Trenam’s Mediation Newsletter: Using Mediation to Expand Relationships
In the last few articles, we highlighted the technical aspects of preparing for and succeeding at a mediation. However, there is another valuable component of mediation often overlooked, even if no settlement is reached. Mediation provides you the opportunity as counsel to spend a great deal of “one on one” time with your clients. Whether the representation is first time or one of many that you have undertaken on behalf of the client, this time should be spent wisely.
When the mediator is caucusing with the other party, it is time to ask your clients if there are any new facts, new documents, new damages, or updates you should be aware of if the case is not resolved. You also should review the other side’s presentation and ask your clients what they thought. Did the presentation alter their thoughts as to strengths and weaknesses of their own case? Did the presentation cause reason for them to believe there might be new claims or defenses? Even with the diligent efforts that you and your clients will expend toward resolving the matter at mediation and/or making a future plan in the event the mediation reaches impasse, there is still very likely going to be considerable down time.
This time should not be used to bury yourself in emails, phone calls and text messages about other matters, but to engage your clients on a personal level. It is a time to listen and learn about them. In addition to their hopes and concerns about the litigation, you have the opportunity to learn who they are as people. Do they have a family, where are they from, what do they like doing outside of the office? Simple things that really go a long way toward understanding your clients in more than just a business setting and that show you actually care about who they are as individuals. While rule number one is to listen, the downtime will also likely provide you an opportunity to provide your clients some insight about who you are as a person outside of the office as well. This goes a long way in creating trust in the relationship if it is new and maintains that trust if the relationship is longstanding. Clients are always impressed when you can not only ask about, but name, their spouse and kids and ask how that trip to Disney went in July the next time you see them.
Maintaining and expanding relationships with clients at mediation not only has the positive effect that they are more likely to seek future legal services from you, but also that they will be more likely to recommend you to others and have a level of trust that you above all others have their best interests in mind. In addition to forming genuine friendships with your clients, it will also allow you to act more effectively and efficiently as their legal counsel.