Make the Most of Half-Day Mediations (Part 1)

They only last for a few hours, but half-day mediations are more and more popular. And for an excellent reason. You might get a lot accomplished in a small amount of time and investment. From my experience and in conversations with counsel, they work best for more straight forward files with a limited amount of issues, and when counsel takes certain steps ahead of the mediation.

Here are my top tips for making half-day mediations time well-spent and productive.

Tip #1: Understand which cases are right for half-day mediations

From a time and financial investment perspective, a half-day mediation makes a lot of sense – but only in cases where the stage is already set for real progress. When a two-party dispute has few issues at play, mainly damages, resolution is often possible in half-day mediation.

It is also useful in disputes where parties have already started discussing settlement and want to bridge the gap as it relates to specifics.

As well I’ve seen half-day mediation bring two parties who see a file very differently to a better understanding of one another’s viewpoint. That sets the tone for a settlement in the near future, made only possible because of this half-day investment.

Tip #2: Prep work is critical

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation.” Everyone knows this adage and it is especially true when you only have three hours to work with.

Coming ready to go right at start time is crucial for a few reasons, and not just because of time constraints. Being unprepared sends a negative message to the other party. When one party is ill-prepared, the other side may see it as a slight and voices the concern a party is not at mediation to settle. A mediation always benefits from a start on a positive note, as it helps establish rapport and mutual good faith.

Tip #3: Itemize/Make a checklist of housekeeping duties

To avoid interruptions in half-day mediation, I recommend making a checklist of the prep that should be completed in advance. Be sure to cover:

o Settlement Authority: Don’t Leave Home Without it. If for some reason a party with more authority or a role in deciding a settlement is unable to be at the mediation, make sure they are available and accessible through other means, such as a conference or video call.

o Updated Records and Documents- they are required for settlement discussions well in advance – one month prior to the mediation, in fact, to give each side time to secure the necessary settlement authority.

o Updated Disbursement list with supporting documentation. You know it will be asked for so have it at the ready.

o Settlement Documentation ready for execution – while a settlement isn’t always reached, it is good to approach half-day mediations in good faith and with an optimistic attitude so that means having the necessary documents at hand

Stay tuned for Part 2 of Make the Most of Half-Day Mediations coming soon.