It surprises me the number of people I have been talking to lately who have never heard of or do not quite understand what mediation is. To be honest I am not sure I would have known about mediation if I haven’t learned about it in law school. So when I was telling a friend about my mediation training he kindly corrected me: “Mediation? You mean meditation right?”

So, what is mediation and why we should consider it should we ever find ourselves in a conflicting situation that requires external help? In a nutshell, mediation is a process facilitated by a neutral person, the mediator, who helps people discuss their issues, understand each other’s point of view and find agreeable solutions. It is not a legal process therefore is cheaper, faster, and informal. It is however, completely confidential and effective, in most cases.

But the most important reason I see to choose mediation is the mutual problem-solving aspect of it. The process encourages the parties to communicate with each other in new ways. They can tell each other what is bothering them, what caused the upset, listen to one another and then discuss solutions that are realistic, doable and durable. Because the parties come up with a solution, it eliminates the uncertainty involved in having a judge “decide the case.” The more open the parties are, the more effective the mediation.

But don’t only take my word for it, in 2004 The Judicial Council of California released a report on mediation programs. The study examined the effects of mediation in civil cases, and found that 58% of unlimited cases and 71% of limited cases were settled; 30% less cases went to trial; 48% fewer motions were filed; 32% fewer pretrial hearings – talking about unclogging the court system! – 60% less costs to participants (savings were estimated at almost $50 million over 2 years!) and general expression of satisfaction by most attorneys and participants in the program; 87% agreed that mediation was a better way to come up with a parenting plan.

The full report Evaluation of the Early Mediation Pilot Programs can be found at http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/empprept.pdf