What is Mediation?
Mediation leaves control over the dispute, and the terms of any settlement, in the hands of the parties themselves. This is quite different from a trial in court or an arbitration hearing, where the parties turn over control of the case and the outcome to strangers – a judge, jury, arbitrator or panel of arbitrators who decide the case. The mediator doesn’t decide the case. Instead, he or she simply helps the parties come up with a solution that, while not “ideal” and not an absolute “win” for either side, is acceptable to everyone. The mediator’s primary role is to act as an “agent of reality,” someone who points out privately to each side what their risks are and how much it is likely to cost for that “day in court.”
Mediation typically lasts a day or two, whereas the discovery and pre-trial stage of litigation often lasts months or years, and a trial itself may drag on for weeks or months. That expenditure of time translates to money. There are intangible costs involved in trial as well, such as the stress involved and time spent thinking and worrying about the dispute, which always exacts a mental and emotional toll. Even if the parties choose an early mediation, they will still incur some legal expenses, of course, they will pay a mediation fee to the mediator (typically a flat fee per party for a day of mediation). Comparatively, mediation is significantly less expensive. But perhaps most importantly, mediation also reduces the “quality of life” costs.