Mediation Process

Greg Peterson helps businesses and individuals throughout the Sacramento area resolve disputes as quickly and cost-effectively as possible by using mediation as an alternative to trial. We believe that nearly any civil disputes can be resolved through mediation, including business, real estate, environmental and construction disputes. We have also seen very significant growth in mediation of trust and will contests, trust, estate and probate litigation, and litigation against or involving trust beneficiaries & trustees and will executors. It is the high cost of litigating cases to trial for both sides that has led to the exponential growth in the popularity of mediation, and it is now the method used to resolve complex business and real estate disputes.

How it Works

In a mediation, the parties typically meet on a date they pick and use a mutually-selected neutral mediator who tries to help them negotiate a settlement of their dispute. Statistics prove that the great majority of cases settle using this process. Unlike a trial, which is constrained by scheduling, legal and other limitations, a mediation encourages the parties to mutually resolve their disagreement in a much more informal and relaxed setting. The parties do not testify, or present any evidence. Often detailed briefs and summaries of key evidence are exchanged ahead of the mediation. In some but not all cases, mediators will encourage the parties counsel to make abbreviated opening statements, in order to present a summary of the law and facts supporting their side of the case. However, the role of a mediator is not to evaluate the case and make a decision in one party's favor like a judge, jury, or arbitrator, but rather to facilitate open communication and understanding between the parties themselves.

Mediation typically begins with the parties coming together with the mediator and setting an agenda. The relevant issues are clearly defined, and each party is given the opportunity to express its position and concerns. Often, the mediator asks the parties to refrain from engaging in argument during the mediation process so that the parties can focus completely on resolving the dispute.

The parties then enter private caucuses with the understanding that what they discuss with the mediator will be confidential. This encourages each party to discuss their position candidly with the mediator without having to worry that what they say will affect negotiations. Often the mediator will work to help each party understand the merits in the other side's case. Frequently this results in the parties reaching a mutually beneficial agreement that concludes in a full and final settlement of all outstanding disputes.

Choosing a Mediator

For attorneys seeking mediators to assist with a settlement or for clients who would like to explore alternative dispute resolution (ADR) options, it is critical to select a neutral that has experience mediating a diverse range of cases. In addition to being a skilled litigator, K. Greg Peterson has assisted numerous clients with resolving their disputes through mediation, and has worked with many of Northern California's premier mediators. On occasion, Mr. Peterson himself has also been retained as a private mediator and Judge Pro Tem in the Sacramento County Superior Court.

Why is mediation helpful?

In some cases, litigation is the best, or only, way to proceed. However, where appropriate, mediation can be the better option. Mediation allows each party to be heard and understood by the other. In fact, it is often the only time parties will see and talk to each other before meeting again at trial. It allows the parties to reach their own conclusion instead of having a judge, jury, or arbitrator make the decision for them, and consequently, the parties are often more likely to comply with the terms of the agreement. Mediation is also typically much faster than litigation and can occur much earlier on in the process, because we work on your calendar, not the court's. As a result, it is also usually less expensive to resolve a case through mediation. In addition, while court proceedings are matters of public record, the parties to mediation can agree to keep the matter, and the settlement, confidential.

Is the mediator actually neutral?

Yes. The mediator is present not to give legal advice or make a binding decision, but instead to facilitate discussion and help each party understand their own positions, as well as the other side's position. This allows the mediator to remain neutral throughout the process. At our firm, we mediate many cases, most to successful conclusion, which allows us to maintain close working relationships with many of Northern California's most prominent mediators. Our clients know that the mediator in their case has the same goal they do: to help reach the best possible resolution.

When is mediation appropriate?

While it is possible to resolve nearly any dispute through mediation, mediation is especially appropriate in certain types of cases, such as when the parties have different views as to the facts or the law, when one of the parties has very strong emotions about the case or has a desire to be heard, and when the clients desire to resolve the problem in a more amicable manner. It is typically productive to mediate as early as possible and before the attorneys’ fees and costs have been incurred (and paid) to the point that the parties are dug into their positions and unwilling to waive those expenses, which can be very significant, as a condition of settlement. On the other hand, sometimes it is necessary to perform some discovery or file a motion or two to set the stage for a successful mediation. Greg Peterson is experienced and well versed in these matters, and he can help clients develop an economically sensible strategy for successful mediation.

How do I know if mediation is right for me?

We believe that mediation can work in most business, real estate, and construction disputes; however, this process is not right for everyone. Because we are experienced in resolving disputes through litigation as well as mediation, we can help you determine the best course of action for your particular situation. Whatever your goals, we are dedicated to seeing your case through to resolution, by providing exceptional representation at every stage along the way.

Who does mediation cost and who pays for it?

Mediation is a private process. In some counties, courts keep a list of approved private mediators who will offer the first hour or two free, but charge after that. Courts cannot order parties to mediate and have no power to order payment of mediator fees unless the parties have previously agreed to that by contract. Currently, most attorneys and retired judges who serve as mediators charge in the range of $450-$600 an hour, and for some mediators who are in high demand, much more than that. Some mediators have a minimum charge for a half or full day to reserve their time. Although this sounds like and is a lot of money, mediation is typically a small fraction of what contested litigation can cost both sides and offers parties frequently their only chance to “forge their own deal.”