Mediation: A Love/Hate Thing?

Part 1 of a 3-part series

“I hate mediation”

I recently attended a conference and was approached by an attorney that was entirely disillusioned with mediation. She “hated” mediation, did not care for the process and surprisingly had never attended a mediation that had resulted in anything other than impasse. This absolutely shocked me. The huge majority of mediations that I have participated in did result in negotiated settlement.

Several days passed and as her comments began to settle in, they troubled me more and more. My brain began that questioning process that keeps me up at night and wakes me before the sun is up. Was my experience the “norm” or was hers? Because I am a mediator, am I so vested in the process that I have failed to see how others perceive the process? Do lawyers feel forced to participate in a process in which they have little faith or confidence? What percentage of mediations end in impasse? Why do mediations end in impasse?

I turned to my computer and the internet for some answers. What I found is that the statistics are sketchy. Whether a case is “resolved” is a fuzzy concept. Was the case resolved prior to mediation and without the involvement of a mediator? Was it settled at a mediation conference? Was it resolved post-mediation due to the continued and ongoing negotiation of the parties and if so, with or without the assistance of the mediator? Was it settled on the courthouse steps?

I need to know. My thirst for answers has grown stronger. I want to hear from you. Let’s start this discussion with what you feel is lacking in the mediation process. What percentage of your mediations are ending in impasse? Why do you believe your mediations have ended in impasse? Share your stories with me. Are you disillusioned with mediation? Tell me why… Help me help myself…… Help me help you.

Sandra Upchurch

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