Mediation is just one of many alternative dispute resolution services that a qualified and experienced small business attorney can offer.
THE NEED FOR MEDIATION
There can be all kinds of issues that arise that call for mediation. It could be a dispute with a former or current employee, a property issue with a neighboring business, an issue with your equipment or suppliers. Whatever it is, if you’ve tried to talk it out and it’s clear an agreement cannot be made, mediation is a safe, inexpensive, and private way to reach a legally binding settlement on the dispute.
So no matter if the dispute is with the city government, a vendor, or even between joint-owners, mediation is a viable option with a lot of benefits. Keep in mind that even if you think you have a sure-win case, there is no telling how much litigation will cost. What’s more, your personal reputation is at stake. Most small to medium sized businesses rely on their reputations within the relatively smaller communities they serve. Is it really worth exposing your good name to ensure you win the dispute? In most cases, the answer for small and medium business owners is no.
HOW MEDIATION WORKS
Mediation is one of the least formal types of legal dispute resolution. In it, both parties meet with a neutral third party (often a judge or attorney) mediates a negotiation. The goal of the meeting is to come to some form of an agreement that both parties accept. Both sides are allowed to give their view and offer input into the settlement the mediator will offer the parties. If successful, this mediation can prevent further litigation not just on the issue at hand but on perhaps issues on down the line by setting a strong precedent for being able to resolve disputes outside the court of law.
THE COST OF MEDIATION
In general, hiring an attorney or qualified legal representative to mediate will cost far less than hiring one to fight a litigation in a court of law. What’s more, even if the mediation session gets expensive because it drags on a long time, you can split the fee with the other party – something you both can benefit from to save costs. But in reality, a mediation process only lasts a fraction of the hundreds of courtroom hours that a true litigation can end up taking.
LOCATING A QUALIFIED MEDIATOR
As soon as you are in a business dispute that you can tell will not be able to be talked out without legal intervention, it’s time to suggest mediation. This is always a better step for both parties than going straight to litigation. Many county and city bar associations keep lists of those who actively offer mediation services, as does the internet.
One important note: if your business belongs to a local business organization like the Chamber of Commerce, check with them first for resources on mediation. What’s key is to find a mediator who understand small business needs as opposed to larger business who have different priorities.
THE END RESULT OF MEDIATION
If successful, the goal of mediation is to get a written agreement that both parties sign. That way it’s binding. Additionally, your mediation may end with a memorandum of the agreement. It’s important to keep in mind that although mediation is binding, you will not always be able to have it officially enforced through a court of law.
If the mediation doesn’t close successfully, you’ll still have shared and learned much about the core issues you and your opponent have in the conflict. What’s more, a failed mediation doesn’t prevent further litigation, so there is no risk in agreeing to meet.
So for small business owners looking for a quick, inexpensive, or private way to settle a legal dispute with a business partner, employee, customer, neighbor, vendor, etc., mediation remains a valuable tool.
STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?
If you are a small or medium sized business owner current involved in a dispute and you think you could benefit from mediation with a qualified and compassionate yet neutral third party, call the Law Offices of Yoel Molina today.