Mediation: the value of a preliminary conference

Meeting a mediator for the first time at the mediation is sometimes inevitable, but never ideal.

Best practice incorporates an earlier meet up - a "preliminary conference" - between the mediator and the lawyers for the disputants, sometimes with the disputants present also.

The preliminary conference is not just an opportunity to become acquainted with the mediator, but to ensure everything is prepared for the mediation.

The agenda for a typical preliminary conference can include:

  • Finalising the mediation agreement & issues of confidentiality
  • Dealing with arrangements for payment of fees to the mediator and any venue hire
  • Arranging to have the mediation agreement signed
  • Confirming the date, time and venue of the mediation, including any formal breaks (eg lunch) and expected end time
  • Setting expectations as to the process of the mediation, and the role of the mediator
  • Arranging for provision of outstanding documents and timetable for exchange of any position statements
  • Arranging for provision of materials for the mediator
  • Ensuring that those who intend to participate in the mediation will have appropriate authority to enter into an agreement to resolve the dispute, without having to contact someone who will not be there
  • Identifying and sorting out any objections to attendance by third parties and "support" persons.

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