Does Mediation Threaten Lawyers?

I remember hearing a lawyer joke about a father taking his son into his law practice, then going on the first extended vacation he had taken in many years. When he returned, the son said, “Great news, dad, I settled the Jarndyce case!” Shocked, the father replied: “You fool! Don’t you realize that case put you through law school? Now what do we do to keep the practice going?”

This joke came to mind when I read a guest post on Karl Bayer’s Disputing blog about a planned lawyers’ strike in Italy in response to a new statute mandating mediation prior to filing many kinds of civil cases. It seems that people who make their living doing litigation might be worried about the prospect of seeing too many people resolve their disputes without needing to hire lawyers to bring them to court. Is fear of losing business the main motivating factor behind the lawyers’ hostile reaction to this new law?

On second thought, however, I can think of some potentially legitimate reasons for concern about such a proposal. For one thing, making pre-filing mediation mandatory could be seen as contrary to the whole cooperative spirit of mediation. For another, clients who decide to proceed to mediation without representation might be in danger of waiving rights of which they are unaware. And clients who are required to jump through a settlement hoop in advance of filing suit might also be wasting time and money, in cases in which they would obtain better results by dragging their adversary to court as quickly as possible. Thus, I would not automatically assume that attorneys are only thinking about their own pocketbooks in demonstrating against this new law. They might also be trying to serve their clients’ best interests.

We should pay attention to lawyers’ concerns for litigants’ rights, and we should continue to strive to protect access to the justice system. At the same time, we probably should not worry too much about the potential threat to lawyers’ incomes arising from increased reliance on mediation in the courts. I have confidence in the ability of trial lawyers to figure out ways of creating a need for their services in any justice system. I even think that expanding the use of mediation to settle cases, as opposed to the current practice of inducing settlements by means of the high cost of discovery and motion practice, should actually free trial lawyers to try more cases, and should help clients find more satisfaction with their attorneys’ valuable services. Or, as one trial lawyer, Abraham Lincoln, is supposed to have said:
Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.

(still from The Lincoln Lawyer)

                        author

Joe Markowitz

Joseph C. Markowitz has over 30 years of experience as a business trial lawyer.  He has represented clients ranging from individuals and small businesses to Fortune 500 corporations.  He started practicing with a boutique litigation firm in New York City, then was a partner in a large international firm both… MORE >

Featured Mediators

ad
View all

Read these next

Category

Leveraging an Early Joint Fact Finding Effort to Propel Use of the Approach and Improve Ocean Health

Joint fact-finding (JFF) remains a relatively novel approach to policy development, yet some of its earliest cases, whether explicitly labeled JFF or not, date back almost three decades. Some are regarded...

By Scott McCreary
Category

How President Obama Gets To Yes

This article was first published in The Scotsman. PRESIDENT Barack Obama's willingness to acknowledge that he had chosen his words badly in his response to the incident involving Harvard professor...

By John Sturrock
Category

The Future of Mediation: Mediators As Problem Finders, Makers, and Designers

In 1964 two University of Chicago social scientists conducted an experiment at the Art Institute of Chicago. They invited a group of students to select from among random objects set...

By Tammy Lenski

Find a Mediator

X
X
X