One of the most underrated techniques in a mediation is to start the mediation before it begins. The pre-mediation session gets the ball rolling before the parties walk in the door or open up the Zoom window.

Pre-mediation sessions are usually one or more conversations between the mediator and each attorney. Parties can be included, but I usually don’t do that. The sessions allow the mediator to test the statements/conclusions made in the mediation statement. The sessions can help to prioritize the issues, seeing where mutuality exists and where it does not. Attorneys can be free to ask questions that might help them when the mediation begins. Rapport can start being built.

But, most importantly, pre-mediation sessions help to force the attorneys (and/or parties) to focus on solving the dispute, not fighting the dispute. This shift in thinking is crucial to achieving resolution. It allows thinking to focus forward, rather than backward.

Next mediation you have, ask for the mediator to conduct pre-mediation sessions. You just might find they help!