A Mediation Manifesto

Disputes and disagreements are a part of life. They are a part of business. They are inevitable – a natural course of interacting with friends, neighbors, strangers and transacting business. Disputes are not something about which we should be ashamed or embarrassed. If we don’t have disputes, we, as humans, are not interacting, growing, engaging in commerce or exchanging ideas. What has become troublesome in today’s world is how we address and resolve those disputes. The problem is that the current approach to settling disputes is to funnel these disagreements to a system that was never designed to handle the majority of types of disputes that it is being asked to handle.

In the past, civil disputes and disagreements were handled at a local, or community, or family level. This venue supported the possibility that those addressing the disputes had more understanding of the problem. The dispute would be aired, all parties involved would be consulted and a settlement would be reached. This frequently involved a tribal elder, a religious leader, a respected family member, a community leader or some other person that was considered to be “fair” or “neutral.”

But, that process is no longer the norm and we have been channeled into a litigation system which is no longer effective for most civil disputes. Our judicial system is extreme – extremely lengthy in time, extremely expensive and, due to an extremely rigid set of rules and regulations, frequently arrives at arbitrary decisions that are not beneficial or desirable to either party. Furthermore, since these arbitrary decisions are not necessarily satisfactory to the parties, the next step, collection or implementation of the judgment, becomes an entirely new problem for the parties.

For many years, the concept of alternative dispute resolution has been discussed and, to some extent, has achieved a foothold in our legal system. But, unfortunately the promotion of mediation by the existing players in our legal system is, at its very heart, a conflict of business interest and contradictory. In other words, lawyers, just like any other business professionals, are not going to refer their business income to someone else or to some other process.

To be clear, this is not to say that our existing legal system is completely broken or irrelevant. It is not. It serves a critical and fundamental service to our society. But, our judicial system is designed to handle bigger issues, criminal issues, constitutional issues, major and complicated, large financial issues. These are not the issues that most of society is bringing to our legal system.

So, we all acknowledge that our legal system, for most of us, is not efficient for the majority of the kinds of civil disputes that we, as private citizens and business owners, have. Even the judges and administrators of our judicial system agree that the system is overloaded with cases it is not designed to handle. We all know it. We all talk about it. But, it seems as if we are hoping that, somehow, it will simply correct itself. It will not – no more than the proverbial fox will control itself in the henhouse.

However, we can make it better – and we can do it ourselves! We have reached the time in our personal and business environment that it is incumbent upon each one of us, as individuals, to first look at alternative dispute resolutions such as mediation when we have a problem. It’s faster, less expensive, and reaches a conclusion to which all parties agree and therefore, the agreement/solution is more likely to be implemented. Furthermore, it allows our existing legal system to concentrate on the types of cases for which it was originally designed.

So, what should you do? It’s actually quite simple. The next time you have a problem, a dispute, a disagreement, a misunderstanding – do not call an attorney. Call a mediation service. A mediation service should now be the “go to” move for any of us when we have a dispute.

This does not mean that we cannot ultimately go to our current judicial system if we do not achieve an acceptable resolution. That is the beauty of mediation. Mediation is not binding unless both parties choose it to be so. But, if the majority of private citizens and business owners handled our disagreements through mediation, we would all achieve a faster, less expensive and more satisfying result while at the same time improving the efficiencies of our current judicial system.

Choose Mediation first!

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