Do I Need a Mediation Lawyer for my Mediation Session?
Typically, most mediation situations do not require the parties to obtain their own legal counsel. However, there are certain situations, when it is a good idea to seek a mediation lawyer--a lawyer who understands your legal issue and is familiar with the mediation process--to advise you regarding your mediation.
Mediation is designed to help people work through conflicts without the need of a judge or legal proceedings. Therefore, lawyers are seldom needed in mediation situations. The rules of mediation, unlike many laws and legal processes, are straightforward and easy to understand. Most people are able to figure out the mediation process on their own, with ease. There are some situations, especially where one of your property rights are being affected, where it is a good idea to consult a lawyer. A mediation lawyer can help you sort through the consequences of certain decisions, which will allow you to make the best decisions for yourself in mediation. You can even make obtaining a mediation lawyer's approval a condition of all agreements made in mediation.
If you do decide to use a lawyer for your mediation process, consider the following:
- Find an attorney who supports mediation. Many lawyers prefer to act as zealous advocates for their clients, as this is how they are trained. This can be detrimental to a mediation process that seeks to find a middle-ground agreement. Look for a mediation lawyer who can advise you on your legal issue and is familiar with mediation.
- Decide whether you want legal coaching throughout the mediation or if your interests only call for an initial consultation.
- Make it clear to your lawyer that you want her to understand and support mediation. She should be open to negotiation and compromise in reaching settlements and not focused on how a judge or jury may rule.
- Ask that your mediation lawyer be available to review all written agreements created during mediation before you sign them.
- Be cautious of lawyers who have negative attitudes towards mediation.
- Find out if the lawyer has ever had clients in mediation before.
- Ask what the mediation lawyer thought about the process. Was it successful for the client?
- Pay close attention to the way in which the lawyer speaks about prior mediation experiences to get a feel for whether she supports and respects the process or not.
- Find out if the lawyer has been trained in mediation. If the lawyer has received training on how to be a mediator or on how to represent clients in mediation, then that lawyer is probably supportive of mediation. Of the two types of training, a lawyer who has received specialized training on how to represent clients through mediation is probably better equipped to represent you through your mediation.
- Be sure you understand the mediation lawyer's fees BEFORE you decide to hire the lawyer. Don't expect to receive a discounted mediation rate, as most lawyers still charge their usual hourly rate.
- Be clear in the beginning about what role your lawyer will take and what expectations your lawyer has of you.
Follow these tips to begin searching for a good mediation lawyer:
- Talk to people you know who have used lawyers in situations similar to your own.
- Do not merely rely on advertisements and directories.
- Find out specifics on how the clients felt when working with certain lawyers.
- Find out what awards, recognitions, and community organizations your potential lawyer may have listed on their website or resume. This can say a lot about a lawyer.