Getting Ready for Mediation Series, Part 1
By Mediator Lee Wallace
There really is a secret ingredient that will help you get better results at every single negotiation! It isn’t hard, but then on the other hand, it’s also not taught in college, business school, law school or anywhere else. The secret sauce? Preparation.
I’m not just talking about getting your facts together so you know what to ask for. That sort of preparation definitely counts, but it’s only a start. To get ready for a mediation or a negotiation, you also need to get your client ready, you need to let your mediator know what to expect, and (this one may surprise you) you have to get the other side ready for the negotiation. In my next blog series, I will be breaking the process down into steps that you can use every time. You will decrease the stress of the negotiation process and increase your settlement rate.
So How Do You Prepare for Mediation?
Lawyers spend twenty years getting schooled on just about every topic that could possibly be of relevance in life or the practice of law. Every topic, that is, except the one that it turns out they need the most. Very few lawyers have had even one course on mediation or negotiation. Ironically, they quickly discover that the majority of their cases resolve by settlement or mediation.
Fortunately, the skills for being a great negotiator can be learned, and at any point in a lawyer’s career. The single most important lesson is how to prepare for a mediation or negotiation. Over the next few blogs, I will divide that topic down into four parts, and unpack each one.
1) — Preparing Your Client.
You want your client to arrive ready to settle the case — the actual case, not the one she wishes she had! It takes time for people to adjust their thinking, and many people have trouble making big shifts during the course of a one-day mediation. So give your client an honest, no-holds-barred evaluation of her case before mediation; make her aware of the good AND the bad AND the ugly about the case.
To help you as you prepare your client, I have prepared a booklet, What to Expect at Mediation. It’s free for lawyers, and it’s designed for you to hand to your client at your prep session. It does not substitute for your interaction with the client, but it will make it easier. The booklet answers the questions your client is likely to be wondering about. Download the booklet now.
2) — Preparing Yourself.
When you prepare for mediation, you want to think through what you will say in your opening statement. You will have three audiences, and your opening statement has to address the needs of all three. First, your client needs to know you are on her side and prepared for mediation and trial. Second, the mediator needs to understand your case so that she can present your best arguments to the other side. Third, the other side needs to be aware of the key facts in your favor, and you also want to impress upon them that you are serious and will be prepared for trial.
3) — Preparing the Other Side.
One of the critical elements of preparing for mediation is making sure the other side is ready. Sound counterintuitive? You want the other side to come ready to negotiate a settlement to your best case. If they are missing critical pieces of information, they may not be ready to settle the case you know you have. Surprises might work at trial, but if one side lacks information about the basic facts that affect the case value, it can be very difficult to settle the case.
4) — Preparing Your Mediator.
When I mediate a case, I tell the lawyers that I will be happy to read anything they send me in advance. Whether I learn the facts in the opening statement or through a mediation brief, I want to be sure I understand your best arguments and the strengths of your case. In the last articles in the series, I will talk about down and dirty ways to prepare a mediation brief.
What Attorneys Are Saying About Mediating with Lee:
“Lee’s vast experience as a practicing attorney gives her credibility with clients who listen, because they know she knows what she is talking about. That said, she never tries to tell clients what to do and is very respectful of their reasoning and particular situations. Lee truly cares about other people and that compassion will serve her well in helping them get the best results. Lee is a great mediator and I hope you will grant her the opportunity to try to resolve your case as well.”
– A. Bronsted
“We’re going to ask for Lee again, and again, and again!”
– S. Mahoney
I recently had the pleasure of having Lee Wallace serve as a mediator for a difficult wrongful death case. A prior mediation had failed, so I had little hope that this ensuing mediation would be successful. Indeed, there were several times that my client was ready to terminate the mediation, but Lee counseled us to stay. Ultimately, while it did not settle that day, she established a framework that allowed the parties to settle the case soon after the mediation concluded that day. Lee did a great job of staying with the matter and seeing it to conclusion. I highly recommend Lee as a mediator.
– P. Strott
Lee Wallace is both a brilliant lawyer and a very nice person. She gives her all to a mediation assignment. She is a hard worker, with a very quick mind, who is able to thoroughly understand the important aspects of even very complicated factual situations and knows how to apply the law to them. She got my difficult case settled and I will not hesitate to seek to use her again.”
– K. Pollock
“I recently had my first mediation with Lee Wallace, and I must say it will not be my last. She did a great job facilitating negotiations, and helped each party grasp both the strengths and the weaknesses of their arguments. I would not hesitate to recommend Lee Wallace as a mediator for your case!”
– B. Collins
“Lee Wallace exceeded all my expectations as a mediator in a Personal Injury suit presented before her. Lee’s experience, education and demeanor was amazing and she gained trust from both parties at the very beginning. Not only was she polished and highly professional, she was thorough and did not waste time bringing the mediation to a successful conclusion. Overall a very pleasant experience and my client was pleased with the result as well.”
– D. Russell
“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.”
– A. Joffe
“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!”
– A. Grubbs
“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.”
– B. Strothers
“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.”
– N. Campbell
“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.”
– M. Smith
“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!”
– A. Long
“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.”
– S. Carson
“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.”
– J. Brown