As a mediator located in Southern Florida, I am often asked to explain the difference between mediation and conciliation. Mediation and conciliation are two dispute resolution methods that are very similar which sometimes confuses people. In this article, I will discuss the differences between mediation and conciliation and the benefits of each in Florida.

What is Mediation in Florida?

Mediation is a way for people who are having a dispute to talk about their issues and concerns and to make decisions about the dispute with the help of a mediator. In mediation, the parties can try to find solutions that make sense to both of the parties in the dispute to resolve some or all of your concerns. A mediator tries to facilitate conversation between parties in a dispute in such a manner that they arrive at an amicable solution to the dispute themselves. The mediator tries to ensure that parties have a clearer look at their own interests and needs so as to make them realize the ineffectuality of bringing the dispute to a law court. Though the mediator does not impose his will, he makes use of negotiation and communication techniques to help warring parties arrive at a peaceful resolution of their dispute.

To learn more about the mediation process, please refer to my blog entitled, What is Mediation in Florida?

What are the Benefits of Mediation in Florida?

  • Avoid court. Mediation clients typically do not go to court. At the end of the case, the mediator or a lawyer will prepare all of the paperwork and file it with the court. A judge will review and sign your judgment. Depending on your jurisdiction you still might have to make a brief court appearance just to tell the court what the agreement is or that you agree with the mediated agreement that has been reached.
  • Faster agreements. Litigated cases can take as little as six months and as long as several years. Recently, nationwide budget cuts have required courts to reduce staff and even cut the number of days courts are open, all of which means it will take longer to actually get to court. Mediations, on the other hand, occur on the participants’ timeline and can, therefore, be done far quicker, often in as little as a few of months or less.
  • Reduced cost. Traditional litigation can be very expensive and the total cost is incredibly unpredictable. Additionally, litigation clients who lose are often required to pay the other party’s attorney fees. Mediation costs far less because the focus is on a constructive resolution and not defeating the other side. Mediation is far less expensive because you spend your time actively working on resolving your case rather than filing motions and other court requirements. Furthermore, mediation costs are predictable because you are present for most, if not all, of the time the mediator spends on your case.
  • Greater client satisfaction. Mediation participants report a high degree of satisfaction with both the process of mediation and the mediated agreements they reach. Even if a litigation client is satisfied with the outcome, they are typically dissatisfied with the cost, stress, uncertainty, and acrimony associated with litigation. Further, if one litigant is happy with the outcome, that usually means the other litigant is unhappy and may file an appeal.
  • Preservation of relationships. Whether in business or in family disputes, preservation of relationships can be a key benefit of mediation. Mediation helps participants focus on effectively communicating with one another as opposed to attacking one another.  Although emotions sometimes run high in mediation sessions, the ultimate focus is on joint problem-solving and finding workable solutions, rather than on blame-assessment and compensation for perceived past harms.

What is Conciliation in Florida?

Conciliation is a voluntary proceeding, where the parties involved are free to agree and attempt to resolve their dispute by conciliation. Like mediation, the process is flexible, allowing parties to define the time, structure and content of the conciliation proceedings and are rarely public. The proceedings are interest-based, as the conciliator will when proposing a settlement, not only take into account the parties’ legal positions but also their commercial, financial and/or personal interests.

Like mediation, conciliation is a voluntary, flexible, confidential, and interest-based process. The parties seek to reach an amicable dispute settlement with the assistance of the conciliator, who acts as a neutral third party.

Unlike mediation, a conciliator injects insight and opinions as to how each side might fare in court and how their positions compare with the law. Conciliators provide each side a view of how things might turn out, suggest possible solutions to the parties, and weigh in on the exposures and costs associated with failing to reach an agreement. In both mediation and conciliation, the neutral dispute resolution professional does not make any binding decisions, such as in an arbitration, however, the parties do oftentimes reach an agreement that is then put in writing and signed, becoming an enforceable agreement.

What are the Benefits of Conciliation in Florida?

  • Conciliation ensures party autonomy. The parties can choose the timing, language, place, structure, and content of the conciliation proceedings.
  • Conciliation ensures the expertise of the decision maker. The parties are free to select their conciliator. A conciliator does not have to have a specific professional background and should be impartial and independent.
  • Conciliation is time and cost efficient. Due to the informal and flexible nature of conciliation proceedings, they can be conducted in a time and cost-efficient manner.
  • Conciliation ensures confidentiality. The parties usually agree on confidentiality. Thus, disputes can be settled discretely and business secrets will remain confidential. Additionally, because confidentiality has been agreed upon by both parties as well as the conciliator, both parties can be assured of discretion no matter what the outcome of the process.

By coming to a mutual agreement and understanding, the issues can be resolved in a timely manner, without the cost associated with litigation. If you need a mediator or conciliator in Southern Florida to help you settle a legal dispute or have questions about the mediation and/or conciliation process, contact Carlton Mediation.