This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Virginia Mediation Network’s annual fall conference. As a member of the Board of Directors, I take great pride in being part of such a wonderful program. The presentations and workshops were varied, representing the wide variety of contexts when mediation may effectively resolve disputes.
I lead a workshop on Saturday morning, “This is INTERESTing!” In the session, we examined a number of fictional cases to explore ways that mediators can successfully implement a win-win strategy to meet all parties interests in mediation. The group of 40 plus experienced mediators brought a great deal of excitement and knowledge to the workshop. A few issues came up that provided some difficult questions that we are hoping to tackle at next year’s conference.
Concurrent with my session, attorney Eric Paltell presented on the topic of mediation of employment law cases in Virginia. For many years, public employers have afforded themselves of both the economic and emotional benefits of mediation in the work place. Today more private employers are exploring mediation and enjoying the same benefits. Mediation provides a fast and creative way to look for those win-win solutions following a conflict in the workplace. Often, opening up communicate through workplace mediation creates opportunities for a better and more productive workplace.
Later in the day, plenary speaker Robert J. Rhudy, J.D., presented on his topic, “Senior Mediation in a Nutshell.” Mediation provides an opportunity for a positive resolution of conflict involving our elder community and family members. Mediation has been successfully employed in many guardianship proceedings when one family member does not agree that another is being properly cared for, either financially or physically, by another family member. Mediation also can be employed in addressing concerns between family members or professionals and family members in health care facilities or in conflicts involving financial institutions. Like mediation in other contexts, elder mediation offers a number of benefits: it keeps the parties in control of the dispute, it is private and is generally less expensive and time consuming than litigation. Mediation in any matter involving family members is generally less destructive to extended family relationships.
Collaborative attorney and mediator, Lawrence D. Gaughan lead a great session on some of the particular factors that apply to mediation in divorce matters. His session, “Creative Divorce Settlements Inside and Outside of the Legal Framework” reminded participants of the wide number of options for parties to resolve their divorce cases. While providing detailed materials to help mediators structure family law mediations, Gaughan cited the benefits of mediation in a divorce case since it is often less expensive, quicker, and less emotionally draining than the alternatives. Mediation usually creates agreements that are more detailed and better tailored than court decisions.
Other sessions at the weekend long conference in Richmond addressed the child support formula, mediation ethics, and developing listening skills.
Mediation has been a part of the legal system in most states for more than twenty years. Yet, many people who are involved in a conflict turn to the court before thinking of the multitude of options available in mediation. The VMN conference provided mediators with opportunities to improve skills, in areas of divorce and family law, labor law and elder law. I look forward to having the opportunity in the near future to work with my clients through mediation and avoid the unnecessary expenses and stress associated with litigation.