Which kind of mediation is right for your dispute?

When most business owners hear about mediation, they think about one thing: the notion of "compromise." In other words, it's common fear of business owners in the throes of a business dispute to worry that they won't get everything they want during their mediation process.

While it's true that many mediations can involve some kind of compromise, the general goal is to arrive at a fair agreement that both sides are genuinely happy with -- an agreement that reflects how a judge might decide the case if it were to go to court.

One thing that business owners don't think about, however, are the three primary types of mediation and which one is right for resolving their dispute. Matching your dispute with the right kind of mediation strategy could mean the difference between success and failure.

3 types of business dispute mediation

Almost every mediation will involve you and the other side's attorneys, in addition to a neutral, third-party facilitator, the mediator. The mediator will encourage your settlement discussions to move forward in a diplomatic fashion to reach consensus. Also, your mediation process will usually fall under one of the following categories:

-- Facilitative mediation: This is a process that follows a structure in which the mediator guides parties toward a mutually agreed-upon settlement. This does not involve the mediator giving his or her opinion, recommendation or prediction.

-- Directive mediation: This is a mediation process in which the mediator plays an active role in providing his or her own direction and opinion. The mediator will try to introduce creative resolution strategies and direct the parties toward resolving the matter in a certain way.

-- Transformative mediation: This is the freest form of mediation in which the mediator will follow the lead of the parties, allowing them to structure both the mediation process and its eventual outcome.

In all of the above models, the parties might request the mediator to offer his or her neutral evaluation, which can help parties identify the strengths and weaknesses of their potential cases. By offering predictions about outcomes if the case were to go to trial, this can help parties reach consensus on the matter.

Are you ready to mediate your business dispute?

Mediation, when guided by a skilled mediator -- and when the parties are represented by experienced business dispute lawyers -- can be an excellent way to resolve a business disagreement. Mediation is usually faster, more cost effective and less stressful than traditional court proceedings.