In a previous blog entry, we addressed the converse question to this one. Mediating with lawyers present is the predominant model outside of family law; and for family law outside of Massachusetts, it is far more common than the opposite. Despite the fact that most domestic relations mediation in this state proceeds without lawyers present, there are a number of good reasons why lawyers “in the room” can be advantageous. Inside or out, we always encourage a relationship with counsel throughout the mediation process.
The positive aspects of direct, present legal representation during mediation sessions that we will discuss here are that mediation with lawyers presents offers a quicker process, provides immediate opportunity for input on technical and strategic questions and one in which some clients feel more “supported”.
The reason that lawyer-attended mediation may be speedier than the alternative is that sessions tend to be scheduled for longer durations, such as half or whole day of time (as compared to roughly two-hour sessions spaced a week or more apart). The process is more intensive, intently focused and dependent as much or more on communications of counsel than on those of the parties themselves. Many cases that otherwise might involve several events resolve in one or two sessions, when lawyers participate directly.
The lawyers’ presence at mediation often occurs in a “caucus” style format. Clients have significant time alone with their lawyers to discuss questions about law, potential outcomes in court and strategy. Even when the mediation proceeds with everyone in the same room, there is time allotted for “breakout” sessions with counsel. That is one reason why we have multiple conference rooms. For some clients, this is ready access is preferable to consultation with counsel between sessions.
Finally, for some clients who do not wish to litigate, but do not feel entirely comfortable advocating for themselves, there is comfort in having a lawyer attend the mediation and speak principally for the client. Such a party might find mediation without counsel present to feel too personally confrontational; and other clients simply feel that the process is not “protective” enough without the active involvement of lawyers. Confidence in the capacity for effective communication is important.
For those people for whom the foregoing benefits outweigh those that we discussed in the earlier posting might want to consider a lawyer-attended mediation.