Although many mediators are lawyers, when they mediate they are not acting as attorneys, they are acting as a neutral. Parties in civil disputes often cannot resolve their differences on their own. That's why they find themselves in court. Yet civil litigation can take a long time, be expensive, and many parties do not find it very satisfying. Over the last twenty five years judges and attorneys have increasingly been looking to mediation as one form of Alternative Dispute Resolution that can assist the parties in resolving their differences. For many parties, it is a better alternative to a jury trial. Our focus is on assisting parties in Western and Central Pennsylvania who find themselves in civil litigation and who want the assistance of a neutral person to try to settle the case.
After being retained by the parties, we typically set up a short conference call with counsel to discuss logistics and field questions. Parties may send confidential mediation statements to us if they wish. We ask that any mediation papers be sent to be received by us no later than 5 days before the scheduled mediation. The parties or their counsel, not the mediator, are responsible for keeping any documentation of any settlement. Consistent with the court's rules or procedures, the mediator will file with the court a report of whether the mediation took place and whether the parties settled or not. (The mediator does not disclose the terms of any agreement.)
We can also help people who are in a dispute that has not reached the courthouse steps. Whether its a company that has a dispute with a vendor, or an employer that is in a dispute with an employee, we can act as a neutral to assist the parties in reaching a resolution.
How We're Different
Focus on smaller counties. Pittsburgh has a lot of great mediators. But they are a lot harder to find in smaller counties, and in many cases their needs are greater. Much of my career has been spent in the smaller counties, from my time as a law clerk in Blair County to today.
Breadth of experience. My experience includes sitting in every chair around the negotiation table: defense counsel, plaintiff's counsel, outside general counsel, and as a trial court law clerk. Substantively, it includes broad business, employment, and tort litigation in Pennsylvania and other states.
Advantages of Mediation
Advantages of Mediation
- Save on litigation costs. When a mediation is successful it can save the parties on attorneys' fees, expert fees, litigation support fees and other costs.
- Prevent hidden costs. Ongoing litigation costs business in lost productivity. Individuals suffer disruption in their lives and can be traumatized by the adversarial nature of a jury trial. When mediation is successful, it prevents further escalation of these hidden costs.
- Manage risk. Juries and judges can be unpredictable. Parties manage the that risk in mediation.
- Faster resolution. Mediation is designed to resolve differences more quickly than civil litigation.
- Preserve relationships. Sometimes disputes arise between businesses or individuals that have an ongoing relationship. Mediation is better suited than civil litigation and trials are to preserve valuable relationships.
Fundamentals of Mediation
Fundamentals of Mediation
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a negotiation between parties that are in a dispute with the help of a neutral person. Often the parties are already in litigation. Mediation is a formal process where the mediator assists the parties to see if they can settle their dispute. Mediations in civil cases usually begin with the parties together in a conference room and then much of the rest of the session is conducted in separate rooms. This allows the parties and counsel to privately discuss matters with the mediator.
Is Mediation binding?
Sometimes people confuse mediation with binding arbitration. Mediation is not binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is a process where a private judge (also called an arbitrator) decides a case. In mediation, the parties decide if they come to an agreement or not. If they do, they are bound to what they have agreed to.
Is Mediation like a trial in court? Is there questioning?
No. There is no cross examination of witnesses at a mediation. No client is required to testify or to speak to the other side if he or she does not want to.
Who should participate in the mediation?
Generally, in addition to the mediator, attorneys for each of the parties and each of the parties should participate. When a party is an individual, it may be helpful for that party to bring a trusted family member. If the party is a business, a person with authority should attend with counsel.
If the Mediator is licensed an attorney, is he or she acting as a lawyer?
No. When the parties choose a mediator, that mediator is a neutral. No attorney-client relationship is formed between the parties and the mediator. That is why parties in civil cases should bring their attorneys to the mediation.
Does Mediation work?
In our view, mediation of civil cases has grown significantly over the last twenty years because when parties approach mediation with a serious effort to resolve their differences, they often do. Mediation has been so successful that some courts require all civil cases to go to mediation or some other form of Alternate Dispute Resolution. This reduces the caseload of some courts. But it is a voluntary process, and parties that cannot reach a settlement are free to continue to litigate in the courts. Mediation can also be valuable for people who are in a dispute that have not yet reached the courthouse.