Mediation FAQ: How Does Mediation Compare to Litigation?

Mediation FAQ: How Does Mediation Compare to Litigation?

Litigation is about proving your case and having a judge or an arbitrator declare a winner; one party wins and another loses.  In contrast, at mediation the law and your likelihood of success is a very important aspect of your case, but it is not the only factor.  Mediation allows other factors to be considered and developed without being limited to just what the law might provide if everything at trial goes the way that you hope it will.  Mediation is designed to try to find a resolution that is a win-win.  Unless parties insist, I normally do not normally suggest that counsel give an opening statement at mediation.  Doing so is, more often than not, counterproductive as they tend to devolve into a chest pounding session about who will win the litigation.

In litigation, one often listens to the other side, not for understanding and a search for common ground, but for the exposure of inconsistencies, weaknesses, and opportunities to score points.  Because of this adversarial process, litigants almost always have an exaggerated view of the strength of their own case and the weakness of the other side, which means that you probably have an exaggerated view of your case, just as the other side does.  Litigants tend to experience what psychologists call “confirmation bias” — the tendency to interpret new evidence and information as confirmation of one’s existing beliefs and theories.  I therefore encourage you to be open to a conversation that requires parties to listen as well as to speak.  Be honest about your “bad facts”.  All cases have bad facts and neither yours nor your opponent’s case is an exception.  Discuss your bad facts with your counsel before the mediation so that you will be prepared to understand how they motivate the other side and/or how they should influence you.

Lastly, in litigation, someone else determines your future.  It might be a judge, a jury, or an arbitrator, but someone else will decide who is right and who is wrong.  You will lose all control over the outcome.  Conversely, by mediating your dispute, you can maintain control over the outcome.

Jay Young is a Mediator in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He can be reached at or at

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