In court, a lawyer’s role may be likened that of the client’s champion, and in most cases they represent their clients with great focus and passion. But lawyers, especially those who are regularly involved in litigation before the courts, are also accustomed to working with stringent laws, highly technical rules of evidence and within well-defined parameters of operation. Those of us who have seen lawyers in action before a court may therefore find it difficult to believe that these tough litigators can also display the ‘softer’ skills required for mediation. Fortunately for the parties involved in a mediation case, lawyers can indeed remove the cloak of litigator and turn into effective mediators. This is just the first of several good reasons that lawyers achieve great success in mediation.
Another relevant skill that lawyers bring to bear is their attention to detail. A good lawyer absorbs and assimilates the intricate details of a case, and studies the facts religiously in order to be able to formulate arguments that are all-encompassing. This holistic approach is exactly what is needed in a good mediator, who should fully acquaint himself with the full circumstances of both sides in a dispute, so that he can steer negotiations towards a well-reasoned outcome acceptable to each party.
A competent mediator will ensure that both parties feel welcomed into the process, remain comfortable throughout the exercise, feel that they’ve been listened to, and that they’ve retained some control in proceedings. A lawyer instinctively understands these needs and expectations, and is skilled in the art of communication so they know how to formulate proposals that put each party at ease by demonstrating to them that the process has been equal and fair.
Most lawyers possess a valuable instinct to delve deeper and look beyond the apparent facts of a case. This meticulous approach makes them natural mediators who can see the bigger picture - looking past the battle-hardened positions of the parties in order to uncover and resolve the core issues. In private sessions they encourage the parties to lay out the facts of their relative positions, and they then use the findings from these sessions to draw up mutually satisfying party-driven solutions with a strong chance of success.
Another important fact that sets lawyers on a higher pedestal than other professionals as mediators is that they are used to handling situations involving conflict. While mediation is not intended as an adversarial process, since it depends on mutual communication between the parties, tempers can flare. In such situations, where both parties are running high on emotions and refuse to budge from their official positions, a lawyer who has experienced the height of emotions in court and has seen drama and anger elsewhere, is able to keep a cool head and persuade the parties towards a simple, impartial and less hostile resolution.
So, lawyers can fulfill their roles as mediators just as well as they fulfill their roles as litigators. These individuals, who have spent all their lives in dispute management, can, and often do, accomplish wonders in mediation. Their influence helps reduce the need for litigation, shortens the length of time lawsuits would otherwise take and eases the burden on courts and government. At the same time they assist in resolving issues and reaching settlements with minimum distress to the individuals concerned and maximum respect for the rights of all parties.