Lawyers are expensive. Clients usually pay an hourly rate, based upon the lawyer’s experience. Depending on the city and the firm, this can range from $200 per hour to almost $1000 per hour.
Lawyers are Expensive: How can mediation help?
The first thing to understand is that most civil cases settle without a trial. A civil case is simply a private case where someone sues someone else. This includes family law, business law, estate law, personal injury law etc.
The Canadian Department of Justice states:
Lawyers often discuss the lawsuit to settle it before a trial is necessary. The two sides can reach a settlement at any time before the judge makes his or her decision. In fact, 98 percent of civil suits never make it to the courts.
This means almost all cases are settled with negotiation. Mediation is a process of facilitated negotiation where the parties negotiate with the help of a skilled mediator, rather than through their lawyers.
Lawyers are still a very important part of the process. You need them to explain your rights and obligations. They can ensure that you have all the information you need to make good decisions in mediation. They are a safeguard, in that they give you legal advice before you sign any final agreements.
Lawyers are Expensive: How to use lawyers effectively in mediation
First and foremost, select a lawyer who will support you in mediation. Lawyers are expensive, so use them sparingly. Lawyers are trained to be good negotiators and tend to try and take control of the situation. Be clear about what you expect from your lawyer. They are there to help and advise you, not to take over your life.
In family law cases, there are very few cases where a lawyer needs to attend a mediation. This can occur when one party is very vulnerable, or there are very complex legal issues. You may need your lawyer present when discussing property division. Here they can be very helpful. However, when you are working out a parenting schedule, they are less useful. Check with your mediator for guidance.
In car accident cases, where there are issues of liability or quantum of damages in dispute, a lawyer is essential. In contract mediations, lawyers are less important. Often the goal is to resolve the dispute quickly and cheaply.
In every case, however, it is important to have access to legal advice before you make any final decisions.
Secondly, ensure that your mediator is supportive of your lawyer’s involvement. Sometimes, mediators feel like lawyers are competition. Beware of any mediator that tells you that you do not need a lawyer. The mediator should give you time to obtain legal advice, and never pressure you to agree in order to complete the process.
Finally, do not over mediate an issue. Sometimes you just have to go to court, to make a final decision on part of your agreement. Mediation is still very useful in making decisions, even if there are some parts of the agreement that have to go to court or arbitration. For example, parties may be able to divide their property to their liking, and come to agreement on a parenting plan, but disagree about spousal support (or vice versa).
Set clear goals and time lines for the mediation. Set a budget for the mediation. Very few mediations should cost more than $5,000 without making significant progress. Set a realistic deadline for the end of the mediation. In most cases, three months is reasonable. Remember, nothing focuses the mind on resolution like the fear of going to court.
- Mediation is successful approximately 82% of the time.
- The mediation process should empower you to negotiate.
- It should help you understand what you are giving up and what benefits you will receive.
- A negotiated agreement will give you the widest scope for resolution.
- Lawyers are expensive, so be specific when defining their role.
- The key will be to understand your goals, and which professional to use to accomplish them.
- You should leave the mediation with a new set of negotiating and resolution skills.
Jayne Embree MA
Jayne Embree holds a Masters in Psychology and is a highly experienced Divorce Coach and Child Specialist. She is currently working as the Mediation Co-ordinator for Victoria Mediation Services.