This is a concept that for some time while on the bench I thought to be a good idea. It still seems appropriate for many instances.
Richard Hurford, Director of Litigation at MASCO Corporation says, “Companies have to look at the return on investment for both litigation and mediation. Lawyers and mediators need to think like a business person. From a business standpoint, early resolution of disputes is the answer.”
Late-stage mediation settles cases, but at a high cost to the parties both financially and to their relationships. For these reasons, at the beginning stages of conflict resolution it is fruitful to test whether talking out the issues together will lead to a greater understanding between the parties, and a less expensive, foreshortened, productive, and less embittered result. Parties and companies engaging in early-stage mediation not only appreciate the opposing party’s position, but better appreciate their attorneys. In these lean economic times, that is worth a lot.
The above quote states is well: much damage, at great expense in money, time and rancor can result from last-stage mediation. The full article does a good job of setting out the pros and cons of both early-stage and late-stage mediation.
When might early-stage mediation be especially appropriate? An obvious circumstance is where the parties will still have some type of relationship after the dust settles: Party A has an easement across Party B’s land; child custody; a contract dispute where, if settled, the parties may be able to continue doing business together; and you can think of others.
If any circumstance of this nature exists in your case, perhaps early-stage mediation should be considered. Perhaps even pre-litigation mediation would be appropriate.