Three Keys to an Effective Pre-Mediation Conference - ADR Systems

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Pre-mediation conferences and ex parte communication with mediators can help attorneys prepare for mediations and can lead to smoother mediation sessions. Whether your mediation is in-person or virtual, attorneys that forego pre-mediation conferences and ex parte communication miss out on opportunities to share valuable information and discuss expectations with their mediator and opposing counsel.

Share Insights about Clients with Your Mediator

While submissions will tell a mediator much of what  they should know about the dispute – existing precedent, depositions taken, damages claimed, etc. – they may not brief them on the emotional or other pertinent case history that propelled the dispute toward mediation in the first place.

“Attorneys can provide a personal history of the parties in dispute, and they can recommend subject matter I may want to steer clear of in the session,” said Hon. Thomas R. Allen, (Ret.). “I particularly like to know about those details before a session so I know my path forward. Once you blow up the room, it may take a lot of time to cool it down again. It’s better to know how to avoid the explosion all together.”

Confirm Logistics and Address Missing Information

In pre-mediation conferences, attorneys and their mediator can finalize logistics pertinent to the mediation: Who will be attending in person? If necessary, what measures need to be taken so an attorney’s client can be present on the phone or via videoconference? Which specific issues will be mediated?

Additionally, the mediator and the attorneys can discuss whether documents will be shared between parties and when submissions are due to the mediator.  According to Hon. Ronald D. Sutter, (Ret.), the earlier these details are sorted out, the more ready everyone will be for the mediation.

“We can discuss anything that might help the mediation proceed in a smooth and more fruitful manner,” he added.

Speak with Opposing Counsel Independently 

Attorneys should consider reaching out to opposing counsel even before participating in ex parte communication with the mediator.

“For example, a conversation between attorneys can flesh out which details of the submission will be shared with opposing counsel,” said Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.). “Those conversations promote civility and collaboration, which is in the spirit of the mediation they are working toward. Not to mention it will save them and their clients money in the end.”

Pre-mediation conferences are opportunities to start off a session of dispute resolution on a transparent, civil and positive note. By making the most of ex parte communication, attorneys on both sides can advance their case toward a possible settlement by making sure they and the mediator are all on the same page.


Hon. Thomas R. Allen, (Ret.) has more than 40 years of legal experience. He served most of his judicial career in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Chancery Division where he settled many commercial and business-related cases. He also served in Probate and has experience with estates and trust matters. Judge Allen brings a tremendous depth of experience to his practice having worked as a litigator for 30 years before becoming a jurist. As a senior mediator and arbitrator, he stands out as an exceptionally intelligent, hardworking and even-tempered neutral.

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 Hon. Ronald D. Sutter, (Ret.) has served the legal community as an attorney, prosecutor and jurist for more than 38 years. As a litigator, he focused his practice in personal injury and insurance matters. Judge Sutter spent 15 years in the DuPage County Circuit Court and was the Presiding Judge of the Law Division.  A popular mediator and arbitrator, he is praised for his integrity, legal ability and temperament.

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Hon. Brigid M. McGrath, (Ret.) has handled and complex commercial and personal injury case types throughout her 34-year legal and judicial career, including professional malpractice, medical malpractice, insurance coverage and product liability matters. As a senior mediator and arbitrator, she is skilled at diffusing conflict and identifying the root causes of disputes. Counsel know Judge McGrath will prepare thoroughly for every case and work diligently toward resolution.

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ADR Systems, It’s Settled.®

Judge Nudelman was excellent.  Many times, attorneys on the case wanted to terminate the mediation, but Judge Nudelman kept us going until it was resolved.  Great job!!

Thomas J. Lyman, Esq.Partner, SmithAmundsen