A highly effective and less stressful alternative to ongoing litigation, mediation may give you and the opposing party the opportunity to reach a settlement without ever having to see the inside of a courtroom. You’ll both select a mediator who is impartial and will be able to ensure that the meeting runs smoothly. A mediation is always closed, meaning the discussions during mediation are private and cannot be used in court if the matter isn’t resolved in mediation.
There may be several reasons you might want to try to resolve a legal matter in mediation. It might be that you would prefer to attempt to resolve the matter sooner than later. Maybe you’d rather keep the matter private and confidential, rather than airing ‘dirty laundry’ in the courtroom. Mediations are also mandatory in Alberta and required before a court date, unless the courts grant an exemption. Best case scenario? Everything gets resolved. Worst case? You’ll have to proceed with litigation.
Mediation 101: Here’s what to expect.
Before meeting, both parties will agree on a neutral third-party mediator. The mediator may be a lawyer or another trained professional. The mediator does not take sides, make decisions, or give any legal advice. Their role is to keep the peace. Your lawyer may participate and attend mediation meetings.
- Before mediation starts, both parties may sign a mediation agreement. This agreement will outline the matters to be discussed, what they will happen if you are unable to reach a settlement, and more. This step is mandatory.
- Prior to meeting, your lawyer will prepare something known as a ‘mediation brief’ on your behalf. This document will include your position along with any documents, statements, or laws that may be relevant to the mediation. The mediation brief will be served to the other party’s lawyer and the mediator before the scheduled mediation. The other party will also prepare their own mediation brief. Your mediator will read both briefs to familiarize themselves with your case.
- On the day of your mediation, you should bring any documents that your lawyer or mediator has requested (most likely your lawyer will have everything you need), and a notebook and pen to take notes. Your lawyer may want to meet with you beforehand to prepare you for the mediation.
- You can expect and should be prepared to be at the meeting all day – you may need to make arrangements with work, childcare, or any other obligations you might normally have on that day.
- During the mediation, both parties and lawyers may be in the same room or break off into separate rooms to allow the mediator to discuss settlement offers with both of you separately.
- At the end of the meeting, if a settlement is not reached, parties may agree to meet again and continue to work towards a resolution. There is no limit on how many mediation meetings may be needed. The number of meetings depends entirely on the number and complexity of issues, the amount of documentation there is to review, the willingness of both parties to communicate and cooperate, and how quickly they are able to make decisions.
- After each meeting, both parties will have the opportunity to meet with their lawyers individually in order to discuss next steps.
- If a settlement is reached, a legally binding verbal agreement is usually made. The lawyers will ensure that both parties understand and agree to the terms and conditions, and they will sign the agreement at the mediation.
There you have it: the lowdown on what mediation is and what you can expect. Have questions about mediation or your claim? It won’t cost you anything to speak with a lawyer here at Litco Law. We’re just a call or email away (or send us a message in the chat, if you prefer).