A principal function of the mediator in most disputes is to manage negotiations regarding money. When the time finally comes to discuss dollars, I sense that many attorneys fear disclosing their true objective to their mediator, convinced it will undermine their ability to achieve that objective. While at first blush that fear might seem to make perfect sense, my experiences as a mediator have taught me otherwise.

For a variety of common sense reasons, good mediators make excellent negotiation coaches. Having managed negotiations as a professional endeavor day in and day out, mediators usually have a good sense as to which negotiating strategies are likely to work and which are likely to fail. Based upon prior outcomes, mediators often have a sixth sense as to how many dollars it will take to resolve a particular dispute. Privy to more information than anyone else in the process, mediators generally have a keen sense as to the respective risk tolerance levels of the parties, and how each side is likely to interpret and react to specific negotiating tactics by the other side.

When attorneys are candid about the objectives of their clients, mediators are better equipped to coach each side — while still protecting confidentiality and retaining neutrality — so that each side employs only those strategies which are likely to bring the parties together and avoids those tactics which are likely to backfire. The more a mediator knows about each side’s genuine goals, the better he or she can guide both sides as they work to close the gap that separates them.

Although attorneys are often reluctant to disclose too much information to the mediator for fear of revealing their so-called “bottom lines,” mediators are likely to be more effective when they have as much information as possible. So when the time comes to discuss dollars with your mediator, ask yourself whether it really makes sense to hold anything back.

As always, I would be pleased to assist you and your clients in the dispute resolution process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can be of service.

Best regards . . .

Floyd J. Siegal

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