I recently read this interesting article by Professor John Lande on how mediators can help bridge the communication gap between a lawyer and his or her client:
In mediation we so often focus on ensuring accurate communication of information and positions between adverse parties that its easy to overlook a need in some cases to ensure good communication between the party and his/her counsel.
In one recent study of medical malpractice mediations, research showed that the lawyers and their clients were not focused on the same things. Understanding that monetary relief is the legal system’s only remedy, lawyers tended to focus on those outcomes. In contrast, the parties may be more focused on non-monetary goals, such as admissions of fault, apologies, etc. As researcher Tamara Relis wrote:
Lawyers and clients live in “parallel worlds of understanding” of legal disputes.
As Professor Lande points out this disconnect is ironic because the research is focused on mediation, which is the only place where a legal action might result in a party obtaining this kind of non-monetary remedy. The distinctions between party and counsel are better explained by the article and is well worth your time. Hopefully it does not need to be said that lawyers need to understand all of their client’s goals not focus solely on the relief we might be able to win at trial.
Helping parties and their counsel understand the perspective of the other side is an important role of mediation. Some times it is just as important to help lawyers understand their own client’s perspective and vice versa.