J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of ALR/PRA, Inc., a full service law practice management agency. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition in public relations and marketing. Nick also shares recruiting and staffing experience and tips for legal job seekers.
Attorneys in transition should become aware of the benefits of mediation. This is one form of alternative dispute resolution that has been increasing in popularity as parties learn the benefits of participating in mediation.
I recently attended a 4 hour MCLE, offered by LEDDED, Ltd., and titled: “The Attorney’s Role in Mediation or the Culture of Mediation.” Panelists were retired Judge Karen G. Shields; Margaret S. Powers, MSW; Beverly Tarr, LLB; and Sandra Crawford, Esq.
My take away from the messages offered by this dynamic panel are twofold: First, there are several styles and opinions on mediation roles and practices; and second, an increasing amount of family law parties are looking to mediation to increase their value and chance of co-parenting success after dissolution.
In 2006, the Illinois Supreme Court adopted the “900” series of rules concerning time limitations for custody cases under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. See the “900” series for rules concerning mediation. Another body of law addressing mediation is Uniform Mediation Act, see 710 ILCS 35 et seq., and see also the website for the Mediation Council of Illinois, a professional organization designed to help the public find peaceful resolutions of disputes.
Let’s face it; if you know family law and domestic relations, you know that traditional litigation can be time consuming, expensive and mentally and emotionally draining on the parties. Mediators facilitating settlement negotiations do so when the parties are represented by counsel and have agreed to attempt settlement through mediation in lieu of litigation. Benefits of mediation include value in the investment of resources in a process designed to swiftly address all concerns and attempt settlement to avoid a protracted battle in court. Proponents of mediation often talk about the increased likelihood that co-parenting will be successful when the parties have participated in mediation.
Karen Shields commented, regarding transitioning attorneys, “Mediation is catching on. There is value for the clients and for the attorneys, and when mediation makes people happy, the numbers show that the parties feel better about their attorneys’ services as they are generally pleased with the mediation process.” The panel interacted with the participating audience to engage in open dialogue on several issues including the business of mediation, ethics and confidentiality. Learning from a multidisciplinary panel was well received.
Mediation has many benefits for attorneys who become trained and learn how to serve in the role of the mediator, facilitating the process of settlement, putting the decision making in the hands of the parties and relying on the attorneys to have prepared their clients for mediation and equipping them with knowledge of their rights under Illinois law. Mediators are sought privately and are also appointed by courts. Mediators charge professional rates and can help parties settle their divorce amicably without litigation. Any attorneys in transition who encounter family practice should learn about mediation and its role in domestic relations.