No one enjoys being involved in a legal dispute. Even lawyers tend to avoid these unless they are getting paid to turn up. Having a legal problem is a lot like having a sore tooth. You didn’t ask for it, you don’t want to spend money on it, and it would be great if it would just go away. Unfortunately, as my dentist often reminds me, these things hardly ever go away by themselves. If you have to deal with a dispute, it’s best to do it quickly, before things get any worse. Dealing with the problem quickly will save you a whole lot of stress, and a whole lot of money.
Usually, the person you are in the dispute with is not any happier than you are with the situation. It doesn’t matter who started the dispute, or who is threatening to go to Court over it, I will bet you that everyone involved would rather be doing something else. Unfortunately, even when no one wants to continue with a dispute, sometimes neither person wants to be the first to make an offer. This could be because people are angry with each other, it could be because people think they will look weak if they make the first move, and sometimes it’s just that people do not know where to start.
This is why mediation is worth a try. If you suggest mediation, you are not offering anything. There is a really good chance that the other person will secretly be relieved that you have suggested this and they will jump at the opportunity.
Once you have agreed to mediate, you need to find a good mediator and a suitable venue. I can help you there.
So, now that arrangements are in place and a date has been set, how do you prepare for mediation? Here’s a few tips.
Don’t worry too much about what will happen.
One great thing about mediation is that the process is confidential. You can have an open discussion, and even make offers to settle the dispute, without having to worry that what you say will be used against you later. Another great thing about mediation is that the mediator cannot impose any result on you. There is no judge or jury making decisions about your case. There will only be a result if you and the other person in the dispute agree on exactly what will happen. In other words, you cannot “lose” a mediation.
I know this is obvious, but good preparation is essential.
Even though you can’t lose, you still want to be well prepared, because this gives you the best chance of getting a fair settlement and being able to move on from the dispute. Going in to a mediation, you need to know:
- What are the main issues to be discussed?
- What do you want to say about those issues?
- What do you want to achieve?
- What are your alternatives if the dispute is not resolved?
If you can explain your position clearly, and the other person can do the same, you will at least get a pretty good idea of where you stand. You might be closer to a solution than you thought. If not, at least you’ll know what you are dealing with.
Consider getting some advice
No one ever goes to buy car without doing a bit of research first. Even if you are great at negotiating with user car dealers, you will not know whether you have been offered a good deal unless you know what your other options are. Mediation is no different, except that if a dispute has gone to mediation, it’s probably about something far more serious and important than which car to buy.
You can only assess whether the deal on offer is a good one if you know what your other options are. You need to have an idea of what will happen if you cannot resolve the dispute and what opportunities, risks and costs may be involved. Even though it will add a bit to your costs, it might be worthwhile to talk to a lawyer for an hour or two just to find out where you stand.
Remember that you can control this process
Mediation starts when everyone is ready and continues until someone decides it’s time to stop. The process is flexible. If you need time to consider an offer, or if you just need a cigarette or a cup of coffee, you can tell the mediator that you need a break. If you don’t think it’s a good idea to be in the same room as the other person, you can ask your mediator to speak to each person privately. If you think there’s nothing further you can achieve on the day but you want to come back another day, you can ask for that too.
Mediation is a process that exists solely to help you find a solution, so make sure you give your mediator feedback throughout the day about how you are travelling and what you think would be helpful to you.
Mediation is not a perfect process, but it’s almost always the best approach to a dispute. A lot of people regret going to Court, but I don’t often hear anyone say they wish they hadn’t tried mediation first.
If you are unsure of whether mediation is the best approach to your situation, you can call me for a free, no obligation chat on 03 9998 9711.