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Mediation Offers an Option to Court

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Long Beach, CAGoing to court to get to the bottom of legal issues can be frustrating and expensive. Lawyer and mediator Paul Carter says that parties in legal dispute should always at least consider what Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), better known as mediation, can do for them.

“There are two reasons to opt for mediation,” says Carter from Resolve Litigation in Long Beach, California. “You can learn a lot about what the other party’s perspective is on the case. The second reason is you want to find a way to settle the issue.”

Nothing that is said in mediation is admissible in court.

Even if the parties are already at trial, it is possible to interrupt the process and go to a mediator to settle the case.

Carter says his role as a mediator is “to facilitate communication and understanding between the parties.” You don’t have to be a lawyer to be trained as a mediator, but Carter says, “It helps the process if you have actually spent time in a courtroom and you clearly understand all the legal issues.

“I work for both sides in a mediation as do all mediators,” says Carter.
“Everything that each side tells me is absolutely confidential. I speak to one side privately and then go into the other room and speak to the other side privately.”

Typically the costs of mediation are split between or among the parties - there could be more than two parties involved in a dispute resolution.

“I tell people there are times when you think I am your biggest fan and I am solidly on your team,” says Carter. “There are other times when you will think I am working for the other side. The fact of the matter is neither is true. I am neutral. I am seeking to facilitate the communication of information and to educate you about the merits of your case so you are in a better position to enter into negotiations.

“I sometimes will say to people, ‘Look, your position really isn’t going to be acceptable to the other party and this is why.’ It moves the process forward to a realistic resolution.”

Carter describes the process a bit like real estate negotiations. If you ask too much, nobody wants the house and you find yourself getting less than its worth because you asked an unrealistic price. Carter’s job is to help people hit the spot that works for all the parties involved.

Carter obtained his law degree from Duke University and studied mediation at Pepperdine. He’s handled more than 500 mediations in California. His practice includes mediation for everything from estate disputes to sexual harassment and workers’ compensation issues.

One of the main goals of mediation, as Carter points out, is for parties to come to a mutual agreement that usually involves a financial settlement. Carter says good mediators have to like “making deals.

“I enjoy that process and I like getting people out of the legal process,” he says. “And you have to be fair and open-minded.

“Even if you win in a courtroom, victory can come at a high cost,” says Carter. “A lot of the money goes to court costs, and lawyers’ and expert witness fees. Sometimes mediation is a better way to go.”

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