As an out-of-court dispute resolution method, mediation is undoubtedly the most effective way to resolve contract disputes. A non-adversarial atmosphere, confidentiality, and cost and time-effectiveness are mediation benefits providing the best chance for getting financial compensation and achieving reconciliation.
But to reap the full benefits of mediation, you should consider these five tips that will help you successfully mediate a contract dispute in Florida.
Before signing an agreement to mediate, you should familiarize yourself with the mediation process. Even though your attorney will highlight the mediation stages, and the mediator will explain the details and the purpose of the process during an introduction phase, you should nevertheless grasp the concept by yourself before even engaging in the mediation experience. Understanding the procedure means that you are aware that mediation is non-binding and that the mediator has no authority to issue a decision resolving the dispute, like a trial judge. During mediation, you have the ultimate authority to decide if there is a settlement and the terms of the settlement, no one else. Furthermore, by signing an agreement to mediate, both parties accept a confidentiality clause, meaning they cannot publicly share the acquired information at any time in the future. You should also get familiar with the informal structure of mediation. There are no strict stages of mediation. Therefore, depending on the mediator, they can vary from case to case, thereby providing flexibility and a successful outcome.
Knowing the facts of your case is critical before asking a neutral third person to mediate between you and the other party. You should be clear about the issues leading to a contract dispute. Also, obtaining the necessary documents and evidence that support your claim is key to successful mediation. Since most contract disputes involve claiming damage from the opposing party, determining the precise monetary compensation you seek is a vital part of proper case analysis.
Mediating contract disputes consists of four typical stages: introduction, opening statements, joint and private sessions. In the introduction stage, the mediator introduces themselves and presents their credentials. Attorneys for each party, in a joint session, follow with opening statements providing the other party with their perspective of the factual and legal issues. Afterward, the attorneys and parties withdraw to separate rooms for private talks with the mediator. During the private caucuses, the mediator goes back and forth between the session rooms hearing the party responses to arguments, listening to settlement options and evaluating progress toward resolution of the dispute. The private talks are confidential, meaning the mediator cannot reveal their content to the other party unless authorized. Mediators remain neutral throughout the entire mediation process otherwise trust is broken and resolution of the dispute doomed.
The mediator’s success in evaluating your position and facilitating negotiations depends on your attorney and you presenting your case adequately. That means you should be clear about the information you want to disclose to the mediator and the other party. It is advisable to reveal all the facts because the mediation process is confidential. Providing the mediator with all necessary information contributes to successful negotiations and is likely to result in settlement.
In addition, determining who will attend the mediation sessions is vitally important. Apart from you and the other contractual party, attorneys, insurance representatives, and others can participate in mediation hearings. However, all parties must agree who will be participating during the mediation.
Negotiations are a central part of mediation. It is part art and part learned skill. The mediators are specially trained professionals with highly developed negotiation skills. Although mediators facilitate negotiations between the parties using their skills, do most of the job in bargaining the deal. That is why you need to define and develop your negotiation strategy. It is advisable to go through negotiations in your head, bringing offers and counteroffers and responding to the other party’s arguments.
The crucial part of preparing for this phase and developing the negotiation strategy is defining the so-called Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement (BATNA). You should never enter into negotiations without knowing your worst-case scenario. In other words, BATNA is the lowest price or offer you can accept if all other efforts fail. Clearly defining BATNA helps you salvage the negotiations and reach a settlement if you fail to achieve your prime goal. BATNA is an alternative to your desired best result.
For successful negotiations, you need to develop a sense of other people’s perspectives. To better understand their claims, you must be able to put yourself in their shoes and look at things from their perspective. That is the surest path to overcoming the differences and settling the contract dispute.
Throughout the entire mediation process, you should be open to suggestions from the other side and the mediator. Never dismiss an offer without pondering about it carefully and observing it from different angles. However, once you reach a breakthrough in negotiations, you should immediately draft an agreement. Ensure that the written agreement encompasses all issues you agreed upon and that nothing is left out. The parties sometimes postpone putting an agreement in writing, leading to inaccurate drafts or different interpretations in the future. You do not want that to happen to you.
Knowing these tips for mediation of a contract dispute is not enough. To reach the desired settlement, you still need to make the crucial decision – the choice of mediator. Joseph P. Farina is a former Chief Judge from the 11th Judicial Circuit and a certified Florida mediator. His experience and knowledge will determine the outcome – a successful dispute resolution or wasted time. Do not waste your time. Call Joe Farina today to schedule your appointment.