Benefits of Mediation

by Aled Davies
May 22, 2024

Mediation is one of the fastest growing areas of alternative dispute resolution as more parties in conflict discover its advantages in resolving disputes over other processes.

The top three benefits of mediation are efficiency, cost and privacy but there are several key advantages to mediating your dispute over other forms of dispute resolution processes such as litigation or arbitration. In this article we'll be learning about the primary benefits of mediation and how they can vary, depending upon the type of dispute involved.

Of course mediation not only benefits the parties in dispute but can also benefit the practitioner, which is why more and more lawyers and arbitrators are undertaking mediation courses and training as commercial mediators to take advantage of the rise in demand for the neutral third party and mediation services more broadly.

What is the Main Purpose of Mediation?

Traditional forms of dispute resolution, such as going to court to resolve your dispute are costly and time consuming. Mediation has been around for centuries in different forms and cultures but only over the last two decades has mediation come to the fore as a quick and efficient way of resolving your dispute. It's also worth noting that the courts are also favouring this process and it's not uncommon in some jurisdictions for a judge to order parties to try mediation before they come back to court. So from this you can see why mediation is rising up the ranks.

Definition and goals of mediation

The best definition of mediation I've encountered is that it's a fast, efficient and confidential way of resolving a dispute in an informal way through the assistance of an independent third party. The goals of mediation are simple: to help parties resolve their own dispute in a private forum with the aid of a trained neutral third party, known as a mediator.

How mediation differs from traditional conflict resolution methods

You can divide conflict resolution methods into two broad categories. There are adversarial methods, such as litigation, which means going to court where a judge will decide who's rights should prevail on the basis of evidence presented. In this method there is only one winner and therefore one loser. There are also non-adversarial methods, mediation being the most common of them all.

The fundamental difference between an adversarial and non-adversarial process is how the parties settle their dispute. In litigation, as mentioned a third party, like a judge, would decide on the outcome. In the non-adversarial approach, the parties themselves are responsible for deciding and whatever outcome they reach both have to agree to it. This is indeed why people refer to mediation as a win-win solution.

Another key difference is that going to court can take a long time to reach an outcome whereas in mediation a result can often be reached in just a few hours. This is a major attraction for parties in conflict because it means they can move on with their lives or their business much sooner than if they had a costly litigation hanging over their heads.

What are the Benefits of Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process and many see this as one of the key benefits of this form of alternative dispute resolution. It also provides a flexible and informal environment where each party has more control over the process and the decisions they make - all of which can actively shape the outcome, be that a legally binding decision or not. The informality of the mediation session also helps parties to feel at ease which can help promote open dialogue and creative problem solving.

The mediation process is confidential. This confidentiality encourages open communication between two parties, or more in some cases, as they can freely discuss their concerns, interests, and potential solution without fear of public exposure.

Detailed exploration of the advantages of mediation

The voluntary nature of mediation benefits the parties in several ways, first and foremost it means that a party to the dispute can freely exit the mediation process at any stage if they feel it just isn't working for them. It means that each party agree to willingly participate in this flexible process and to do their very best to reach an amicable settlement agreement.

It also means that, on balance, parties that come to mediation voluntarily are more likely to be open to exploring a negotiated settlement to their dispute through dialogue and collaboration. This also signals to the other side that they are at least willing to come to the table to negotiate, which is a difficult step to take particularly if there's been hostility or the relationship has broken down. I say on balance, because this isn't always the case but from experience and the research suggests that when a party to a dispute is empowered to decide for themselves (as opposed to coerced or forced into a process such as court proceedings) they are more internally committed to seeking a resolution.

A flexible approach to resolving disputes

Mediators guide parties through this flexible approach which allows for creative solutions that may not be available in traditional dispute resolution methods. It also means that parties can go backwards and forward in the process, meaning if they get stuck on a particular issue they can, with the assistance of the mediator, take a few steps back or move onto a different aspect and revisit that issue later on in the mediation.

Compared to the rigid and intimidating formalities of an adversarial process like arbitration or court proceedings, mediation is often experienced as a breath of fresh air by litigants.

The other advantage that comes with the flexibility of mediation is that parties can still attempt to reach an agreement through other means if mediation doesn't work.

Confidential dispute resolution

The mediation process is confidential. This encourages open communication between one party and the other party as they can freely discuss their concerns, interests, and potential solution without fear of public exposure. This key benefit can be particularly valuable in sensitive workplace disputes or disputes involving personal or business matters.

Another benefit of confidentiality is that the terms of any agreement reached can be kept strictly under wraps and is particularly useful in protecting sensitive commercial matters and keeping reputations intact. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Mediation?

Mediation focuses on finding mutually agreeable solutions rather than determining winners and losers.  It emphasises cooperation and understanding between the parties, aiming to preserve or restore relationships rather than exacerbate conflicts. This aspect is particularly important in disputes involving ongoing relationships, such as family matters, workplace disputes, or business partnerships.

Sometimes the outcome of mediation means that a relationship comes to an end, for example a commercial or employment relationship may be terminated. Even in these circumstances, mediation can help the parties draw a line in the sand, as it were, and move forward in new directions without the baggage of fractured relationships.

Mediation is frankly much cheaper than litigation or arbitration. It typically requires fewer formal procedures, legal representation, and court fees. Moreover, the process can be completed relatively quickly, reducing the time and expense associated with lengthy court battles. In fact most disputes that go to mediation reach settlement in one day and those that don't often settle soon afterwards.

It's unlike any other form of alternative dispute resolution

When you resolve disputes through this process you truly are the master of your own destiny. Unlike any other form of alternative dispute resolution, the parties are in control of the outcome. Mediation empowers the parties involved in the dispute by giving them an active role in the decisions they take at every stage of the process. They have the opportunity to express their concerns, needs, and interests directly to the other side or, if they'd rather not be in the same room as the other side during negotiations and are in what's called a shuttle mediation process, they can instruct the mediator to share information with the other side. The mediator's role is central to facilitating this process.

When mediation might not be the best option

While many enthusiasts tout mediation as a cure-all for conflicts, it's important to recognise its limitations.

Mediation may not be effective in disputes where there is a significant power imbalance between parties, when the issues at stake involve criminal activities or severe ethical violations, or when one party is uncooperative or unwilling to compromise. In such situations, legal intervention or arbitration might provide a more structured resolution framework. Understanding when to opt for these alternatives can save both time and resources, ensuring that all parties involved find a fair and just resolution to their disputes.

Do the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages?

When considering whether to choose mediation over other dispute resolution methods, weighing the advantages against the disadvantages is crucial. Mediation often offers a more amicable, cost-effective, and faster resolution than going to court, making it ideal for parties interested in preserving relationships and confidentiality.

However, its success heavily relies on the willingness of both parties to negotiate openly and in good faith. For disputes involving complex legal issues or where enforceable outcomes are necessary, the informal nature of mediation might fall short. Evaluating these factors can help determine if mediation is the most suitable approach for your specific conflict resolution needs.

The mediator is an important cog in this process and choosing a mediator with extensive experience will always bring advantages. That being said, the mediator is responsible for managing the entire day. Even before parties get together they will be involved in corresponding with each party and their lawyers ensuring discussions are productive and useful. Their goal is to help parties agree on a way forward that avoids costly litigation and towards a solution that is mutually acceptable.

If you want to learn more about this in greater depth we cover it in the chapter on Mediation Process.

With the assistance of a neutral mediator, the parties take part in crafting a solution to the dispute that best serves their needs and interests. This ownership over the process and outcome can lead to higher satisfaction and compliance with the resolution. One of the core pillars of mediation is party self-determination and this is often seen as the primary benefit of mediation.

To pull everything together, mediation provides a voluntary, flexible, and confidential process that emphasises collaboration, preserves relationships, and offers cost-effective resolution options.

Its benefits extend to various types of disputes, enabling parties to actively participate in the resolution process and greater control over the negotiated settlement and ultimately their future.

What are the Benefits of Mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary process and many see this as one of the key benefits of this form of alternative dispute resolution. It also provides a flexible and informal environment where each party has more control over the process and the decisions they make - all of which can actively shape the outcome, be that a legally binding decision or not. The informality of the mediation session also helps parties to feel at ease which can help promote open dialogue and creative problem solving.

The mediation process is confidential. This confidentiality encourages open communication between two parties, or more in some cases, as they can freely discuss their concerns, interests, and potential solution without fear of public exposure.

Detailed exploration of the advantages of mediation

The voluntary nature of mediation benefits the parties in several ways, first and foremost it means that a party to the dispute can freely exit the mediation process at any stage if they feel it just isn't working for them. It means that each party agree to willingly participate in this flexible process and to do their very best to reach an amicable settlement agreement.

It also means that, on balance, parties that come to mediation voluntarily are more likely to be open to exploring a negotiated settlement to their dispute through dialogue and collaboration. This also signals to the other side that they are at least willing to come to the table to negotiate, which is a difficult step to take particularly if there's been hostility or the relationship has broken down. I say on balance, because this isn't always the case but from experience and the research suggests that when a party to a dispute is empowered to decide for themselves (as opposed to coerced or forced into a process such as court proceedings) they are more internally committed to seeking a resolution.

A flexible approach to resolving disputes

Mediators guide parties through this flexible approach which allows for creative solutions that may not be available in traditional dispute resolution methods. It also means that parties can go backwards and forward in the process, meaning if they get stuck on a particular issue they can, with the assistance of the mediator, take a few steps back or move onto a different aspect and revisit that issue later on in the mediation.

Compared to the rigid and intimidating formalities of an adversarial process like arbitration or court proceedings, mediation is often experienced as a breath of fresh air by litigants.

The other advantage that comes with the flexibility of mediation is that parties can still attempt to reach an agreement through other means if mediation doesn't work.

Confidential dispute resolution

The mediation process is confidential. This encourages open communication between one party and the other party as they can freely discuss their concerns, interests, and potential solution without fear of public exposure. This key benefit can be particularly valuable in sensitive workplace disputes or disputes involving personal or business matters.

Another benefit of confidentiality is that the terms of any agreement reached can be kept strictly under wraps and is particularly useful in protecting sensitive commercial matters and keeping reputations intact. 

What are the Pros and Cons of Mediation?

Mediation focuses on finding mutually agreeable solutions rather than determining winners and losers.  It emphasises cooperation and understanding between the parties, aiming to preserve or restore relationships rather than exacerbate conflicts. This aspect is particularly important in disputes involving ongoing relationships, such as family matters, workplace disputes, or business partnerships.

Sometimes the outcome of mediation means that a relationship comes to an end, for example a commercial or employment relationship may be terminated. Even in these circumstances, mediation can help the parties draw a line in the sand, as it were, and move forward in new directions without the baggage of fractured relationships.

Mediation is frankly much cheaper than litigation or arbitration. It typically requires fewer formal procedures, legal representation, and court fees. Moreover, the process can be completed relatively quickly, reducing the time and expense associated with lengthy court battles. In fact most disputes that go to mediation reach settlement in one day and those that don't often settle soon afterwards.

It's unlike any other form of alternative dispute resolution

When you resolve disputes through this process you truly are the master of your own destiny. Unlike any other form of alternative dispute resolution, the parties are in control of the outcome. Mediation empowers the parties involved in the dispute by giving them an active role in the decisions they take at every stage of the process. They have the opportunity to express their concerns, needs, and interests directly to the other side or, if they'd rather not be in the same room as the other side during negotiations and are in what's called a shuttle mediation process, they can instruct the mediator to share information with the other side. The mediator's role is central to facilitating this process.

When mediation might not be the best option

While many enthusiasts tout mediation as a cure-all for conflicts, it's important to recognise its limitations.

Mediation may not be effective in disputes where there is a significant power imbalance between parties, when the issues at stake involve criminal activities or severe ethical violations, or when one party is uncooperative or unwilling to compromise. In such situations, legal intervention or arbitration might provide a more structured resolution framework. Understanding when to opt for these alternatives can save both time and resources, ensuring that all parties involved find a fair and just resolution to their disputes.

Do the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages?

When considering whether to choose mediation over other dispute resolution methods, weighing the advantages against the disadvantages is crucial. Mediation often offers a more amicable, cost-effective, and faster resolution than going to court, making it ideal for parties interested in preserving relationships and confidentiality.

However, its success heavily relies on the willingness of both parties to negotiate openly and in good faith. For disputes involving complex legal issues or where enforceable outcomes are necessary, the informal nature of mediation might fall short. Evaluating these factors can help determine if mediation is the most suitable approach for your specific conflict resolution needs.

The mediator is an important cog in this process and choosing a mediator with extensive experience will always bring advantages. That being said, the mediator is responsible for managing the entire day. Even before parties get together they will be involved in corresponding with each party and their lawyers ensuring discussions are productive and useful. Their goal is to help parties agree on a way forward that avoids costly litigation and towards a solution that is mutually acceptable.

If you want to learn more about this in greater depth we cover it in the chapter on Mediation Process.

With the assistance of a neutral mediator, the parties take part in crafting a solution to the dispute that best serves their needs and interests. This ownership over the process and outcome can lead to higher satisfaction and compliance with the resolution. One of the core pillars of mediation is party self-determination and this is often seen as the primary benefit of mediation.

To pull everything together, mediation provides a voluntary, flexible, and confidential process that emphasises collaboration, preserves relationships, and offers cost-effective resolution options.

Its benefits extend to various types of disputes, enabling parties to actively participate in the resolution process and greater control over the negotiated settlement and ultimately their future.

Mediation Benefits in Various Contexts

Mediation has a range of benefits, which apply to all disputes but there are also some that apply to specific types of disputes. In commercial disputes, for example, a successful resolution in mediation means that the parties can get back to business more quickly, and their commercial reputations will be preserved, as the process is confidential.

In family and interpersonal disputes, choosing mediation will often mean that relationships aren’t as badly damaged as they would be after lengthy litigation, and more creative outcomes that work for all members of the family can be found. Children can also have a voice in the mediation process.

Mediation can be used effectively in workplace disputes where working relationships can be restored  rather than the working atmosphere being damaged by further arguments and tension and more contentious processes. This has the knock on benefit of improving productivity and creating a more harmonious working environment for everyone else. 

What are the benefits of mediation in the UK?

The benefits of mediation in the UK are the same as those all over the world. A larger number of disputes can be resolved more quickly, efficiently, and cost effectively if mediation is used rather than litigation. This is particularly the case in types of disputes such as consumer disputes, of which there are very large numbers that can mean long court lists and waiting times. If more of these disputes are resolved by mediation, it saves the court time and taxpayer’s money.

Participants in mediation also report greater satisfaction with the process, finding it less stressful than going to court, and this has a general benefit for society and how people choose to resolve future disputes. People who have learned that they can solve their problems with the help of a mediator as less likely to want to go to court in the future and this saves the State time and money. 

Comparison with other jurisdictions

As more and more countries integrate mediation into their legal systems, all make savings on court waiting lists and the costs of litigation. This is particularly the case in countries that have very long court waiting lists, like India and Nigeria. Some countries, like Kenya, have managed to make huge financial savings by diverting cases into mediation and out of court.

Other countries such as Ireland and Germany have focused efforts on particular sectors such as family mediation and other sectors where claimants often need legal aid. By offering mediation in these cases, it saves the cost of paying for long court cases and means people get to a workable solution more quickly. This also generally means parties are happier with the result and less likely to go back to court again. 

Exploring the Advantages of Mediation Further

The advantages of a particular dispute resolution process may vary depending on the specific circumstances of the case and the preferences of the parties involved.

Mediation advantages in family disputes

For example the advantages of mediation for a family dispute may seem quite obvious. Mediation can provide a supportive and non-adversarial environment to address family disputes such as a separation or divorce. These disputes are often highly emotional and distressing for family members especially where there are children involved and matters around access or child custody need to be addressed. Sometimes family conflict can surface between siblings over the decisions around elder care. This is where family mediation can make a significant impact because it helps everyone involved to focus on the best interests of the family and allows them to retain control over key decisions affecting family members.

Mediation advantages in workplace conflicts

In disputes involving team members or work colleagues, workplace mediation can bring significant advantages over other means of addressing workplace conflict where often ongoing relationships need to be preserved. The confidential nature of mediation means that conversations can take place in complete privacy which means work colleagues can discuss difficult issues openly. The collaborative nature of mediation means that colleagues can also learn how to improve their communication and identify workable and mutually beneficial solutions. This can also foster a more harmonious working environment.

Mediation advantages in civil disputes

The advantages of mediation for resolving civil disputes such as business partnerships or contractual disagreements again are obvious because mediation allows parties to problem-solve and come up with creative solutions that simply would not be available in another forum like arbitration or litigation. It also helps disputants who need to get their business relationships back on track or need to protect commercial reputations or simply save the time, cost and pain often incurred by parties in protracted legal disputes.

The flexibility, confidentiality and creativity that mediation affords parties makes it the fastest growing dispute resolution method on the planet. It's also why many professionals and those interested in conflict resolution are choosing organisations like Mediator Academy to gain the skills, credentials and network to embark on a career in mediation.

Is it Worth Going to Mediation?

Mediation is a strategic choice for conflict resolution that merits consideration under the right circumstances. It can be a valuable tool for those seeking a less adversarial and more cost-effective solution than litigation. This section explores the overall worth of mediation by assessing its benefits in terms of time, cost, and emotional well-being, juxtaposed with its limitations like lack of legal binding power and the necessity for mutual cooperation.

Situations where mediation is beneficial

Mediation proves especially beneficial in disputes where maintaining a relationship is important, such as in business partnerships, family conflicts, or neighbourhood disagreements. It is also advantageous when privacy is a concern, as mediation sessions are confidential and not part of the public record, unlike court cases. Furthermore, in scenarios where parties seek a quick resolution, mediation can be more efficient compared to the drawn-out processes of traditional litigation.

Recommendations for considering mediation

Before opting for mediation, consider the nature of the conflict and the relationship between the parties. It's advisable to engage in mediation when both parties are willing to cooperate and there is a desire to reach a mutually agreeable solution. Additionally, consulting with a legal or mediation expert can provide insights into whether your specific case could benefit from mediation or if another conflict resolution method would be more appropriate.

Conclusion

Recap of the mediation benefits and disadvantages

Mediation offers numerous advantages, such as cost efficiency, speed, privacy, and the preservation of relationships. However, its disadvantages include the potential lack of enforceability of agreements and the ineffectiveness in situations with a significant power imbalance or where legal issues dominate. This recap highlights the need to carefully assess both sides before deciding on mediation.

Final thoughts on the effectiveness and value of mediation

Ultimately, the effectiveness and value of mediation depend on the specific circumstances of the dispute and the goals of the parties involved. When used appropriately, mediation can serve as a powerful tool for resolving disputes amicably and economically. It's important to recognise when mediation is suitable and when alternative dispute resolution methods may be more effective in achieving fair and lasting outcomes.