The answer to this question — like the answer to many questions lawyers are asked — is “it depends.” There are several ways to get to a resolution of a legal dispute. Litigation and mediation are probably the two most common, and it’s worth remembering that they aren’t mutually exclusive. In Minnesota, courts require the parties in most cases to attempt mediation. And if you decide to try mediation before starting a lawsuit, litigation is still an option if you aren’t able to reach an agreement.
So what might make mediation a better fit for your case?
Mediation Encourages Active Participation
When you go to court, the process is controlled by the judge and the lawyers. Lawyers present their arguments and evidence — to the extent the rules of court (and the judge) allow them — and the judge or jury decides who is right (or at least who wins based on the law). As a party, you will probably testify, but otherwise you have little input into or control over what’s happening.
On the other hand, a guiding principle of mediation is the parties’ self-determination. A mediator guides the process and the discussion, but there aren’t rules of evidence that restrict what the parties can say, and the mediator doesn’t make any decisions. There doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser; you and the other party are free to be creative in searching for solutions. That makes mediation a good fit for parties who want some control over their outcomes. It’s not such a good fit if one or both of the parties want so much control that they can’t compromise.
Mediation Requires Listening and Collaboration
In mediation, the mediator will lay out some ground rules and remind the participants that successful negotiations rely on open communication and a willingness to work together. Once the parties begin to listen to each other, they often start to see common interests. Building from that commonality, they usually find that they can reach a mutually satisfactory compromise. Ultimately, both parties walk away from the process feeling more optimistic about the outcome, as they played an active role in shaping the resolution. While litigation often concludes with one party prevailing over the other, mediation ends when both parties arrive at a shared outcome. This makes mediation a particularly appropriate approach when you want to preserve an ongoing relationship with the other party.
Laying the Groundwork for Future Conversations
Even if the mediation process does not work this time, the parties have at least laid the groundwork for future negotiations and conversations. If they shift over to litigation, that groundwork may lay the foundation for a future settlement. And even if it doesn’t, both parties come out of mediation with a better understanding of both their own case and their opponent’s.
Learn more about the mediation process in Minneapolis and St. Paul by calling Rubric Legal LLC today at (612) 465-0074.