By C. Stuart Mauney
Prefer to leave the courtroom drama to the "experts" on Law & Order?
Mediation, though not mentioned in John Grisham's latest legal thriller, is an alternative to the dramatic courtroom showdown. More and more, lawyers are specializing in alternative dispute resolution. Businesses have taken note. Last year, more than 1,000 disputes were resolved in South Carolina federal courts through out-of-court mediation, resulting in thousands of dollars saved and just as many headaches cured.
Traditional approaches to dispute resolution usually involve many painstaking and time-consuming steps, including:
* The filing of a lawsuit
* A time-consuming investigation
* Expensive discovery including depositions of the parties and the witnesses
* Motions filed with the court
And then there is the possibility of a jury trial. Imagine if after several years of trial investigation and court motions, the parties must also endure a jury trial with the very strong possibility that the verdict will be appealed to a higher court.
Mediation is an informal process in which a third-party mediator (most often an attorney) facilitates settlement discussions between the parties to a dispute.
The mediation process calls for parties to voluntarily work out their own agreement in an informal setting, with the mediator facilitating this collaboration. The mediator is neutral and impartial, acting to encourage the resolution of the dispute without specifically prescribing what the solution should be.
Resolution is voluntary, and if a dispute is not resolved, the parties lose none of their rights to trial by a judge or jury.
Consider the advantages of mediation:
* Parties to the dispute retain total control over the result and can terminate the mediation at any point.
* Parties have the flexibility to craft special settlement agreements.
* All interested parties can be brought together in a single negotiation session.
* Parties have the opportunity to make settlement proposals in a confidential setting.
* Mediation lacks the hostility of litigation, and it costs much less.
Mediation can be helpful in resolving many types of disputes, including cases in which a lawsuit has already been filed. Disputes for which mediation may be helpful include:
* Personal injury cases
* Landlord/tenant disputes
* Neighborhood disagreements
* Family/domestic disputes
* Business disputes
* Property cases
Mediation may never grace the pages of John Grisham's latest, nor is it likely to appear in any television legal drama. But for real people seeking less stressful and more affordable conflict resolution, it can't be beat.
Stuart Mauney, a Partner at Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A. (GWB), is a certified mediator. He concentrates his law practice in the defense of catastrophic injury claims, including the representation of trucking companies and long-term care facilities. For more information, visit www.gwblawfirm.com or call GWB at (864) 271-9580.