When advancing through any contentious legal dispute, individuals have multiple routes that they can take to find a resolution. In California, these generally come down to two different paths: mediation and litigation. Both have their own distinct benefits that can help those in a legal bind, but it is helpful to understand the key distinctions between the two before making a decision. By understanding the key differences between mediation and litigation, individuals can make an informed decision about which route is best for their particular needs.


What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a helpful consultative process in which both parties to a dispute meet with a third-party neutral mediator. The mediator’s role is to effectively facilitate discussion and help the parties reach a resolution that both parties mutually agree to. Mediation is typically less formal than litigation, making it more effective at building consensus and finding common ground.

What Is Litigation?

Litigation is the process of advancing a legal dispute to court. This typically involves filing a claim, going through the discovery process, and then ultimately having a trial. Litigation can be costly and time-consuming, but it may be necessary when the parties cannot reach an agreement through mediation.

Benefits Of Mediation

Several key benefits of mediation make it an attractive option for those in a legal dispute:

  • Mediation is typically quicker and less expensive than advancing through litigation.
  • It is often less adversarial than litigation, which can help preserve relationships.
  • It can be more flexible than litigation, allowing the parties to address unique concerns.

Benefits Of Litigation

Litigation also has several key benefits that make it an attractive option for those in a legal dispute:

  • Litigation can provide a more certain outcome than mediation.
  • It is sometimes necessary when the parties are unable or unwilling to mediate their dispute.
  • It can be easier to enforce a court order than an agreement reached through mediation.

What Makes A Strong Mediator?

When choosing a mediator, selecting someone with the skills and experience necessary to help the parties reach an agreement is crucial. A strong mediator will have:

  • Good communication skills: The mediator must effectively communicate with both parties and help them understand each other’s positions. They should also be able to keep the discussion focused and on track.
  • Patience: The mediation process can sometimes be slow, so it is important that the mediator is patient and does not try to rush the parties.
  • Creativity: Mediators should be creative in their approach and be open to trying different techniques to help the parties reach an agreement.
  • Impartial: It is important that the mediator be impartial and not take sides in the dispute. This can be difficult if the mediator knows one of the parties, so it is important to select someone who is neutral.

What To Expect During The Mediation Process

The mediation process can vary depending on the nature of the dispute, but some general steps are typically followed. These include:

  1. Initial Meeting: The mediator will meet with both parties to discuss the dispute and the mediation process. This is typically done separately to avoid any bias.
  2. Opening Statement: Each party will have an opportunity to give an opening statement to the mediator and the other party. This helps the mediator understand each side’s position.
  3. Caucus: The mediator will meet with each party separately to discuss the dispute in more detail. This allows the mediator to understand each side’s needs and concerns.
  4. Proposals: The mediator will work with both parties to develop potential solutions to the dispute. These proposals will be based on the needs and concerns of both parties.
  5. Closing: The mediator will help the parties reach a final agreement. This agreement will be written down and signed by both parties.


Q: Is a Mediator the Same as a Lawyer?

A: No, these are two separate professions. While their individual responsibilities are distinct, they both play a vital role in the legal system and can often work together to resolve a dispute. If you choose the path of mediation, consulting with an attorney beforehand can be helpful to understand the mediation process and your legal rights as you enter into it.

Q: Is Mediation Better Than Going to Court?

A: It depends on the specific situation. Mediation can be a much faster and less expensive process than litigation, but it may not be appropriate in all cases. In scenarios where two parties are in a heated dispute and are not willing to budge on their respective positions, mediation will be a difficult feat. In these cases, choosing to go to court can be a better option to put the power in the hands of a judge or jury to make a final decision.

Q: How Long Does Mediation Take?

A: The total length of mediation depends on the specific dispute. Some mediations can be resolved in a single session, while others may take several sessions over the course of weeks or months. The important thing is to make sure that both parties are committed to the process and are willing to work together to reach an agreement. The faster the parties can communicate their needs and come to a resolution, the quicker the mediation process will be compared to the alternative route of litigation.

Q: What If We Can’t Agree on Anything?

A: If the mediation process is not successful, the parties can always choose to go to court. However, it is important to remember that mediation is typically a voluntary process, so either party can choose to walk away at any time. Once both parties have participated in mediation and mutually agreed that it is not working, they can choose to end the process and proceed with litigation.

Contact The Law Offices Of Michael G. Wales Today

If you are involved in a challenging legal dispute, the first step is to understand all of your options. The attorneys at the Law Offices of Michael G. Wales are experienced in both mediation and litigation. They can help you understand the best course of action for your specific situation. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn more about what we can do for you.