Mediation – What Happens at a Mediation Meeting?

The mediator typically begins mediation with a joint session that serves to educate him and uncover any areas of agreement. This is also the time when disputants may wish to supply any documentation that will be helpful in the process.

Many disputes involve a great deal of emotion that can make it difficult to communicate with the other side. The mediator can help ease this by encouraging disputants to share information privately in a session called caucusing.

The Joint Session

Many mediations begin with a joint session in which the mediator encourages each party to introduce themselves, discuss what they believe are the facts and their desired outcome of the dispute. The mediation participants often include attorneys, the disputants themselves and their representatives (typically human resources managers or senior corporate officers).

Attorneys worry that their clients will blurt out something embarrassing, damaging or even threatening. They also think the other side won’t listen and are certain they will hear nothing new.

Brainstorming creative options is richest in joint sessions and it is the best forum for each party to explain why their position on the issues in important. This is particularly true for cases where the issue of relationship repair is an issue or when the disputants have the same customers or business associates who must be brought into the resolution process. The mediator will typically move to a stage of separate meetings with each party known as caucuses when the exchanges in the joint session begin to generate more heat than light.

The Separate Session

Whether you’re in person or participating by videoconference or teleconference, mediations begin with the mediator’s introduction and an opportunity for each side to describe their concerns. If you have a lawyer with you at the mediation, they will often give opening remarks on your behalf.

After the opening session, mediators will usually have private meetings with each party known as caucuses. These are a great way for each side to explain their position in detail and allow the mediator to ask questions that can serve to dispel any myths or misconceptions. The information revealed in a caucus is confidential and will not be shared when the parties reconvene in a joint session.

Some mediators will skip the joint session altogether and move directly to caucuses for fear that the high emotions generated in a joint session may interfere with settlement efforts. This approach is sometimes useful, however, particularly when there is a concern that the imbalance of power in a dispute could be an impediment to resolution.

The Final Session

At the end of the mediation session, if an agreement is reached on any or all of the issues in dispute, the mediator will draft out a possible settlement for you and your school to sign. If you decide not to agree, or if the mediator declares an impasse on all of the issues in dispute, mediation will be terminated.

You and your school might choose to continue with the process, or you might decide to go back to court to have a judge or jury make a decision on your case. Whatever decision is made, you should leave the mediation with a clear idea of how the outcome might affect you and your school’s relationship in the future.

Before the mediation begins, you and your school should consider putting together any information that you believe is relevant to the issue at hand. It is not unusual for participants to prepare for mediation by identifying their bottom lines, but you should be prepared for a flexible approach to the issues in the dispute.

The Resolution

After opening remarks, the mediator will ask the parties to discuss their positions and identify key issues. After an open discussion, the mediator will likely have private sessions with each party (caucus). During this time, the mediator will question the parties’ positions, probe into and challenge them and help the parties pay attention to the other side’s position. The mediator will also ask each party to think about options for resolution.

It is important that both parties be prepared to offer proposals, counter-proposals, and suggestions for resolving the dispute. The mediator will move back and forth between the teams in a process known as shuttle diplomacy. This is intended to build a settlement that meets each party’s core interests while addressing the other parties’ concerns.mediation meeting

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