(Thinking outside the litigation box)

I recently read a Mediate.com post which explored creative uses for mediation. It’s a great reminder for business people and attorneys alike of the many and varied potential uses for mediation.

In one of my earlier blog posts, I mentioned that I was once hired by a Fortune 500 company to mediate a dispute between two department heads who were constantly at odds with one another. The conflict was so bad that it was negatively impacting not only the company’s culture, but its ability to deliver product to its customers.

We started with a one-day mediation where the department heads flew into Birmingham. We identified the business areas of conflict, the personality issues and other sources of conflict, then worked together to find solutions. We also involved the services of an industrial psychologist.

As the mediator, the mediation process allowed me to say things that would have been difficult for a superior to say and still maintain a healthy relationship with the employees. We conducted much of the process in a joint session, and used caucuses to discuss specifics with each party. The rules of confidentiality protected the privacy of the process.

The process took a number of meetings and several weeks, but ultimately we formulated a remedy — and created a framework for the two executives to work together harmoniously on future projects.

This past week, I mediated a dispute for a construction client in which a job site foreman was alleged to have made sexually harassing comments to another contractor’s female employee. I conducted an investigation prior to the mediation, then scheduled a meeting between the employer’s representative and the employee.

Our session was a great training/teaching opportunity for both the employee and the company representative. We were able to salvage the foreman’s employment and create a framework to ensure that it never happened again.

As an attorney and mediator, I was again able to say things that needed to be said without impairing the relationship between the employer and employee. And again, all discussions were confidential and protected under the mediation and attorney-client privilege.

These are just two examples of using mediation to “think outside the litigation box.” Properly conducted, mediation can be an excellent tool for attorneys and businesses to facilitate difficult but necessary conversations. Keep this option in mind as you seek to serve your clients and businesses.

Enjoy the journey.