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

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Pre-mediation conferences can help attorneys prepare for mediations and can lead to smoother mediation sessions. This is especially the case if the dispute is layered with behind-the-scenes issues—divergent perspectives on the distribution of liability, situations involving multiple carriers and coverage disagreements, for example—that could impact the success of the mediation later.

Whether your mediation is in-person or virtual, attorneys that forego pre-mediation conferences 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, key deposition excerpts, damages claimed, etc. – they may not brief them on the emotional history of the case that propelled it toward mediation in the first place.

“Attorneys can provide a personal history of the parties in dispute, and they can recommend subject matter I should steer clear of during mediation,” said Hon. Thomas R. Allen, (Ret.). “I particularly like to know about those details, so I know my path forward. Once you blow up the room, it will take 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: Who will be attending? What measures need to be taken so an attorney’s client can be present via phone or 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 prepared  everyone will be for the mediation.

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

Speak with Opposing Counsel Independently 

Attorneys should reach out to opposing counsel even before participating in a pre-mediation conference.

“Such a conversation 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 a mediation on a transparent, civil and positive note. Discussions prior to the mediation help to prevent surprises on the day of mediation. By making the most of these conferences, attorneys ensure that they and the mediator are on the same page and advance their case toward settlement.


Hon. Thomas R. Allen, (Ret.) has over 40 years of legal experience. On the bench, he stood out as an exceptionally intelligent, even-tempered and common-sense jurist. Judge Allen served most of his judicial career in the Circuit Court of Cook County’s Chancery Division, where he settled numerous commercial and business-related cases. He brings this knowledge and a successful career as a litigator to his practice as a senior mediator and arbitrator, where he has become a favored mediator of BIPA, data breach and other privacy-related cases.

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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 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.®

Our law firm handles only medical malpractice cases—a type of case that is very difficult to settle except by mediators who understand the complex emotions involved and what is at risk when such cases go to trial.  I trust ADR Systems' panel of mediators.  They have settled cases I truly thought incapable of settlement. I highly recommend them.

William A. Cirignani, Esq.Cirignani, Heller & Harman, The Medical Malpractice Lawyers