By Mediator Lee Wallace
When I speak at CLE events, the most frequent question is: should I make an opening statement at mediation? The answer? Almost always, yes. Here are four reasons to make an opening statement.
(1) To show the other side that you are serious and prepared, and will be a formidable opponent at trial.
You may not have a jury at mediation, but you still have an audience. Even if the other side is fully aware of all the facts you discuss, part of what they will be doing is evaluating you as an opponent. If they believe you are a serious, prepared lawyer, ready to throw everything you have into the case, they are going to evaluate the case differently than if they believe you are inexperienced or unprepared. And the impression you make will pay forward into future cases with the same opposing counsel, law firm, or adjuster.
(2) To communicate information about the case to the mediator.
I once had a mediation where no one had sent me information about the case in advance. Then, when we got to the opening conference, both sides announced that they were not going to make opening statements. “Hold up!” I told them. “I need to know something about the case.”In order to help you resolve the case, your mediator needs to understand what the case is about. If you have not provided information about the case to the mediator beforehand, the opening conference is the best time to do it.
(3) To make sure the other side understands the key facts in your favor.
The case may have been pending for years, and the arguments may have been fleshed out in depositions and motions. Even so, if you have key arguments that make your case, you should not assume that the other side is aware of them.
For example, at a mediation I handled, one side had switched law firms in mid-stream. Partway through the mediation, it became clear that the new firm was unaware of some key testimony from the depositions taken in the case. The other side pulled out the transcript, and the entire tenor of the mediation changed.
(4) To reassure your client that you are prepared and ready to take his or her side.
Clients have seen trials on TV and in the movies, but most are not at all sure what to expect at a mediation. They may confuse the two, and be expecting you to make a passionate closing argument on their behalf. Your opening statement should not be a closing argument, of course. But if you say nothing at all, your client may wonder how serious you are about taking his side. By making an opening statement, you reassure your client that you have his interests in mind and are prepared to present his case at trial.
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