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Mediation & Arbitration

Mediation is the attempt to settle a legal dispute by using a mediator, a neutral third party, to find a practical resolution for the legal dispute. Often times using this method of dispute resolution can expedite finding a resolution and save the parties involved in a dispute costly litigation expense.

  • Mediation is a chance for everyone to act as joint problem solvers rather than adversaries.
  • Mediation is a safe place to brainstorm options and explore possible resolution without committed legal risk.
  • If the case doesn’t settle, nothing has been lost in terms of a traditional legal case and you may pursue litigation.

The process is voluntary, cost effective, confidential and expeditious. The mediator is not aligned with either party, will favor neither side and is uncommitted to any outcome or result other than to finding equitable or fair resolution to a given dispute.

The Process

When we act as a mediator we will:

  • Help each party identify and understand the risks one should consider regarding the dispute.
  • Manage the negotiation process in a civil manner.
  • Facilitate communication.
  • Search for options and equitable solutions.
  • Ask questions in order to clarify conflicts or points of disagreement.
  • Keep everyone focused and on track in order to achieve an outcome.

Usually, the parties will meet in the same room, moving to private meetings with the mediator only for specific purposes. When those private issues have been accomplished, the mediation process will reconvene.

Steps of Mediation:

  • Work out logistical issues of timing, location, style of mediation and details including what to expect as to conduct expectations.
  • Convenes the mediation at our office or an agreed upon location.
  • The mediator will make an opening statement that includes describing the process, explain the steps and then start by expressing his or her understanding of the dispute.
  • The plaintiff and plaintiff’s counsel (if counsel is involved) will provide opening remarks to explain why they brought the claim. Plaintiff goes first since they initiated the complaint.
  • Defendant and defense counsel (if counsel is involved) will provide their opening remarks and explain their side of the dispute.
  • The mediator sets an agenda including what will be discussed if the parties agree they wish to attain dispute resolution using mediation.
  • The mediator proceeds to manage discussion of the issues listed on the agenda so long as it seems fruitful and worthwhile.
  • At times the mediator may move to private sessions, called a caucus, where we meet privately with each side to discuss issues the parties may not be ready or comfortable discussing in front of each other.
  • Once the issues have been discussed and all have expressed their opinions we'll initiate coming up with settlement options.
  • If the parties are ready to make offers and negotiate, the mediator will work with them to convey the offers with clarity.
  • Upon a resolution, the mediator will oversee the drafting of documents and signing of releases and written agreements.

Mediation is:

  • Confidential. The mediator will not disclose to the judge what happened in mediation; cannot be called as a witness; and will not reveal anything said in confidence.
  • Voluntary. Even if you’ve been ordered to attend, you’ve met your obligation if you appear. You need not stay, however, in order for the process to work both parties need to put forth effort.
  • An opportunity to step back from the litigation process.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a substitute for a court case. A single arbitrator, or often three (3) arbitrators, usually called a panel, act as the judge and jury do in a civil court case. Usually, a panel will have experience and expertise in a particular area of law that a judge or jury does not have. For example, an arbitrator may be much more experienced handling disputes between partners in a business than many judges or juries. This is especially so given that many court judges' careers began in government service as criminal prosecutors - not as business attorneys.

The panel will decide all issues in an arbitration case, such as those relating to scheduling, motions, exchanging documents in discovery, conducting depositions, taking testimony, receiving and ruling on the admissibility of evidence and finally rendering a decision, called an award.

Unlike a court case, the proceedings in arbitration are private as between the parties and the arbitrators. In order to participate in an arbitration, the parties must first agree to arbitration by written contract.

Once an award is final it can be confirmed by a court under state or federal law, depending on the nature of the dispute. In some respects, it is more difficult for a losing party in arbitration to challenge the final award of an arbitration panel, than for a party to challenge the judgment of a court.

At North Atlanta Law, we are experienced in handling arbitration cases, and confirming arbitration awards. One of our attorneys is trained and certified by the State of Georgia to serve as an arbitrator and mediator.

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