Legal disputes can tear apart businesses and families.
While aggressive litigation is sometimes necessary to obtain relief or defend claims, litigation should be reserved for appropriate cases. Mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law are alternative forms of dispute resolution which can provide the relief obtained through litigation, often with fewer of the pitfalls of traditional court proceedings. Statistically, parties to disputes are more satisfied with the outcomes of mediation, than litigation. When parties willingly participate in mediation, even when entrenched in opposing positions, disputes may be resolved faster and more affordable with less damage to the underlying relationships, than what often occurs in traditional litigation. Sometimes one mediation session will resolve a dispute. Other times, a series of meetings may be necessary, especially where the parties have initial mediations to discuss the exchange of documents or hiring an outside professional to provide necessary accounting or similar services that are productive to resolution.
Evaluate your dispute.
If your dispute is governed by a contract, read the contract. Determine if your contract allows full litigation, or requires submission of the matter to mediation and/or arbitration. Determine whether the contract allows an award of attorneys’ fees paid by the losing party to the prevailing party. Confirm the jurisdiction and law governing the contract. Understand the availability of judges and time frame for handling your matter in the Court, and whether your case is one for which your attorney charges by contingency or hourly fee.
These facts must be taken into consideration when strategizing dispute resolution. Regardless of the contract, or where no contract exists, parties can typically submit to mediation voluntarily. Mediation is often a form of damage control for relationships experiencing a downward spiral, both business and personal. Therefore, it is also important that you evaluate the value to you of a cooperative, voluntary resolution.
Use a professionally trained mediator.
It is imperative that your mediation be performed before a professionally trained and experienced mediator familiar with the subject matter of the dispute. Well trained mediators have a skill set specifically designed to facilitate the process of finding solutions in even the most contested of disputes. Through training and experience, professional mediators are able to navigate the parties around settlement obstacles while ensuring the process remains respectful and productive.
As per New Jersey statute, mediators have the privilege of confidentiality. During the mediation process, a party may privately reveal their positions to the mediator, inform the mediator of what information may be shared with the other party, and know that the mediator is subject to the obligation of confidentiality in the event that the mediation fails, and the matter proceeds to litigation. In our experience, most cases submitted to mediation settle. Although not always necessary, in some cases, it is also best that the parties each obtain separate legal representation going into a mediation.
Mediation with Shanahan & Voigt, LLC
Nicole L. Voigt and Robert J. Shanahan, Jr. are both professionally trained and experienced civil mediators. They have completed training programs in Basic Civil Mediation, a 30 Hour Civil Mediation Training Course conducted by the New Jersey Association of Professional Mediators (NJAPM): a prerequisite to appointment to the Roster of Court Appointed Attorneys for the Civil Division to accreditation by the NJAPM. This course built upon mediation training and experience already held by attorneys Voigt and Shanahan. Ms. Voigt is currently a Court appointed mediator for the Superior Court Special Civil and Landlord Tenant Divisions and studied mediations and negotiation at Northeastern University School of Law. Mr. Shanahan and Ms. Voigt have completed training in Collaborative Law: an emerging field of alternative dispute resolution, which Mr. Shanahan seeks to apply to his elder law and estates practice and Ms. Voigt to business disputes. Bob Shanahan has been selected by the Court to serve as court-appointed mediator in Elder Law Disputes.
Both Bob and Nicole are available to privately mediate business and family disputes. For existing clients, it is important that we evaluate conflicts of interest prior to serving as a neutral mediator. For new clients, please contact us and promptly let us know that you are interested in mediation services, so that we may process your matter as neutral to both parties. We can additionally refer matters to our network of entrusted and experienced mediators.
Collaborative Law is an additional form of mediation, which is sometimes more appropriate for deeply contested or more complex disputes. For more information, read our articles on the use of Collaborative Law for Elder Dispute, and for Business Disputes. Both Bob and Nicole have the experience to advise whether traditional or collaborative mediation is best, and to move a traditional mediation to a collaborative one, where necessary.