Mediation: A private, non-court alternative for dispute resolution (ADR) whereby a third person, with no personal interest in the outcome, helps disputing parties reach a mutually agreeable resolution of their dispute (that is, a settlement on their own terms).
For a variety of reasons, many people, especially when under stress resulting from conflict, cannot effectively interact with one another (such as negotiate), and likely cannot reach resolution of their disputes, without a disinterested person helping with the negotiation process. This is why mediation is often referred to as “assisted negotiation.”
So, when negotiations by disputing parties fail (or the parties do not care to try to negotiate on their own in the first place), the parties may voluntarily submit their dispute to an out-of-court mediator who may be able to lead them to find a solution to the dispute. That is, the mediator may help them settle the disputed matter on their own terms (importantly, a mediator has no authority to force a settlement, or even any individual term of settlement, on any party to a dispute).
For most disputes, mediation is the last available fully-voluntary resolution process, and the last opportunity to keep the dispute out of court and out of public awareness (the other most common options are to ignore the situation giving rise to a possible dispute, and direct party-negotiation and settlement).
Mediation is also, generally, the first method of dispute resolution by which the parties present their dispute to a disinterested, impartial, third party, without any requirement to reach a settlement, or even continue trying to reach a settlement (another approach of increasing popularity is to use an ombudsman). Mediation parties are free to cancel or leave their mediation at any time they choose.
Although mediation is fully voluntary, it should be kept in mind that if the parties fail to reach a settlement at mediation, the terms of which they would have jointly controlled, they may end up in front of a judge, a judge and jury, or an agreed arbitrator. At that point, unless the parties resolve their dispute during the arbitration or court litigation, any formal decision of the outcome of the dispute will be out of the control of the parties.
If you or your organization would like to explore mediation services, perhaps Judge Smith can help. Please call anytime, +1 (253) 649-5909, or email JudgeSmith@CommercialADR.com; please, no confidential information in emails).