Since becoming a mediator, I have had more opportunities to meet and talk with other mediators, including many non-lawyer mediators. I have heard more than one of them discuss the transformative power of mediation. I must admit, at first, this notion gave me pause. It is certainly not a topic I hear discussed frequently among lawyer mediators. When I represented clients in mediation, my goal was far less lofty – to determine if the case could be settled on reasonable terms which my client found acceptable.
I began to wonder whether resolution requires transformation. Webster’s defines transformation as “…a change in form, appearance, nature, disposition, condition, character, etc.” and resolution as “a solving, as of a puzzle; the answering, as of a question; solution.” Thinking back on my own experience as an attorney, I was unable to recall a mediated settlement conference where I felt my client, or any party for that matter, seemed transformed by the experience. On a good day, we solved the puzzle of their lawsuit.
Upon further reflection, some (but certainly not all) successful mediations may require transformation to achieve resolution. In those instances, I believe transformation is gradual, accomplished through a series of small shifts in each side’s perspective. This change may involve perception of the facts, the other party and/or the respective strengths or weaknesses of the case. It probably also involves other intangible factors which may not even be conscious considerations. These gradual shifts in perception, perspective and perhaps attitude may allow both sides to make or accept proposals that they (and perhaps you) would have believed impossible at the beginning of the session.
This slow shift may not be the transformation I believe many of my non-lawyer colleagues speak of. It may be unrealistic to expect an emotional breakthrough in most Superior Court mediations. However, you might just witness a slow and steady metamorphosis that ultimately leads to resolution of the case. Here is hoping that April showers bring you not only May flowers but a healthy dose of transformation to your next mediated settlement conference.