So, how long should one expect a mediation to take? I’m glad you asked. I’ll address different areas of mediation length over the next few blog posts, but let’s start with a commercial case.
First, what are the variables?
- Amount in controversy? Yup
- Number of parties? Yup.
- Relationship between the parties? Yup.
- Relationship between the attorneys? Yup.
- Is the case already in litigation? Yup.
- For how long? Yup.
You get the picture.
Now each of these variables has variables. Have the parties known each other a long time, used to get along, and now hate each other? Can they even sit in the same room with each other? (Usually they can, at least to start).
Maybe the parties hate each other but the attorneys have a decent working relationship.This is not uncommon, and if so, only helps. On the other hand, I have been in commercial mediations where the business people eventually took over, away from the lawyers, and hammered out a deal.
- Are we dealing with large corporations or smaller entities? Is board approval needed?
- What are the financial resources of each? What are the ramifications of a resolution?
- Is this a one-off, or something that could affect larger operations?
- How much conversation has taken place before the mediation? Or between mediation sessions?
Pre-mediation conversations between the mediator and counsel can greatly help the process, and sometimes the mediation process can begin before any formal sessions are held, with the mediator going back and forth a bit between counsel. One caveat: Even in the tech savvy 21st century, there is a lot to be said for at least one in-person meeting.
Preparation is key to addressing the necessary variables so that a mediation can move quickly and there is greater likelihood of success.
Both the mediator and the parties need to be prepared. Legal fees can make litigation a losing proposition. Time — and yes money — put into mediation prep can be money well spent. Prep also means interpersonal relations get addressed early on, so possible negative interactions can be minimized, and positive ones maximized.
All the variables need to be thought through. This will help move the mediation along so when the mediation starts everyone knows their case and is in a position to negotiate.
So we’re back to “it depends.” Some people and parties need more time than others. What might not be acceptable at an initial meeting, might actually work a week or two later. Or a month or two later. And lots of emotional and legal tweaking often goes on when cases aren’t resolved in a single session.
I’ll talk more about the length of a mediation in some later blogs that address the issue in different subject areas. Any questions? Let me know. Next time I’ll discuss how long divorce mediations can take.