I graduated law school 28 years ago and was looking forward to a career in litigation. I had taken classes in evidence, civil procedure and trial advocacy and was excited about litigating my first trial. After a short period of time, I was handling my own trials, loving it. I enjoyed the details of putting together the evidence, preparing the witnesses and sparring with my opponent. I even enjoyed writing the briefs. But after 28 years of litigation experience, 28 years of parties waiting three years for a final Order, and 28 years of parties not receiving a full remedy, I realized that mediation offered more than a viable alternative to litigation.
In 2013, the Huffington Post ran an article on the cost of litigation and mediation in family law. The reality, at that time, was that the cost of mediation, including a consultation and a four hour session, cost approximately $500-$2,500 while litigation, including consultation, retainer, hearing appearances, and trial, cost approximately $32,700. Although the difference in cost is significant, it should not be a surprise. Litigation takes longer and it involves multiple layers of steps. On the other hand, in most cases, mediation involves the parties and a trained neutral mediator meeting for several hours. You do the math.
More important than time and cost savings, I discovered that mediation allowed the parties to have an honest conversation about their dispute and reach a resolution that was agreeable to all. There was no judge finding for one party. Rather, the parties themselves were empowered to make their own resolution, something that both parties wanted.
In family matters, such as disputes involving the care of elderly relatives, family mediation rather than litigation, appears to be such a vital process that allows family members to reach a decision without further deterioration of their family relationship. Just imagine siblings arguing over the care and housing needs of their aging parents. Do you want a judge to decide your family issues? Do you want a judge to decide the guardianship of your mother? Through the mediation process, family members come together, not in a Kumbaya approach, but in a serious, honest manner to address the issues that are important to them. Mediation, rather than litigation or arbitration, provides an environment where families can communicate and find a resolution that is agreeable to all parties.
After 28 years of being a lawyer, I now approach all my cases with a mediator’s eye. I listen to both sides of a dispute with a goal of identifying the shared interests so that the parties can work toward a resolution that doesn’t involve the filing of a Complaint.