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Preparing Your Client for Mediation

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Preparing Your Client for Mediation

Source: Daily Report
Date: September 1, 2017

Hon. Melvin K. Westmoreland, Senior Judge

Resolution Centers

eport   aily  aily eport  a smart read for smart readers PRESENTED BY JAMS Friday , September 1, 2017 Preparing your Client for Mediation MEl WESTMoRE l AND Many clients have never partici- pated in a mediation and it comes as a shock when they learn the pur- pose of the settlement conference is to conclude their case. However, once they understand the process, most clients prefer to end the mat- ter because they have grown tired of the cost and stress associated with litigation. The process works better if clients are told beforehand so they can emotionally prepare. It’s also important for the parties to under- stand they will have far more input into the resolution of their case through the mediation rather than in the courtroom. In mediation, the clients must agree to the outcome of the matter; whereas in trial, a judge or jury decides their fate. Just as a client should be emotion- ally ready to proceed with media- tion, typically it’s best to wait until enough discovery has been com- pleted to insure there is no informa- tion disparity. It also helps motivate settlement if the mediation occurs when the trial calendar looms on the horizon, but before the final trial preparation has begun. The vast majority of cases settle before trail, but the likelihood of that depends upon the counsellors and clients involved. Prepare clients to arrive with the expectation the case is going to be resolved that day . Sug- gest they listen with an open mind to what the other side has to offer. Once a client has been sufficiently prepared for what to expect and there has been a realistic discussion about their options for response, it’s equally important for the lawyer to prepare for the settlement confer- ence. Arrive with current financial information and the most recent settlement offers. Have a draft agreement on a computer that can be filled in, printed out and signed. If the parties and attorneys come to a mediation prepared to settle, it almost always will. If the client has unreasonable expectations, ask for a reality check to help them become more recep- tive to a resolution they can help formulate rather than one that will be dictated to them. If every- one makes a good faith effort to resolve the case it should settle. A good attorney wants the best pos- sible resolution for the client and an effective mediation can help achieve that result. Mel Westmoreland is a neutral with JAMS in Atlanta. He is highly regarded for his settlement skills in a broad range of law, especially business/commercial and family law matters. He can be reached at Reprinted from the 9/1/17 edition of the DAILY REPORT © 2017 JAMS/ALM Media Properties, LLC. All rights reserved. Further duplication without permission is prohibited. Contact: 877-257-3382, or visit 451-09-17-04