Tonya MacBeth – Lawyer & Mediator

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My role as a lawyer in the mediation process is different from my role as a mediator.


Sometimes, when I talk about mediation, I'm talking about it as a mediator. Other times, we're discussing it as representation in mediation. My role as a lawyer in the mediation process is different than my role as a mediator.

When I am representing my client in mediation, it is my role to really know what makes my client tick, where their values lie, and potential solution paths that honor those values and goals. So that we can reach a common solution that the mediator will understand that there are keys to resolving the case that I am laying out before them. Then the mediator can carry that information as selectively as I choose to mete it out to the other side and try and craft those goals.

Now, when things have been going well, I will also have an idea as to the keys that the other person might be bringing to the table, things that they value through my discussions with my client. And giving the mediator those keys can really make a difference in the mediation process. That requires that there is a good fit between the client and the attorney because if there isn't a good fit, then there is no trust. And the client will not have the opportunity to really share those values and keys to coming to a positive and affirming solution.

But there also has to be a good fit between the lawyer and the mediator. And when representing my clients, I'm very careful about who I choose to use or agree to use as a mediator because there needs to be an atmosphere of trust between the client, the lawyer, and the mediator in order for this solution-gathering and forming process to be successful.

A mediator who isn't someone who is listening or accepting the information that's provided to them can really thwart the mediation process. Somebody who is directive or a decision-maker, rather than a solution finder, can make it difficult to come to resolution. Because once that trust is broken between the client and the mediation process as a whole, being able to find a solution that is acceptable, and again not a win or lose situation, becomes even more difficult.

And we need to make sure that everybody is invested in the process and treating the process itself with the respect it deserves.

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