How Long Will it Take?

Prior to the beginning of a session, the most often asked question is “how long will it take?” The short answer is very few mediations take more than one day. Some reach resolution in half a day.

To predict the amount of time a mediation will require is difficult. Several factors are:

1. Who will attend? As long as the one that writes the check and the one that accepts the check are present, the mediation progresses smoothly. Unfortunately, that is not always the case.

2. Are there more than two parties? If there are more than two parties, a lack of prior mediation experience or a high level of emotion will impact the amount of time for a successful mediation. If an emotional charged party is present, they usually need to be heard. If rushed, the success of mediation may be jeopardized.

3. Do the parties trust their attorneys? Most mediations occur with parties that have a great relationship with their attorney, but that is not always the case. If the relationship has become noxious and the trust between the attorney and client has broken down, rebuilding this relationship may be necessary before settlement discussions are successful.

4. Complex cases always take more time. Disputed facts, differing opinions of case law, numerous legal issues and pending motions may require discussion or analysis that are complicated by multiple witnesses with differing recollection and disputed documents.

5. Is one of the parties seeking more than money? Remedies may include more than an exchange of money. In a courtroom setting, a judge has little discretion and can only award money. In mediation, creative resolution is possible that may involve more than just the exchange of money.

6. Are others impacted that are not part of the mediation? Resolution may require the consent of others if they are impacted by resolution.

7. Are there unanticipated settlement terms? They rarely occur, but when they do, resolution is slowed. Last minute demand for an apology or items such as payment terms, deadlines and confidentially often involve time-consuming negotiation.

Litigation is expensive and the cost of mediation pales in comparison so presetting a minimal amount of time for mediation is usually counterproductive. Resolution is more likely when the parties plan for a sufficient amount of time. Parties that feel they have not been heard because time is short, results in dissatisfied clients and a likelihood of an unsuccessful mediation.

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Sherman successfully mediated a complex construction defect case just before the scheduled jury trial. Sherman arrived with a full understanding of the conflicting experts’ opinions and insurance issues, which made settlement nearly impossible. His construction background definitely focused the parties critical claim issues. His litigation background supplemented my clients understanding of the risks of going to trial. He interacted with clients well and used his mediation techniques effectively. I would definitely use Sherman again as a mediator.

~ Thomas Bigsby – Attorney

Knight Dispute Resolution