Friday, May 16, 2008

Should The Mediator Have A Special Demeanor?

Your chance of getting a successful settlement with a mediator whose primary life experience was a law clerk or a judge in my view is very low. There are a lot of judges out there in the ADR world, perhaps because ADR started primarily in the arbitration context. However, mediation seems to be the dominant form of ADR now and rebuilding a business relationship is not an effort where a judgmental demeanor, particularly a legal one, is helpful.

The mediator has to be supportive of both sides and uncritical even while coaxing the parties to take a critical look at their positions. When dealing with the parties the mediator has to encourage the party to view the merits of his response to his opponent’s position by asking the party help the mediator formulate a persuasive position in reply not by expressing his opinion.

The mediator should not a have propensity to be directly critical of the lawyer’s legal position, particularly in front of his client. That is not easy for judges since that is their style. That is where the trial experience helps, since the mediator can reach back to relate his own unsuccessful effort in similar situation while agreeing that position has merit. The evaluative process is not judgmental, right or wrong, but a sharing of experiences among colleagues.

The mediator has to be perceived as someone trying to reach an accord that supports the interests of both parties. If he appears judgmental in tone or demeanor as well as explicit conduct, you might get a settlement, but it is not likely to be a successful settlement.

-Larry Salibra
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