The Mediated Settlement Conference Program is designed to offer parties, with the help of their attorneys and a mediator, an opportunity and the support they need to settle their cases earlier. During a mediated settlement conference, the parties, their attorneys, and a mediator are required to sit down together to discuss the matters in dispute and to try and resolve them. The conference will typically occur relatively early in the litigation process, but after parties have had time to conduct discovery and learn about the case. The mediator is not a judge or arbitrator and will not tell the parties how to resolve their dispute. Instead, the mediator facilitates the meeting and acts as a coach and referee. It is the mediator’s job to keep the discussion focused and constructive with the goal of helping the parties arrive at their own terms for settlement. If the parties are able to resolve their dispute themselves, then an agreement will be drafted and their case will be dismissed.
Need for the Program When mediated settlement works and cases settle early, parties are spared the time and stress involved in protracted litigation and perhaps trial. In addition, there are other benefits. There is some, but not conclusive, evidence that lead many to believe that parties are saved money. When litigation does not drag on and attorneys do not have to prepare for trial, there will be cost savings. Also, when a judge makes a decision, someone wins and someone loses. Mediation offers parties the opportunity to create a win / win situation, where at least some, if not most or all, of the needs of each party are met. Lastly, parties have the satisfaction of knowing they cooperated and worked matters out on their own. This aspect of the process can be especially important in cases where the parties have not just legal, but relationship issues, e.g., relatives fighting over an estate, long-time friends dissolving a partnership, a small business and its long-time supplier locked in a contract dispute. When mediators are skillful and parties willing, grudges can be eliminated, hurt feelings salved, and relationships restored.