Lawsuit. The very word can make grown men shudder. And it’s expensive. Thousands to millions of dollars spent on attorney fees, filing fees and the like depending on the situation, the complexity of the conflict and what is at stake. Never mind the risk of a compromised reputation, public disclosure of industry or personal secrets and possible loss of community good will. Good business sense here then would dictate an alternative be found. And in fact there is one - mediation.
Quinton Brown, retired as a district civil judge since 2001, in Birmingham , has seen both sides of settling disputes – as a judge and currently as a mediator at Brown Mediations. Brown said that beyond the actual dollars saved by using mediation instead of the courts, mediation saves time. Time, he points out, also has value and not only for the parties involved in the dispute but for the court system as well and the community at large. Mediation is not binding as is the decision in a court settled dispute, but Brown pronounces this a good thing because in the event there is no agreement, the parties can still proceed with a suit. Often there is agreement.
The volume of cases mediated and settled has grown in Alabama since 1994 when mediation was made a legal alternative. Cases mediated in Alabama hit a high in 2001 with some 8,152 cases being brought to mediation and 7,185 settled according to the Alabama State court mediator roster.
A large proportion of Brown’s cases include banks, financial institutions including insurance firms, but individuals can and do take advantage of the benefits of mediation for such legal situations as car wrecks and discrimination cases.
Mediation constitutes a change in thinking away from winning to an agreeable resolution of the issue. “But it works”, Brown said, and can save a lot of time and money. And that’s worth thinking about.