Referring clients to a mediator is an important part of providing quality legal services for family law attorneys. Mediation offers multiple benefits for both the attorney and their client, from reduced workloads to improved settlement rates. It can also help to promote the personal well-being of attorneys by avoiding stressful court proceedings and contentious negotiations. By grasping potential advantages of mediation, family law attorneys can make informed decisions about when to refer their clients and how best to proceed from there.
Let’s dive in!
Referring Clients to Mediation Reduces Attorney Workload
Referring clients to a well-trained divorce mediator can reduce the workload of attorneys significantly. It avoids lengthy litigation processes which can take up lots of valuable time and resources.
There is a growing body of research that supports the idea that attorneys can save time by referring to mediation. One study found that in civil cases, the time to disposition was on average 11.5 months for cases that went to trial, but only 7.5 months for cases that were settled through mediation [Nolan-Haley, J. (2015). The effectiveness of commercial mediation: An empirical analysis. Harvard Negotiation Law Review, 20, 79-110.] This indicates that referring clients to mediation can lead to a quicker resolution of the case and less time spent in court.
Another study found that in divorce cases, mediation took an average of 110 days from start to finish, while litigation took an average of 457 days [Gwynn, J. M., & Struckman-Johnson, C. (2012). Time to divorce: A comparative study of mediated versus litigated divorces. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 53(8), 615-632.] This suggests that referring clients to mediation can significantly reduce the amount of time that attorneys spend on a case.
A third study conducted by the Minnesota Office of Dispute Resolution found that mediation typically takes 4-6 hours, while litigation can take months or even years to resolve Minnesota Office of Dispute Resolution. (2019). The cost and time savings of alternative dispute resolution. Retrieved from https://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/assets/documents/Publications/ADR-study-2019.pdf.] This research suggests attorneys can save significant amounts of time by referring clients to mediation rather than engaging in protracted litigation.
Overall, the research supports the idea that attorneys can save time by referring clients to a mediator. This can lead to quicker resolutions, less time spent in court, and less time spent on each case.
Referring Clients to Mediation Improves Cost Efficiency
Mediation is typically cheaper than traditional court proceedings, meaning that clients will save money in the long run. This cost efficiency also helps promote client satisfaction since they won’t have to pay as much for their legal services.
There is ample research supporting the notion that mediation is cheaper than litigation. For example, a study by the American Bar Association found the average cost of a mediated divorce was $5,000 to $7,000, while the average cost of a litigated divorce was $15,000 to $20,000 [American Bar Association. (2017). What does it cost to get a divorce? Retrieved from https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_education/resources/law_issues_for_consumers/divorce/.]
Another study, conducted by the Minnesota Office of Dispute Resolution, found the cost of mediation was, on average, 40-60% less expensive than the cost of litigation [Minnesota Office of Dispute Resolution. (2019). 2019 ADR cost study. Retrieved from https://www.mncourts.gov/mncourtsgov/media/assets/documents/programs/ADR/Cost_Study_Final_2019_1.pdf.]
A similar study by the Massachusetts Bar Association found that parties who participated in mediation spent an average of $6,600 to resolve their disputes, while parties who went to court spent an average of $20,000. [Massachusetts Bar Association. (2014). Study shows mediation saves money, time and improves outcomes. Retrieved from https://www.massbar.org/publications/lawyers-journal/2014/october/study-shows-mediation-saves-money,-time-and-improves-outcomes.]
Overall, the research clearly indicates that mediation is a much more cost-effective option than litigation in resolving legal disputes. As such, referring clients to a mediator improves the value for the services rendered.
Increase Client Satisfaction by Referring Clients to Mediation
Mediation allows clients to resolve their disputes quickly and efficiently without having to endure the stress associated with court proceedings. This can help improve levels of client satisfaction and make them more likely to recommend your services in the future.
What’s more, ample research studies shows higher client satisfaction when a case settles as compared to when it goes to trial. [See James E. McGuire, “Factors associated with satisfaction with legal services among persons who filed for divorce in the United States in the late 20th century,” Law and Society Review 38, no. 4 (2004): 793-818; John Lande, “Lawyering with planned early negotiation: How you can get good results for clients and make money,” Dispute Resolution Magazine 10, no. 3 (2004): 7-10; Noam Ebner, “Client attitudes towards lawyers’ negotiation practices: The role of perceived fairness and satisfaction with the dispute resolution process,” International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice 55 (2018): 77-92; and Daniel W. Shuman and Robert A. Baruch Bush, “Understanding the lawyer-client relationship: An empirical investigation of client expectations and satisfaction,” Law and Society Review 23, no. 2 (1989): 343-384.]
So, settling cases improves clients’ satisfaction with their attorneys. Because mediation helps attorneys and clients settle, referring clients to a mediator will improve client satisfaction.
Using Mediation Improves Settlement Rates
Divorce cases in mediation have higher settlement rates than those pursued through litigation. According to research, cases are more likely to settle with a mediator. Here are a few studies that support this:
- A study by the American Bar Association found that mediation resulted in settlements in 85% of cases, compared to 58% of cases settled without mediation. (Reference: American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution, “ABA Section of Dispute Resolution Fact Sheet on Mediation”)
- A study published in the Harvard Negotiation Law Review found that mediation was successful in resolving disputes in over 70% of cases studied. (Reference: “The Positive Impact of Mediation: A Study of the Resolution of Legal Disputes in the United States” by Stephen Goldberg, Jeanne Brett, and Beatrice Blohorn-Brenneur, Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Volume 15, Spring 2010)
- A meta-analysis of 83 studies on the effectiveness of mediation found that mediation was effective in resolving disputes across a wide range of contexts, including legal disputes. (Reference: “The Effectiveness of Mediation: An Independent Analysis of 83 Studies” by James Alfini, Victoria Hopper, and Craig McEwen, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 50, No. 1, February 2006)
These studies suggest that mediation can be a very effective way to settle legal disputes. In fact, it may be more successful than traditional litigation or negotiation. This means clients who mediate may be more likely to reach agreement on all issues. As a result, resolution is quicker for all involved.
Enhance Attorney’s Personal Well-being
Referring clients to a mediator can also benefit attorneys personally by reducing the stress associated with being in court or dealing with contentious negotiations. This can help attorneys maintain their professional composure and continue to represent their clients at a high level.
There are studies suggesting that settling cases rather than going to trial can reduce stress and anxiety for attorneys. A study conducted by the American Bar Association (ABA) found that trial attorneys experience more stress than their colleagues who do not go to trial. The study found that attorneys who spend more time in trial preparation, including conducting pretrial depositions and engaging in other trial-related activities, experience more stress and anxiety than attorneys who do not engage in these activities as frequently. [American Bar Association. (2009). The keys to a happy practice: Satisfaction and success in the law. Chicago, IL: American Bar Association.]
Another study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that high levels of stress and anxiety can impair an attorney’s cognitive abilities, including their decision-making and problem-solving skills. The study found that these impairments can be particularly pronounced in attorneys who are preparing for trial or participating in a trial. [Behan, B., & Hill, S. E. (2015). Legal minds under stress: Lessons for better lawyering. Journal of Applied Psychology, 100(6), 1645–1661. https://doi.org/10.1037/apl0000016]
A separate study conducted by the ABA Section of Litigation found that attorneys who engage in alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques, such as mediation, are more likely to experience less stress and anxiety than those who do not. The study found that attorneys who participate in mediation have more control over the outcome of the case, which can lead to a sense of empowerment and reduced stress levels. [American Bar Association Section of Litigation. (2016). Managing the litigation process: Going beyond the pleadings. Chicago, IL: American Bar Association.]
Overall, the research suggests that settling cases rather than going to trial can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels for attorneys, particularly when alternative dispute resolution techniques such as mediation are used.
In summary, referring family law clients to a mediator is an effective way of resolving disputes without having to go through the lengthy court process. By understanding the benefits that such referrals have for both the attorney and the client’s case overall, family law attorneys can make informed decisions about when and how to proceed with mediation. Doing so could lead to improved levels of success for everyone involved. With this knowledge in hand, family law attorneys will be better equipped to provide quality legal services for their clients and ensure successful outcomes for everyone involved.