The mediator serves as a neutral third party who "doesn't have a dog in the fight" but is there to make sure that all involved have spent the time, energy and effort to make sure that going to Court is really what's in their best interest. Beth has been a lawyer since 1985, and makes it her job to clearly communicate with all parties the information she would want to have if she were in your shoes, needing to make a difficult decision.
You are encouraged to follow your attorney's advice, but unless special arrangements have been made ahead of time, arriving more than 15 minutes before our scheduled start time is discouraged. If you arrive earlier (particularly for afternoon mediations) the chances are good Beth may still be working on a case ahead of yours, leaving you to wait while she completes the earlier case.
This is a question we get a lot, and it's a great question. For better or worse, typically parties are still trying to figure out what they want to do (and more accurately, what they can live with) when they come to the table. It's important to let Beth do her job to make sure all pertinent questions have been answered for everyone involved so that the chances of settlement are truly fully explored.
Frankly, one of the most important things for you to keep in mind is this: Mediation is a process requiring a certain amount of patience to work. Beth truly understands that often by the time you get to mediation, you've already been through a lot of frustration and have spent a ton of time on a matter you believe should have been resolved a long time ago. Please know Beth will work as quickly as she feels she can to get the parties to a place where resolution is a possibility.
And know this too, if negotiations are going in such a way as to appear to her that your efforts in mediation are going to be futile, she will not hesitate to pull the plug and call an impasse. What this means is if Beth is still working, she's of the opinion that settlement may still be obtainable. Please hang in there.
It's possible that you may participate in a general opening session that would include the mediator, your lawyer, the other side (or the other side's representative, such as their insurance adjuster) and opposing counsel. These opening sessions are typically brief (lasting from five to fifteen minutes generally speaking). It is rarely required that you as a party are asked to say anything or required to relate to the other side other than to communicate the most basic common greetings (by this we mean "good morning" or "hello again" or something along these lines). You will not be required to discuss your case or answer any questions unless this has been agreed to ahead of time. Please know Beth will talk with you before you go in so you are prepared for what she anticipates happening.
Absolutely. Beth will in fact remind you of that right and at any time, either you or your attorney are free to ask her to give you a few minutes alone to talk privately.
It depends entirely on the materials your attorney and the other side provide her. The lawyers are asked to send us information five days ahead of when we meet. When they are unable to do so, before she begins your negotiations, Beth makes a point to hear from you and your lawyer the important aspects of your case so she's able to effectively communicate your perspective to the other side right off the bat.
This depends on the complexity of your case and the amount of time your attorney has agreed is needed. Most simple cases (such as a relatively straight-forward, two party auto accident) are resolvable in a half day or less. More complex cases (serious personal injuries, business disputes, employment law matters) require more time and accordingly, are typically scheduled for a full day.
But without regard to the time reserved, please know Beth will keep working as long as she can if it looks likely that more time spent negotiating may result in the parties leaving mediation with a deal in hand.
Also, be aware that on occasion, the parties decide that a follow-up session may be necessary to complete the negotiations. If possible, Beth attempts to complete these negotiations over the phone so that you will not have to personally return to our offices.
In our offices no one has ever complained there was nothing to eat. For half-day mediations, we provide spring water, various drinks, healthy (and not-so-healthy) snacks, along with a generous bowl of fruit.
For full day cases, we also provide the parties with lunches we order from Jason's Deli. If you have food allergies or are on a special diet, please let Angie Maze (Beth's assistant) know this on arrival. That way, we can order something you like and can eat. (Of course, if you are diabetic or have special food issues, please feel comfortable bringing your own snacks. There are refrigerators in each of our conference rooms for your convenience.)
First, our conference rooms are for the most part outfitted with ergonomically designed Herman Miller Aeron chairs that are specifically suited for sitting for long periods of time. However, if our chairs are not comfortable for you, please let Angie know, and she will help find another chair in our offices that may suit you better.
Second, if you are concerned that physical pain may become a problem for you during a mediation, please speak to your lawyer ahead of time about the wisdom of your taking pain-killers, etc. As the mediator, Beth wants you to be as comfortable as possible, but does not want medications (prescription or otherwise) to impact your decision-making skills.
Typically, Beth writes up what's referred to as a Rule 11 Agreement. Your lawyer is responsible to review it, making whatever changes he or she deems necessary and important to your resolution. Once you sign this agreement (which you will not be asked to do until you've had a chance to read it over and ask any question you may have) it is binding on the parties and is enforceable in a court of law.
Beth uses her best judgment to determine what needs to happen after an impasse is reached. She will talk candidly with you and give you her assessment of what possibly can happen next, offering you the good news, the bad news or the "I really can't say right now" news. She will not sugar-coat anything.
No, she will not. She will only communicate to the Court whether a case has been settled or if it has not. In special circumstances, when no deal has as yet been reached but she feels more time to work on your case is warranted, she may ask the Court for an extension of time so as to allow her the opportunity to see if we can still possibly get an out-of-court deal on your case.