I had the opportunity to participate in the Yakima County Volunteer Attorney Services’ annual Veterans’ Day Continuing Legal Education program last week. I participated in a panel on how attorneys can help their parties prepare for mediation. The panelists responded to questions posed by moderator Brendan Monahan about the settings in which we mediate, our mediating style, what pre-mediation materials are helpful, tips for attorneys and more.
The common denominator for the cases I handle are that they are all relationally based. The parties likely will have contact with each other after the mediation process ends. As a result, in addition to resolving the specific issues they have in conflict, the parties try to improve their ability to work together. In the workplace, unless employees are going to be fired or one is going to quit to work elsewhere, the conflicting parties need to get along, or at least be civil to each other. In relationships between divorced couples, they need to find ways to work together as co-parents. In eldercare decision making and Trust and Estate matters, the parties are family members with long histories together and a need to get along.
I shared that the attorneys shouldn’t be afraid that their clients are going to be emotionally intense during the mediation process. That is to be expected and one of the beauties of mediation is its ability to help the parties find emotional and procedural satisfaction in addition to settling the issues they have in conflict. Mediators are trained to help the parties work through the intense emotions. They recognize that the parties’ emotional intensity relates to strongly held values and positions.
I also advocated that mediating parties may need a bit of training on how the mediation and negotiations usually proceed. My experience is that some basic aspects of negotiating protocols are not as widely known in the broader public as professional negotiators assume. They benefit when their attorney orients them to the assumptions most of us have about the negotiations process.
It was an honor and privilege to serve on the panel with Honorable Mary Dimke, Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Washington; David A. Thorner, Yakima attorney; Frank Hoover, Spokane attorney; and Kenneth Miller, Tri-Cities Attorney. Need conflict resolution help? Please contact Sageland Mediation and Facilitation Service.