Mediation is a valuable part of the litigation process that provides parties with the opportunity to resolve a case without going to trial. However, like trial, mediation requires preparation on the part of both the lawyer and the client in order to best position the case for settlement. To follow are 5 tips on preparing for mediation from the client’s perspective:

1. Approach Mediation Preparation with Optimism. Sometimes you begin mediation preparation thinking that there is no way the case will settle, only to be later surprised with a mediated settlement. Therefore, you should approach the preparation for mediation with the belief that the case could settle.

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2. Timing. The timing of mediation should be carefully considered and discussed with your lawyer. A lawsuit can be expensive and it is tempting to hurry to the mediation table. This is a mistake. Completing the tasks such as discovery or motions prior to mediation may improve the likelihood of a resolution. For example, without certain information obtained through discovery, you may not feel comfortable agreeing to a settlement or may not be able to properly analyze the strength of your case. Think strategically when selecting a mediation date. Mediation too early in a case could result in a waste of time and money.

3. Be Prepared. Meeting with your lawyer prior to the mediation is critical, even if you have participated in mediation in prior cases. Ideally, you should meet with your lawyer in person a few days prior to the mediation. If you are coming from out of town and arriving the evening before the mediation or the morning of the mediation, arrange for a detailed telephone conference prior to the mediation and to meet in person with your lawyer before the mediation starts to go over final questions or other preparation items.

4. Be Prepared to Go the Distance and Reach a Settlement. It is often impossible to predict how long mediation will last. Mediations only scheduled for a half-day frequently go beyond that time. If at all possible, be prepared to stay as long as needed to attempt to resolve your case, including clearing your calendar of any obligations after 5 p.m. If a settlement is reached, do not leave the mediation without a signed Mediation Settlement Agreement. Although you may be tired and mentally exhausted, find the energy to focus on the all important task of reviewing the Mediation Settlement Agreement with your lawyer. Remember, this is the document that the Court will look to if there is a dispute as to what terms were agreed to and to enforce the settlement.

5. Be Flexible, Patient and Creative. Mediation requires a lot of patience in addition to preparation. Your opposing parties are also making strategic moves designed to send a message to you. “Bottom line” offers are often not final. The initial offers are frequently way off target. Try not to react – you should know they are coming and your lawyer should have prepared you for them. Offers and counteroffers at mediation are frequently small and take time. Listen to your lawyer and the mediator’s thoughts on how the mediation is progressing. Try to remain optimistic. However, always be mindful that the decision to settle at the end of the day belongs to you. Also, think creatively. Unlike a judgment which states an amount immediately payable to the prevailing party, settlement terms can be more flexible. If you have an idea on how to structure a settlement, share it with your attorney.