By Mediator Lee Wallace
One of the most difficult things for clients to understand about mediation is that it is not the true, final day of the lawsuit. Hopefully, at the end of the day the clients will have agreed on all of the major issues, but there still will be details that the attorneys have to clear up.
When the euphoria of the settlement wears off, clients who do not know what to expect may find themselves dissatisfied with the pace — and you, their lawyer. Even when you have worked tirelessly on the client’s case and achieved an extraordinary result, you may find you have an unhappy client on your hands.
The best way to avoid this trap is to explain to the client in advance what happens after the mediation. Here are four things to tell your client about what happens after mediation.
1 — You’re going to sign one agreement today — and another one later.
The goal of mediation is to settle the case. If the mediation is successful, then while everyone is still at the mediation, as the mediator, I will write down a very basic outline of the agreement. Everyone will sign that agreement.
But usually the parties also will need a more detailed agreement than we can flesh out in the late afternoon as the mediation is concluding. Typically the lawyers go back to their offices and over the next few days hammer out the legal details and write up a much more detailed, final agreement. The plaintiff and possibly the defendant (depending on the case) will sign that agreement, too.
2 — You will get your check, but not right away.
If you represent the plaintiff, your client is going to want to know how soon he will receive his check. You want to get an answer from the defendant about when the check will be sent, but make sure that your client understands that you probably will not be able to write him a check on the same day you get the one from the defendant.
Point out that, if the check is large, the bank is going to put a several-day hold on the funds. And if you need to negotiate liens and make payments to medical providers, that process adds time. You also may need to get in final bills from court reporters, experts, and litigation support services before you can know exactly how much the client will get. And when you have the final numbers, your bookkeeper will need time to reconcile the final statement and cut the checks.
3 — The lawsuit will be dismissed, but not immediately.
If you represent the defendant, he will be wondering when the lawsuit will actually go away. Let him know that the parties will need to finalize the agreement and the plaintiff will need to get the check before the dismissal gets filed. So while the dismissal is coming, it may not happen for several days or even weeks.
After you negotiate a great deal at mediation, keep your client happy by explaining what will happen after the mediation, and by giving them a realistic timeline.
What Attorneys Are Saying About Mediating with Lee:
“Lee had the intellect necessary to get a really difficult case settled even where the odds were stacked against her. I would use Lee to mediate any of my cases.”
“Lee helped get a case settled that I never would have imagined would have settled that day when I walked into that mediation. Opposing counsel and I had drastically different views of the case, as did our clients. Yet, with Lee’s knowledge, experience, and preparation, she was able to lead us to a resolution that my clients were satisfied with. I look forward to using Lee again in the future!”
“Lee’s calm reasoning and creative solutions helped us to resolve a challenging case when one side was willing to walk away and the other side would not budge on their number. She worked hard to find a compromise when none seemed possible.”
“Lee brings to her mediations a wealth of experience from which all parties can draw. Her impressive ability to marry the case facts to negotiation strategy aided in the just resolution of our case.”
“Lee was prepared, having read all the documentation I had forwarded her pre-mediation, and she did an outstanding job in getting a difficult case settled. I look forward to using BAY Mediation and Lee in the future.”
“Lee Wallace helped us resolve a case that I did not believe could be resolved. As an initial challenge we had multiple parties, several of whom had to join by remote video conference. The details of the case were also challenging [and] there were widely disparate views regarding case value. Lee was resolute, objective, and prepared. While her 30 years of trial experience and breadth of knowledge on a variety of legal issues were invaluable, her kind and logical demeanor got this case resolved. I must confess at one point I was ready to storm off myself in frustration at the other party, but Lee encouraged me to stick with it and keep working. I’m so glad she did!”
“It was a pleasure working with Lee T. Wallace during the mediation process. She pushed both sides to continue to fight through the process and not give up. And because of her vigorous determination I was able to settle my client’s claim to their satisfaction.”
“Lee did an effective and efficient job getting this case to a successful resolution. She takes a low key approach to make sure each side does not feel undue pressure to increase their offer or decrease their demand. I will definitely use Lee for future mediations.”