The effective mediator can defuse the situation and help the parties to see the strengths and weaknesses of their positions. Thus, realistic expectations replace emotion-based reactions. The mediator also provides a safe environment for the parties to hear each other and see the other side's legal and emotional positions. When parties can be objective and discuss the problem in a neutral setting, settlement usually follows. If not, they can proceed to trial. All discussions are confidential and are settlement negotiations, thus neither party's case is weakened by mediation. Indeed, the fact that they have spent some time in discussions should make future settlement more feasible.
Parties' lawyers benefit too by establishing a reputation for quick, cost effective handling of what may be complex problems, and in much less time. Indeed, the issue may take minimal time, not years, to resolve, as so often happens in litigation. Often, mediation takes a single day.
As mediator, I review the case with each party to discuss strengths and weaknesses of both sides and encourage communication between the parties. Often, the mediation session is the first time the parties have had a chance to see the other side's case as a judge or jury will see it. This process can have a dramatic affect, as there are often two or more ways to perceive a case.
There are usually confidential caucus sessions and joint sessions. Confidentiality is respected at every stage.
Sometimes a business solution works. Several settlements were based on the parties working together to create a new business activity, thus creating opportunity for both sides and mutual willingness to dismiss the case.
The effective mediator is first a good listener, and does not miss the emotional elements of the case. Sometimes they matter more than the facts and the law.