In mediation, getting the case settled is only half the battle. I always say the devil is in the details. Once you have a settlement in principle, it must be reduced to writing (the “Mediated Settlement Agreement”). Once all the parties have signed, we have a binding agreement. I make it a practice to show up at mediation with a skeleton agreement which incorporates all of the general terms (i.e. payment of attorney’s fees, releases, confidentiality, etc.). Most counsel appreciate this and feel that it saves a great deal of time at the end of the day. However, rushing through the agreement may not be in your client’s best interests. You may have spent years in litigation and only a few hours at mediation getting the case resolved. Make sure you have everything covered. It is always a good idea, in my opinion, to spend some time prior to mediation to consider exactly what you want to see in a mediated settlement agreement whether you are the attorney or the party. We got the case settled, now let’s get it right in the agreement.
Rod B. Neuman is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Court Mediator, is certified in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida and offers these reflections based upon his experience in conducting mediations.