The American Arbitration Association reports that over 85% of all mediations result in a settlement. This is true even where all prior attempts at settlement have failed, where the parties are pessimistic about the prospects of settlement, and where the parties have spent substantial amounts of time and money preparing for a trial. So why does mediation work, when the parties have been unable to settle the case themselves? There are a number of reasons.
First, negotiations between parties or their attorneys may never take place without the assistance of a third party mediator. Attorneys often fear that the making of any "reasonable" settlement offer will be taken as a sign of weakness or will be used by the other side as the starting point for the next round of negotiations. Mediation provides a safe environment for negotiation because the mediator can control and direct the communications. In this fashion, unproductive discussions can be avoided and concessions or proposals will be communicated only if they are likely to lead to a settlement.
Second, in those cases where some negotiations have taken place, they are often unsuccessful because the parties lack essential negotiation skills. Attorneys are often more interested in posturing, than in resolving disputes. As a result, they often employ hard bargaining tactics which emphasize the differences in their positions rather than seeking a common ground for settlement. Since the mediator's job is to keep the parties focused on exploring productive avenues to settlement, posturing and hard bargaining are often reduced or eliminated.
Third, mediation provides the opportunity for all parties to meet at the bargaining table for the express purpose of discussing settlement. All decision-makers necessary to resolve a problem are normally present. These decision-makers, who otherwise may be unavailable or distracted by other business matters, are able to focus their entire attention on reaching a settlement.
Fourth, during the mediation session, each party is given the opportunity to directly educate and influence their opponents in the opening presentation. Important issues can be emphasized and facts can be presented in a more favorable light. Also, the intensity of a party's feelings or emotions can be conveyed. As a result, the mediation session normally provides each side with a more realistic view of the opposing position (one not filtered through lawyers) and often results in the consideration of settlement proposals that otherwise would have been rejected.
Fifth, mediation allows each side to "test market" a settlement proposal by privately conveying the proposal to the mediator in a caucus. Unless authorized to do so, the mediator will not convey the proposal to the other party. The mediator will, however, be able to receive confidential proposals from the other side. As a consequence, the mediator will be able to determine whether a proposal is feasible without actually disclosing it to the other side. This allows each side to fully explore settlement options without negotiating against themselves or appearing to "give in".
Sixth, mediation offers each party a "realistic" look at their case and what results they are likely to achieve in court or arbitration. As the parties become clear on what they can realistically expect to achieve, their positions on settlement become more reasonable and flexible.
Seventh, mediation assists the parties in developing options for settlement. The more options that are developed, the greater the chances of success. Experience demonstrates that attorneys often excel in developing facts that support their positions but bog down when it comes to developing settlement options. The mediator can assist the parties to clarify their real objective and to consider alternatives that might be overlooked by attorneys engaged in battle. For more information contact us HERE