself by seeking clarity for you and your attorney.
Communication with your attorney before and during the mediation session will be key to you being comfortable, prepared and successful. Good luck!