One of the first questions we get, whether by phone, email or in-person, is how does mediation work? The problem is that there really isn’t a pat answer for that question. The mediation process and experience are as unique as the people in the settlement conference, the situation they are discussing as well as the training and expertise of the mediator her/himself.
That, however, is the sheer beauty behind mediation.
Let’s talk for a minute about the variables that are at play in virtually any mediated settlement conference. First, there is the physical environment of the mediation. Oft overlooked as a critical dynamic, we believe that the physical space can significantly impact the experience and the outcome. Determined not to make that same mistake, we chose the office that we are in is because it was built as a residential condo, a home. As you enter our center, there are two conference rooms just off the main foyer. Each has a color theme (one maroon, one green) and each is decorated more as a den in your home rather than a law office. All of our conference rooms are equipped with large monitors, flip charts and whiteboards. These tools give us the ability to capture key elements of the discussion as well as to look at factual information, such as a spreadsheet, at the same time and without eye strain.
Every one of our conference rooms also has a large bowl of snacks and goodies. Hey, mediation is hard work! And, don’t be surprised if you are in the office and smell fresh cookies baking.
As you make your way through the foyer, you’ll then encounter the large, open kitchen in the middle of the office with its inviting and warm center island and chairs. This is the hub of the experience and from the feedback we have received from our clients, the kitchen does wonders to reduce stress and deformalize the experience. Whether from the Keurig beverage maker or the fridge, there are a variety of complimentary hot and cold beverages available.
Pass through the kitchen and dining room which we use as our reception area and you’ll enter the largest of our conference rooms. Enclosed by French doors with plantation shutters and with its own doors to an outside patio, this is not your father’s conference room! Again, our goal is to create a sensory experience that will ease tensions, inspire creativity and facilitate good communications between the parties.
Oh yeah, no matter where you are in the office, you’ll be surrounded by images of Boone and North Carolina. Instead of filling the walls with the standard fare of generic artwork, awards, certificates and other icons of platitude we wanted to give the space a local feel. In fact, there are more than 60 local pictures displayed throughout the office. Can you identify what or where they are? And, for those who like a little challenge, each public space has a hidden image of our logo. Can you find it?
If client testimony is a fair measure, we’ve accomplished what we set out to do in terms of creating a space that was warm, welcoming, comfortable, safe and still, professional. In the next blog, I’ll talk about some of the human dynamics that play a role in mediation. Until then, all the best.