Before everyone spends tens of thousands of dollars and countless hours in a lawsuit, or if trial is approaching and attorneys' fees and other expenses are about to skyrocket, all sides can agree to hire a mediator and split the cost. The mediator's job is to help the parties communicate by listening to each party's concerns and impediments to settlement, maintain an atmosphere in which every effort is made to avoid increasing hostilities, and make every reasonable effort to ensure that each party is heard and informed. A mediator cannot, however, give you or anyone else legal advice or legal opinions, as the mediator must remain neutral. For this reason, you might want to have an attorney present to advise you at the mediation.
The goal of mediation is not to persuade you to settle. Instead, the goal is to ensure that every party is aware of his or her options and has enough information and time to make a decision that will remain acceptable to the parties a week later, a month later, and a year later.
Mediation is especially useful for disputes involving smaller amounts of money, such that the attorney's fees for each side could easily exceed the amount of money either side might obtain through a lawsuit and trial.
The rates I charge for mediation will reflect the amount of money in dispute. That way, the parties can have meaningful access to the dispute resolution process in smaller cases.
If you have an attorney representing you, but you are concerned about the cost and duration of litigation or negotiations that lead nowhere, talk to your attorney about hiring a mediator and splitting the cost with the other side. Mediation is often the best way to resolve your dispute, and sometimes the only way to resolve your dispute if you cannot afford a trial, cannot take weeks away from your business or job to attend a trial, or cannot afford the huge amounts of money invariably spent on depositions, discovery, expert witnesses, motions, preparation, and trial.
Also, mediation will allow YOU and the other parties --- not a judge or twelve strangers on a jury --- to decide how the dispute will be resolved.