You thought mediators were neutral? Well, they are. Or should be. I’m talking about how you can get a mediator to work for you, and help you accomplish your goals. (NOTE: For the sake of readability, I’m going to assume the mediator, like me, is male).
The answer to the question posed in my headline is threefold. 1) Coach him. 2) Tell him what you need from him. 3) Put him to work. Let’s look at each tactic individually.
Coach Your Mediator.
The most effective attorneys I work with are the ones who are continually coaching me throughout the mediation process. They send me position statements before the mediation. They often suggest that I meet with them and their client before the mediation. They generally do whatever it takes to educate me on their position, and their case as a whole.
Remember: In general, your mediator is only as good as the information he has to work with. Sometimes, attorneys treat me like a mushroom. They keep me in the dark. They withhold important information, or tell me only part of the story — keeping me on a “need to know” basis.
Of course, that’s their prerogative. But I would suggest that it’s not the best approach. If you can’t trust your mediator, you shouldn’t hire him in the first place.
On the other hand, if you do trust your mediator, you should offer him as much information as you can. The most effective attorneys I work with send me a steady stream of information prior to, and during, the day of the mediation. They constantly remind me of relevant facts, laws and anything else that strengthens or supports their position or case. They want to have me advocating their position to the other side, and it works! So coach up your mediator and put him to work for you.
Tell Your Mediator What You Want Him To Do.
Share your goals with him. Your mediator can be a tool you use to achieve good results for your client. Share your monetary goals with him.
That said, I’m not suggesting you share your Last Resort position with him at the start of mediation. But do consider sharing your Best Case objective. Start a dialogue with him about what would be a good and fair result of mediation. Ask his opinion as to whether or not your goals are realistic. The earlier you share this information with the mediator, the sooner he can feel-out the other side to determine if your goals are realistic.
And Put Him To Work.
Remember: Your mediator works for you. If you’re a good boss, treat him like you treat one of your employees. Direct him. Give him feedback. Re-direct him when he gets off course. Make sure he’s doing what you want him to do.
The lawyers who typically get the best results in their mediations are the ones who intentionally educate me, coach me up, and make sure that I’m working for them throughout the entire process. If you aren’t already using these tactics, I’d recommend you consider using them in your next mediation.
Can He Be On Both Sides At Once?
Absolutely. It just means that the attorneys for both sides are using these 3 tactics. It actually allows the mediation to occur optimally when both sides employ the strategy.