The value of resolving business disputes is substantial. The mission of most businesses is to provide a service or a product, and to profit from it. When a business is involved in a dispute with a customer, partner, employee, government agency, or anyone else, the business must depart from its mission to instead invest time and resources into an unwanted dispute. Business dispute resolution through mediation is a way to shortcut potentially wasteful conflicts.
Mediation frequently occurs in the context of a lawsuit that has already been filed in court. Sometimes the parties decide to mediate when they want to find an alternative to the litigation, or they go to mediation when a judge or a court rule requires that the parties must mediate in order to proceed with their case in court.
Forward thinking business managers, however, may propose to mediate a dispute prior to filing a lawsuit in order to prevent the investment of time and resources a lawsuit will demand. Despite the fact that successful businesses typically employ skillful negotiators, they may still be unable to resolve disputes where there are significant differences in perspectives and understanding of the issues, and when prior communications about their disputes ended in impasses.
A mediation is a conference in which disputing parties are assisted by a mediator to focus on the disputed issues and examine potential resolutions. A mediator is a neutral, impartial third party who should be a skillful listener. A mediator should help the parties to hear each other better, and examine their alternatives to continuing their dispute.
Mediation is an opportunity for a business to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of its positions in a dispute, as well as the strengths and weaknesses of the other parties’ positions. In disputes, everyone seems to believe that their positions are correct, and that their opponents are misdirected or misguided. An impartial mediator may confidentially explain in private caucuses with the parties, however, that their positions may not be provable in court, and that the issues may appear to an outsider to be more gray than black and white. A mediator may help parties to understand the real cost of proving that they’re right, compared to the value of settling a dispute and putting it behind them.
Some mediations focus on preserving and improving relationships, rather than solving problems with enforceable agreements. Many organizations mediate disputes, not only to keep them from escalating into lawsuits, but because businesses function better when their managers, workers, directors and others involved in conflict learn how to communicate and resolve their disputes better. A “transformational mediation” aims to keep the parties talking with each other, to understand each other better, and to learn how to hash out their differences without an escalation of conflict and hostility.
In recent years, when judges commonly recognized that mediation helps many parties to end their disputes, many courts adopted rules requiring mediation before the rights and obligations of the parties in a dispute can be adjudicated in court. Mediation has become an important part of the legal process in Florida because it is an effective way to take disputes out of court. Although a business may believe that an opposing party is impossible and that a dispute can only be straightened out by a court, the success of mediations shows that settlements are achievable even when they seem impossible. If a business wants to stay on track selling its products and services rather than fighting to win disputes, it should consider mediation rather than litigation in court as a way to fairly settle its disputes and to stay on track with its primary business goals.
* Disclaimer: This article is intended for general informational purposes only, and should not be relied upon as legal advice. There is no lawyer and client relationship arising from this article. You may contact me to discuss your specific concerns if you are seeking legal advice, assistance or representation.