Published: May 2022
Author: Mark Greenberg
12 years ago, I went through a divorce. It was a long, expensive, and emotionally painful process for both of us. Pamela, my former wife, and I did not hate each other. We simply were not going to remain married and had a few strong disagreements about how that was going to look moving forward. Both of us were hurt, worried about our two children, and probably beginning to realize we needed to examine our own shortcomings and how that had contributed to the end of our marriage. We had to mediate three times, with two different mediators, to settle our case. Finally, we each compromised, signed the settlement agreement, and began to move on with our lives.
Over time our wounds healed, and we made peace with each other. Without ever expressly saying it (at first), we both acknowledged we had not treated the other person well during the marriage. Most importantly, we forgave each other.
As we healed, we talked about how the divorce went. We both realized that we had spent a lot of time, a lot of money, and expended an endless amount of emotion which could have been avoided had we settled earlier. We realized that the mediator we used for the first two mediations was the wrong person. She was, and is, a very good mediator, but she was simply the wrong person for our issues and personalities. Finally, when we brought in the right person, that made all the difference. She was able to help us break through the logjams and settle our divorce. Otherwise, we probably would have ended up in trial, and we certainly would have ended up fighting for a long time after the trial. That mediator allowed us to break down our barriers and work through the remaining issues to resolve our divorce. I am not saying it was “amicable”, but rather it laid the foundation for us to become amicable over the next several months. That mediator therefore provided both a legal benefit in helping us settle, and an emotional benefit for allowing us to recognize where each person was coming from and move forward peacefully over time. That peace was a huge advantage for our kids, who could at least see us co‑parenting well, even if we were no longer married.
In short, I learned that Peace Has a Value. The peace that came from the divorce being final, the peace that came from being able to move forward with our lives, and the peace that allowed us to wake up and not have the weight of the case hanging over us every day. When we left the final mediation, we each of course thought we had given up too much. But over time, we both were happy we had stopped the bleeding and were able to move forward.
It was after that I became certified as a mediator, and that is now all I do. Mediation is a wonderful way to provide real value to people who come before you, while making a living. I know that even when people leave a little disappointed in how the case settled, 2 weeks later they are usually very happy to have it off their plate or to have closed that file, and to have moved on with either their lives or to the next case. Attorney’s clients are happy, and that leads to more clients for that attorney.
Financially, we estimate each settled case saves between $200,000.00 and $250,000.00 in legal fees versus going to a jury trial. In 2021, our average mediation cost was $1,500. $200,000 divided by $1,500 equals $133 saved for every $1 invested. That is a return on investment (“ROI”) of 13,000%. It is the best investment the litigants can make.
I would like to clear up one myth about mediation though. If a case does not settle, I do not go home, relax, and forget about it as if it never happened. If I think that case could have settled, I do the same thing I did after I lost a trial or had a big hearing go the wrong way. I do a complete postmortem on it, thinking about what I could have done differently, how I could have asked different questions, and thinking it through. I do this so I can be better the next time, and most good mediators I have spoken with do the same thing.
Do we spend all weekend preparing for trial? No. But we do think through how we could have helped you avoid spending that weekend preparing for trial, and hoping the next time we are able to do that.
Mark Greenberg is the founder of Breakthrough Mediation. He has tried over 100 cases to verdict, representing both Plaintiffs and Defendants. He now mediates cases throughout Florida, saving clients over $25 million dollars in legal expenses during 2021, while helping them find peace in the resolution of contentious disputes. www.btmediation.com
For additional ADR tips and resources go to https://www.palmbeachbar.org/alternative-dispute-resolution-committee/