Aren’t Mediators as expensive as Lawyers?

Dear Ms. Allison: I thought about mediation for my business dispute, but in researching mediators, some cost as much as lawyers. It looks like I’d just be spending my same money on a mediator instead of a lawyer. Where’s the cost savings? MRP, Denver

Dear MRP:

Great question. Really experienced private mediators may indeed have the same, or significantly higher, hourly rates as lawyers. The savings are in the avoidance of court costs, pursuing a lawsuit, and the huge amount of time saved when you mediate rather than litigate.

If you sue (or are sued by someone else) you usually hire a lawyer to represent you. You pay that lawyer to investigate your side of the issue (discovery), create the papers and forms that must be filed in court, file them, depose (interview) witnesses, appear in court on your behalf, attend meetings with you and the other side, keep up with the documentation and filings as ordered by the court, and, if you do not “win”, to carry out the appeal process, etc. This, most often, takes years. The court schedules (dockets) are full, cases may be more complex than first thought, or as the confrontation escalates, one or both parties may become unwilling to settle. It is not wrong to want to sue but it is substantially more expensive than mediation.

Private mediation, on the other hand, is usually accomplished within a day for most cases. Only the most complex cases ordinarily require more than one day. Some of those can go on for weeks, but in those cases you cannot even fathom how long the court case would go on. You pay the mediator only for the hours she is working on your case. She may ask for documents from both sides, review them, hold the mediation, oversee generating and signing of the written settlement agreement and then everything is done. From start to finish it is a matter of days, rarely weeks vs years in court. Please bear in mind that, generally, for both court and mediation types of resolution you will also have your own lawyer because you are resolving legal disputes. Thus most often, mediation is not a way to avoid having a lawyer.

Since the pandemic, mediators around the world have gone to the video conference format for sessions. It is a startling effective venue for mediation. Further large savings can be achieved when your mediator works by video conference, because there is no travel time, mileage and lodging costs, room rental fees, or other meeting expenses. You just log in from the comfort of your home or office and are sent to a virtual “room” the mediator provides. The mediator goes from room to room getting everyone’s input and assuring all parties are fully informed. Next, she negotiates the agreement from the settlement options the parties generate and most agreements are signed with a computer signature verification program like DocuSign, Acrobat or e-Verify.

Even if you bring your own lawyers to your mediation (which is recommended), their hours working on your matter are greatly reduced for not having to prepare for and conduct a trial. Thus, you save money there as well.

With a professional mediator, you should also end up with that aforementioned written agreement that is as enforceable as a contract.

Agreed, if you cannot resolve it yourself, you are going to have to pay someone to resolve your dispute. Mediation is the far more cost-effective way to do it. Call me if I can help. I am available for mediation country-wide.

That’s your question, Asked and Answered. My best to you,
Gale Allison, Mediator

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