Today I came across a blog entry by a divorce mediator which was nothing short of an attack on "best lawyers." It appeared as though the ills of the divorce world were placed at the feet of the best divorce lawyers. Lawyers were castigated for such sins as discovery (obtaining financial documents) and seeking court assistance when you want temporary support or time with the children. He said that any lawyer can get the same result and that hiring a good lawyer sets the client up for a racket that is in the lawyer’s best interests, but not the client’s.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have seen attacks on lawyers from the mediation community. There appears to be a turf war. Either you are mediation friendly, or you are not. Rather than recognizing that some cases are more amenable to mediation than others, the followers would rather attack the "non believers."
While I agree that most cases will settle, many cases take a fair amount of discovery and litigation to get there. To believe otherwise is simply naive.
Further, while mediation is not for everyone, it is a useful tool in many cases, Then again, just as not all attorneys are alike, neither are all mediators. In fact, I suspect that the author of the blog that I read would agree that not every mediator can get the same result – though he says that any lawyer can.
In a prior blog from May 2009, I wondered whether the mediator’s goal was a fair settlement or just a settlement. To see another blog post on mediation that I authored, click here. Are parties, often the woman being protected from the imbalance of power that permeated the marriage? Are people being told of their rights when they appear at mediation without lawyers? What efforts are made to ensure full and accurate disclosure? Are the appropriate appraisals being done at all, and when done, are they being challenged and scrutinized to make sure that they are fair and accurate?
There is no doubt that mediation and other methods of alternate dispute resolution can be a good thing. That said, I have often seen mediations result in a "settlement", but one where the disadvantaged spouse got a "deal" that was neither fair nor reasonable, if not unconscionable. The problem in these cases is that often, once there is an "agreement", the person that got the great deal refuses to concede anything. Thus, a method meant to avoid litigation can often create litigation. Many of these deals came from the "best mediators."
That said, rather than attacking lawyers, mediators should recognize that there is a place for the best attorneys and the best mediators. I posit that the best and most fair mediated settlements will result from the attorneys and mediators working together rather than attacking each other. I am sure that we can all agree that a fully informed settlement, where both parties interests are fully protected, is optimum.