How Mediation can be like MMA
I know, you thought I was talking about Mixed Martial Arts. And, truth be told, I have seen some mediations that wanted to go the route of verbal MMA. But, even that can be turned to a productive session. Actually, I was referring to Making Mediation Affordable. Mediation can be expensive. There are mediators out there that charge a few hundred dollars an hour for their services. Add to that having an attorney attend the mediation with you and then one is looking at several hundred dollars an hour (I usually reduced my attorney rate by half, though, to make mediation more appealing than fighting in court). EVEN SO, MEDIATION IS WORTH IT financially in the long run and most definitely in terms of limiting relational damage in a divorce or separation situation.
But, many people cannot afford to pay those rates for mediation. So, I am breaking one of the cardinal rules I established as a lawyer. I learned early on that if an attorney charges a very low rate to a client, then there was this psychological kickback where the client often devalued the services. Sometimes, the client would even leave to go to an attorney who charged more just because they assumed the service was better because it cost more. This is not to dissuade pro-bono work, because I donate many hours a year via court appointments. Also, if the situation warranted, a discount at the back end did not have that same downside but could still help a struggling client.
The cardinal rule I am speaking of is to charge a reasonable rate compared to the market and expertise level so that I can make a living AND so participants value my services. Why am I breaking that rule with my mediation rates? Well, I really love mediating. I believe that mediation can make the difference between a future of constant contention or creative conflict resolution, especially for couples who will continue to co-parent. I believe it is a calling for me and not just a job (I would do it for free if I could AND if clients would still buy into the process). Finally, I want attorneys to come to trust me as a mediator; to value what I can bring to their family law cases.
So, I have created a sliding fee schedule based on a tiny percentage of the total household gross income. If you want to know what that formula is, feel free to call or email me, but everyone must pay some amount so that they have some “buy-in” to the process. On top of that, I have capped my hourly rate regardless of the income level. Finally, the minimum number of hours for which participants must pay is just one (1) hour as opposed to the two or three hour industry standard. I have two comfortable conference rooms in our offices and free parking, but I can travel within a reasonable distance to do the mediation at one of the attorney’s offices. I hope to offer this arrangement for the foreseeable future so that many people can experience the benefit of mediaiton for whom it would ordinarily be out of reach.
If you are in a conflict intense circumstance, I hope to hear from you soon.