Facing a legal disagreement, you find yourself wondering if you should take it to court or try to sit down and work out an agreement.
Litigation? Or mediation?
Well, you don’t necessarily have to choose. In fact, in most Minnesota lawsuits, you don’t get to choose. That’s because nearly every court requires parties to try to settle their case in mediation (or another form of alternative dispute resolution, though it’s almost always mediation) before the case goes to judge or jury.
Mediation is required because courts figured out long ago that with a little help from a mediator, parties can usually come up with a better solution than the court can, and they can do it faster, for less money, and with less rancor. So, what makes mediation a successful and satisfying option for many disputing parties? Let’s take a look.
A Safe and Controlled Environment
One main difference between mediation and litigation is the environment. Litigation is driven by lawyers, who have to follow rules that control not only what information they’re allowed to present to the judge or jury, but the way that information can or can’t be presented. The judge’s job is to enforce those rules. In the context of court, there are good reasons for those rules (or at least most of them) but parties can feel like they’re not getting to tell their story — that the court isn’t hearing what’s most important to them.
In mediation, those rules don’t apply. Parties can focus on the pieces of their dispute that matter most to them. The mediator will ask questions to guide the discussion, to help the parties reconsider what’s important and why. The mediator wants to keep the parties from getting too far off-topic, but the mediator also doesn’t have to worry about the Rules of Evidence. That leaves the parties free to decide what they need to work through so they can consider an agreement.
For many people, the informal atmosphere of mediation allows them to relax and approach the discussions more openly and productively. Without a judge or jury, the parties are often more inclined to speak directly to one another to negotiate a mutually acceptable outcome.
Focusing on a Common Goal
In litigation, the parties strive to make their cases in front of the judge. Ultimately, the judge issues a ruling and sides with one of the parties. In mediation, however, the parties themselves directly shape the outcome. What they say in mediation is confidential and can’t be used against them in court. So instead of working hard to show who has the better case or trying to show how wrong the other side is, the parties can listen to one another, compromise, and negotiate to arrive at a common goal. This collaborative process often preserves—and sometimes strengthens—key relationships, setting a solid foundation for future communication and negotiation.
Assuming an Active Role
While litigation puts the authority in the judge’s hands, mediation encourages the parties to assume active roles during every phase of the negotiation process. The mediator does not take sides nor issue a ruling. Rather, the mediator serves as a facilitator to promote open, honest, and productive communication between the parties. Should an issue arise, the mediator can step in and offer suggestions for working through the matter and moving forward with improved communication. As the parties themselves determine the terms of the agreement, they tend to feel more satisfied with the outcome than they would in traditional litigation.
Learn more about how the mediation process works in Minneapolis and St. Paul by calling Rubric Legal LLC today at (612) 465-0074.