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When you have been sued or are ready to sue someone, inevitably you feel wronged and angry. In filing a lawsuit, you are about to embark on a long, emotionally wrenching process: litigation. One option you have, which you may not be aware of, is mediation. It’s a process in which you and your lawyer, if you have one, agree with the other disputing parties and their lawyers to hire a mediator. Mediation can be used before or after filing a lawsuit.

A mediator is a trained, third party, who is neutral. She structures the discussion to help all participants listen to each other, identifies the issues, constructs an agenda, analyzes the alternatives as well as the barriers to settlement, and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. She encourages them to ask questions of each other and assists them to think creatively about possible solutions.
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spacer Among the benefits of mediation are:

It’s a voluntary process. You, the parties, decide to try it and participate as long as you think it’s productive. You can stop mediating whenever you think it’s no longer working.

The mediator does not decide the case. The mediator helps you, and your lawyer if you have one, brainstorm about possible solutions, but you decide what the settlement, if any, should be. The mediator is not a judge or an arbitrator.

It’s faster and less expensive than litigation. You can use mediation as early in a dispute as you wish as long as the other parties agree to try it. Often you will know within a few hours if you are making progress. Litigation can take years before a settlement is reached.

It’s informal and confidential. There are no rules of evidence. The mediator helps organize the discussion. Everyone at the mediation, including the mediator, signs an agreement that what is said at the mediation is confidential. There are rare exceptions to confidentiality. All the participants must agree to them unless it is court-ordered.

Some cases are not right for mediation, but in every case the parties and their lawyers should think about whether mediation would be useful.
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