How Much Does a Mediation Lawyer Cost?
by Unbundled Legal Help
Mediation costs facilitated by an experienced lawyer can get quite high. With hourly rates ranging from $300 to several thousand, resolving a complicated dispute can require a substantial investment. Fortunately, there are ways you can keep mediation costs to a minimum.
Mediation can be an effective way out of a complicated situation. It can help you avoid exhausting litigation procedures, preserve business and personal relationships, save money, and more. Below, we will look into the best ways of organizing a mediation process and managing related costs.
What Is Mediation?
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution, often abbreviated as ADR. In simple terms, it is a negotiation assisted by a third party. As opposed to arbitration, mediation doesn’t require a third party to be the decision maker in a dispute. Mediation is generally initiated by the parties involved. However, it can also be compelled by a court or contractual obligations.
To keep it even simpler, a mediation case is a private and informal way to resolve a disagreement with the help of a mediator—without involving a court or a judge. During mediation, the parties are encouraged to communicate to come to a mutually beneficial resolution.
Mediation is accessible for the majority of noncriminal cases and some nonviolent criminal cases. Any of the involved parties can suggest conflict resolution via mediation. These are typical cases that can be resolved via mediation:
- Neighbor to neighbor disputes
- Family law issues: divorce related conflicts, custody issues, etc.
- Real estate disputes
- Small business disputes
- Personal injury matters
- And more
The length of the mediation process depends on a number of factors, the complexity of the case being the most decisive. A simple mediation case can take under a few hours, while more complicated situations may drag on for days. If mediation doesn’t resolve the conflict, both sides retain the option to file a formal lawsuit.
What Does a Mediation Process Look Like?
As mentioned above, mediation is a less formal conflict resolution procedure than arbitration. On the other hand, it’s not a simple conversation between the involved parties—but a planned and structured process that involves several distinct stages:
- Opening statement by the mediator. The purpose of the statement is to introduce the parties involved, define the goals for the mediation process, and encourage cooperation on both sides. The mediator opens the negotiation process and invites the parties to an open discussion.
- Opening statements by each party. Next, it’s time for each party involved in the mediation process to explain the nature of the dispute, from their perspective, offer relevant proof and arguments, and conclude with their suggestion for resolution.
- Discussion. Here, the mediator will encourage the parties to address each other’s opening statements to better define and isolate the true cause of the conflict. Each party will get to present their case in response to what they’ve heard in each other’s opening statements. They may also point out inconsistencies and discrepancies in each other’s case.
- Meeting in private. This is where each party has a chance to talk to the mediator in private, discuss their concerns, and exchange ideas on how to resolve the dispute. During this stage of the mediation process, each party is generally placed in a different room, with the mediator visiting each of them individually, for a more in-depth conversation.
- Joint discussion. After individual discussions, the parties come back to the negotiation table, hopefully with a clearer vision for a resolution. The mediator will continue facilitating the talks until an agreement is reached.
- Written agreement. If a consensus is reached during the joint discussion, the mediator will ask the parties to sign a written agreement. If a consensus can’t be reached, the parties may decide to meet again for further negotiations.
Why Have a Lawyer as a Mediator?
Mediation doesn't have to be administered by a lawyer. This process won’t affect your legal rights and doesn’t require any legal intervention. On the other hand, mediation offers a valuable opportunity to settle a dispute peacefully: saving time and money, preserving relationships, and avoiding litigation-related stress and complications.
So, do you need a lawyer to act as your mediator? It depends on the complexity of your case and the associated risk of the case going to court. If the legal consequences of the dispute have the potential for being harsh (substantial financial loss, custody modification, difficult business choices, etc.), having a lawyer manage the mediation process can minimize the risk of the dispute getting out of hand.
Here’s how having a lawyer as a mediator can help your case:
- Lawyers generally have extensive experience representing their clients in similar legal disputes, which gives them an in-depth understanding of the issue and how the dispute may be resolved.
- Lawyers have court experience. A lawyer can explain to both parties the possible outcome of taking their dispute to court. This can serve as a strong motivation for both sides of the conflict to settle the matter out of court.
- Lawyers can draft a legally binding agreement for both parties to sign at the end of the mediation process.
Are Mediation Lawyers Expensive?
Their cost depends on a number of factors: geographical location, mediator experience, the complexity of the dispute, the number of parties involved, the type of dispute—and more.
The per hour rate of a mediation lawyer may vary between $300 to $900 per hour. In some cases, this fee may be split between all the parties involved. In other cases, a lawyer will charge each party a separate fee. In a complicated case or with a high level attorney, mediation costs can rise to several thousand dollars per hour.
The cost of mediation can get high, but the cost of litigation will always be higher. Moreover, while mediation processes typically last a few days at most, litigation procedures can drag on for years. This is why most people will opt to invest in mediation procedures rather than face the risk of going to court. With that, the options for lowering mediation costs are definitely worth exploring.
How to Cut Costs on Mediation?
As we’ve mentioned, mediation presents a way to cut legal costs on its own. Resolving a dispute via mediation is substantially less expensive than doing so in court.
On the other hand, mediation costs can get quite high, and it’s natural for the parties involved to seek to lower these expenses.
An effective way to lower the cost of the mediation process is to minimize the time it takes to come to an agreement. With most lawyers charging hourly fees for mediation, reaching a resolution sooner rather than later means you will be paying less. To make sure the mediation process goes smoothly, focus all your efforts on exploring a win-win scenario instead of placing blame or aggravating the conflict.
Working with an experienced attorney who specializes in cases similar to yours can also resolve the situation faster.
Another effective cost cutting practice is to initiate a conversation with the other party prior to mediation and invest effort into discovering some common ground. A formal mediation procedure can then serve as a way to iron out remaining details and reach a workable, legally binding agreement.
Using unbundled legal services is another way to lower mediation costs. In this case, you would hire an attorney to handle a specific portion of your case—and not the full mediation process. For instance, you may need the services of a lawyer to draft the final agreement at the end of your mediation, or you may only need to use them to resolve the most challenging aspect of the dispute. Since you won’t be hiring a lawyer for the full length of mediation proceedings, you will be paying less in legal fees.
If you do require full representation during mediation, you may still benefit from using unbundled services. We have a network of law firms and solo practitioners who offer payment flexibility and may be able to assist your case for less. We can put you in touch today with a local mediation lawyer to learn more about your options.