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Mediation is a voluntary, informal, and confidential discussion in which a neutral facilitator assists two or more parties toward achieving a resolution of the conflict existing between them. As a conflict resolution tool, mediation serves a number of purposes, including providing parties the opportunity “to define and clarify issues, understand different perspectives, identify interests, explore and assess possible solutions, and reach mutually satisfactory agreements, when desired.”

Mediation is a flexible process, and so there can be as many “types” of mediations as there are parties and conflicts. For example, the definition of mediation is broad enough to include a dispute between two roommates brought to a community center, where a volunteer mediator helps them hold an informal conversation; a multi-party, billion-dollar securities class action mediated by a retired judge, in which the parties rarely meet face-to-face but instead negotiate through counsel from separate rooms; or a formal family discussion centering around a critical issue such as child custody or elder care. However, while individual mediations may differ from one another to some degree, both in content and process, certain key elements will be present in nearly all types of mediation. This chapter provides an introduction to mediation, looking at basic standards for mediation, styles of mediation, the mediation process, and the benefits and challenges of mediation. The chapter then reviews factors to consider while choosing a mediator, and describes the role of a lawyer as a client’s advocate in mediation.


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