Preparing for Multiparty Mediation: A Checklist — Part One, Introduction

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By Donald L. Swanson

Here’s a confession.

I’m in a four-party mediation.

It begins at 9:30 a.m. in a joint 30-minute meeting. The mediator then spends 30 minutes with each party. It’s now noon — we’re taking lunch orders — and the mediation process has only just begun!

At mid-afternoon, positions are far apart, and pressure mounts to make lots of progress in a hurry. At 4:30 p.m., one party meets with the mediator for only the second time — that’s after six hours of mostly twiddle-your-thumbs down-time!

However, all parties want to get a deal accomplished, and by 6:30 p.m. a settlement document is signed. Relief prevails.

But still, I’m thinking, “There has got to be a better way!”

During a three-decades-plus career representing bankruptcy committees and trustees, I’ve moderated the resolutions of many multiparty disputes (can’t say “mediated” on those because my client always had an interest in the outcome).

A learned-the-hard-way lesson for multiparty dispute resolution is this:

Advance communications are needed to prepare multiple parties for final negotiations.

The next two parts in this three-part series will provide a 10-item checklist of subjects to be covered in the advance communications.

 

Editorial Note: this article was originally published by the American Bankruptcy Institute in its October 2015 edition of the Mediation Committee Newsletter (Vol. 2, Num 3).