Wow! My second post here at ALPS 411. I was thrilled to be invited back and decided to follow up my last post on solo construction practice in the cloud with a more specific post that is near and dear to my heart as a construction attorney here in Virginia. Namely mediation and how it can help lawyers (solo or otherwise) and their clients reach a business decision in the face of an the emotional roller coaster of litigation or other methods of dispute resolution.
I can speak to this truth from two perspectives: the litigator representing a client and the mediator whose role is to assist the parties reach a resolution in a neutral fashion.
As a litigator and counselor I almost (though not quite) always recommend mediation at some point during the process. A majority of the time, the infusion of the mediator's perspective results in a settlement if not that same day, then later. In those rare cases where mediation has not resulted in a settlement, the process has been worthwhile.
In general, my experience with construction mediation is quite positive. Without going into many of the details (for more on my thoughts, check out the ADR Page at Construction Law Musings), mediation allows the flexibility and freedom for business people to make business decisions that result in a more satisfactory result than the lost time, expense and uncertainty of litigation.
Even the most recalcitrant of clients that seemingly would never move further than you could make them move will surprise you. I see more movement toward settlement in a shorter period of time through mediation than the lawyers (myself included) could get the construction professionals to move without the process.
My experiences as a lawyer in the process led me to explore working the other side of the table. Recently, I completed my training and mentorship for certification by the Virginia Supreme Court as a General District Court mediator. This process was enlightening and gave me a new perspective on this process that I have advocated for quite a while. Having to hold my silver tounged litigator's need to advocate was difficult, but gave me a new appreciation of the mediator's role.
However, going through this training cemented the fact that I'd like being a mediator to be a larger portion of my practice. Seeing folks leave satisfied, if not happy, is worth the time and energy.
As a construction attorney, I have found that mediation results in better client relations and fewer fee disputes. A resolution that a party believes that they had a hand in will increase the chances of getting paid because a happy client is a paying client. This helps with billing & collections.
In short, mediation is good for construction lawyers in every way. It breeds solutions and sends the parties away knowing that they had a hand in their fate. It doesn't hurt that you, the lawyer, are more likely to get paid.
Let me know your thoughts. I am thrilled to hear about other mediation experiences, both good and bad.
Christopher Hill is a construction lawyer at The Law Office of Christopher G. Hill, PC in Richmond, Virginia and a member of the Virginia's Legal Elite in Construction Law. You can follow his blog at: http://constructionlawva.com/welcome-to-construction-law-musings/.