Sylvia Mayer, a Texas-based mediator whose blog is always insightful, recently shared an interesting article on how mediation affects the perceptions of litigants even where settlement is not achieved. The article, written by Donald Swanson, a bankruptcy lawyer and mediator, presents an excellent summary of a study/survey of litigants in cases in Maryland. Mediation in those cases was not mandatory and for the study was offered in some cases and not in others. The authors surveyed the litigants in both groups before and after the mediation or trial and then again 3-6 months later and finally 12 months later.
The fact that the study involved small claims cases and the mediation process was completely voluntary impacts how the results translate to larger, more complex cases where mediation is mandatory but the results are nevertheless worth considering.
Swanson does an excellent job summarizing the findings, so I will not duplicate his effort here. Suffice to say the study confirms many of the benefits I believe flow from mediation. Now there is at least one study to base those beliefs in both the long and short-term.
Without covering all the ground Swanson so neatly summarizes, there are two conclusions worth highlighting: First, the mediation process itself increases litigants’ satisfaction with the process regardless of whether the case settles. As a mediator, impasse is often the last we hear from the parties, so it is encouraging that the process itself adds value. Second, litigants who mediated their cases reported more satisfaction with the outcome and the judicial system and were less likely to return to court for an enforcement action regardless of the outcome in mediation.
Hopefully, there will be a study of this kind in the near future looking at more complex cases and mandatory mediation. In the meantime, this study is confirmation of my belief that mediation brings benefits regardless of outcome.