Many times I hear potential clients mention the possibility of attending mediation with the opposing party as an alternative to hiring attorneys. These people generally seem to think that not hiring an attorney is the best way to keep things amicable with the other side. Unfortunately, these attempts to keep things amicable or keep costs down can often lead to serious problems down the road.
Mediation is a great tool to help get cases resolved when they cannot be settled informally. Even though many mediators are attorneys, the mediator cannot give legal advice to a party during mediation. The mediator’s job is to get an agreement reached, not advise the parties as to whether or not a particular agreement is a good idea. When a party attends mediation without an attorney, that party likely does not know the law, what he or she is entitled to under the law, what is standard and what is not, or if he or she may be making a mistake that can never be fixed.
Hiring an attorney does not prevent you from reaching amicable agreements with the other side, but it is the best way to ensure you are protecting yourself. The attorney can help you think of creative solutions, will help you make sure you are not forgetting to cover important issues in your agreement, and will advise you when you should say no. If your goal is to try to reach amicable agreements with the other side, be sure to pick an attorney whose philosophy aligns with yours and who seems on board with helping you accomplish that goal, if at all possible.