Getting Your Client To Happy:
After what proved to be a lengthy, but very fruitful mediation this morning, I feel compelled to share some notes about what I think worked well for the parties in today’s case. As an attorney attending a mediation, there are only so many factors you have control over. You’re not running the show, and neither is your client. Preparing your client, physically, mentally and emotionally for what they are walking into is an essential part of getting them to happy.
HALT: Hungry, Angry, Lonely (bored), Tired
Its your job to make sure that your client is prepared before and on the day of the mediation. A mediation can take anywhere from one to four hours (in one sitting) depending on the mediator and the issues in the case. Never let your client get too hungry, angry, lonely (bored) or tired. A sign of any of these emotions is a direct signal to you as the advocate to HALT the mediation process. Ignoring these signals may lead to poor decision making or a break-down in the communication process. Wasted time is wasted money for your client. While it is common sense to tell your client to eat and sleep the day before, going the extra mile is what is going to get your client to happy. I keep Kind bars, bottles of water, 100 calorie nut packets and peppermints (the sent off peppermint is invigorating) in my bag and I check-in with my client every 45-60 minutes to get an idea of how they’re feeling.
Preparing An Inventory:
It’s easy to point the finger -that is, it’s always easy for our clients to tell us what it is the other party did, or is doing, wrong. Identifying grievances is essential to finding solutions, but what about your client’s liabilities? Just before walking into a mediation I sit down with my client to take an inventory. I ask them to tell me in their own words where they think they could have done better working with the other party up until that very present point in time, leaving out any mention of any harms inflicted on them. As facts and information come to light during the mediation, I revisit the inventory during breaks. Keeping my client focused on the things that he or she has control over, mainly themselves and their own actions. When a client can successfully maintain an awareness of their role in a conflict, they are able to contribute to the process of finding a solution in a more meaningful way. Drawing from this sense of self-control also seems to help my clients stay calm when conflict arises.
Mediator synergy can go a long way to help with the flow of your session. If you’re in a position to choose a mediator for your case, its helpful to keep your client’s temperament, life experiences and personal viewpoints in mind. For example, if your client is a female victim of domestic violence, she might be more comfortable working with and taking direction from a woman in high-stress situations. I might be inclined to choose a male mediator in a scenario where my client Father feels manipulated or taken advantage of by his child’s Mother. Especially where opposing counsel might also be a female, and a meeting with all the parties would put him at, what he would perceive to be a 4 to 1 disadvantage. It’s not your job to judge, understand or cure your client’s issues, but you can predict how their issues and perceptions might get them tripped-up and discretely remove those obstacle from their paths. In some jurisdictions, parties are not given an option when a mediation is court ordered. In these scenarios the best option is to do your homework, anticipate any personality conflicts in advance, and prepare your client accordingly.
Getting your client to happy, and keeping them there, requires more than just lawyering. The client that keeps coming back is the one that believes in you as the solution.
By. Sahmra A. Stevenson, Esq. (www.saslawoffices.com @SAS_Law; IG: SahmraStevensonEsq; Facebook @SASLawOffices)