Where to Start

No matter where or what kind of dispute you’re in, you can always choose to mediate.  You may have a long-simmering inter-party dispute, a fully engaged legal action, or you just see trouble on the horizon.  There is always an opportunity to alter the trajectory with mediation.

Below are suggestions for where to start based on where you might be in a dispute.


Active Litigation – I’m in a legal dispute – filings for legal action have been made and/or a trial is pending.  Potential-Litigation. I’m in a legal dispute, but no formal filings have been made.  Legal Consultation. I’m in a dispute, and talking to an attorney but have taken minimal or no formal legal action.
Active Dispute (non-legal). I’m in a Dispute, and considering getting legal advice.  I’m not sure if that’s the way to go, but it’s tempting.  Negotiation Impasse. I’m at an impasse with another party (ies) on a matter. I don’t see this as needing to be a legal fight, but we’re definitely stuck. We’re in a very difficult situation and not sure what to do next.  Degraded Interaction. I’m in a difficult situation and not quite sure what to do next.

Buttons above go to below options:

  1. Active Litigation. If you are in a somewhat or fairly advanced legal dispute, as your attorney has probably already told you, the vast majority of civil litigation does not go to trial – it settles.  Litigation may have made sense as a starting point, but it doesn’t usually end in a trial.  The key questions to ask yourself are:
    1. How deep in do I want to go if it’s more likely we’ll settle anyway?  The more time spent on litigation, the more expense and risk for everyone.*
    1. Am I really willing to take the bet that I will win?  
    1. How much is the time worth that I can save by mediating?
    1. If I decide it’s worth mediating, how can persuade the other party to mediate?

*The biggest challenge to address with legal cases is sometimes the amount of energy and expense that has already been invested into the dispute. 

  • Potential-litigation. If you’re at the beginning of a legal dispute – more focused on legal communications, etc. – this is a good opportunity to evaluate, working with your attorney what the road map to a legal dispute might look like and how it could be kept to a minimum through mediation.  We will work with attorneys to evaluate the circumstances.  The attorney will provide a legal context, and we will work together to approach the dispute from the most efficient way possible given where you are.
  • Legal Consultation. I’m talking to an attorney.  Continue talking to the attorney, and call me.  If you’re in early stages, chances are you’re mostly evaluating your legal leverage rather than determining the most efficient way to resolve the dispute. 
  • Active Dispute. I’m in a dispute and not sure what to do.  Call me now. This is an ideal time to call a mediator. When a dispute first arises, often the first question one asks is – should I get a lawyer?  People want to know – how can I win this dispute as quickly as possible?  Often, it’s much quicker to resolve a problem than win a dispute.  Why?  The other party is actually working with you rather than against you. As impossible as this may seem, it’s the essence of why mediation so often provides such a big payoff.  Each party knows that they have to solve the other person’s problem in order to solve their own.  And again, yes, some people are not capable of engaging in such a process, but many more are capable than you think.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of a structured environment and a little guidance.

This doesn’t mean that there aren’t legal questions to address.  But in mediation, as needed, they can be addressed in the context of efficient resolution rather than expensive battle. The underlying question is – how can I resolve it? What’s most important to he key question is – what’s the legal question at hand. I partner with various What an attorney will often do is assist a party in assessing their legal obligations and

  • Negotiation Impasse. Pending completion. Includes potential for negotiation consultation and dispute resolution coaching.
  • Degraded Interaction. Pending Completion. Includes potential for negotiation consultation and dispute resolution coaching.

For certain dispute situations, such as longer-term relationship/interaction problems (“bad blood”), I may suggest or even require dispute resolution training and or coaching for key parties as part of the mediation process.  This is not only a great opportunity to resolve a dispute, but to gain specific skills in dispute resolution.