November 20, 2013
Special to Business in Savannah
From breaches of contract to collection matters, most business disputes can be resolved through mediation.
At its root level, mediation is the intervention between conflicting parties to promote reconciliation, settlement, or compromise. This increasingly popular form of alternative dispute resolution serves as a viable option for business owners who choose to resolve conflicts through a forum other than arbitration or a conventional jury or bench trial.
In a mediation session, a mediator focuses upon understanding both sides of the dispute at hand, identifying the needs and interests of each party and helping the parties formulate workable solutions that are agreed to by each party so that the conflict can be successfully resolved. In the end, a mediation can help develop creative, individualized, mutually agreed-upon solutions that are legally binding.
Here are just a few of the benefits of mediation in business disputes:
Increased control over the outcome. By definition, the parties involved in the mediation process develop an agreement that works for them. Unlike a ruling determined by a judge or a decision decided by a jury, mediation enables parties in a dispute, be it during or before a lawsuit, to have control over the final settlement.
Lower cost and more efficient process. Mediation typically has a lower cost compared to taking a case through trial and appeal. Mediations typically take no longer than a day as opposed to lengthy trials which can result in much greater costs and the mediator’s fee is usually divided between the various parties involved in the dispute.
Preservation of relationships. When plaintiffs and defendants will be working with each other going forward, mediation can help to develop solutions based upon mutual interests rather than adversarial positions, avoiding the antagonistic roles and hard feelings that can arise from the traditional litigation process.
Closure. In some cases the psychological burden of litigating a case can take its toll on the parties. Emotional closure can be a real need for the parties and an important goal that can be achieved through mediation. Closure resulting from mediation often comes about faster, without the risk of trial or appeals and without the emotional drain of protracted litigation.
Confidentiality. In a mediation, parties can speak openly and directly to one other, without the proceedings being a matter of public record. Generally speaking, what is said in mediation stays between the parties and mediator. This assurance of confidentiality can be an asset in a wide range of business disputes, when privacy is a concern.
However, mediation is not for everyone. It requires a building of trust between the parties and the mediator, as well as between each other; it also requires compromise. Individuals who are not willing to trust the process–and each other–or who refuse to compromise on a position are usually not strong candidates for a successful mediation.
In Georgia, the Office of Dispute Resolution in Atlanta maintains a list of registered, qualified mediators. If uncertain as to who would be a good candidate to mediate your dispute, be sure to consult with that office to help find a qualified mediator in your area.
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