Mediating Business Disputes Effectively

By Guest Blogger Tim Langella

Business disputes come in all shapes and sizes, and often have both monetary and non-monetary elements. Here’s an interesting mediation case study:

A successful, public company is looking for a consultant to assist with a 5 year project that will be undertaken through several, ongoing work orders. The founder of a local consulting company pitches the work along with one of the consultant’s three key employees, and lands the job. The parties enter into a detailed, written agreement that specifies, among other things, how the scope of the work for a particular aspect of the project will be defined, payment terms, and what happens if the consultant breaches the contract.

The relationship is rewarding for both parties for the first two years — three separate projects are defined and completed, the consultant has hired numerous extra people to work on the various projects, and the public company is happy with both the personnel assigned to the projects, as well as the results.

During the third year, however, just a few months into the next 18-month project, the key person assigned to the account leaves the employment of the consultant. The public company, concerned about the loss of that key consultant, reluctantly decides that it no longer wishes to pursue the project without that key person assisting, and unilaterally terminates the relationship – with less than complete attention paid to the terms of the contract and the legal implications of doing so.

Instead, the public company offers to pay the consultant for all work performed up to the date of termination, plus two weeks salary for the consultant’s employees assigned to the existing project. The consultant is concerned about the loss of work/revenue, angry (and bit embarrassed) about how the termination was effected, and worried about having to lay-off several employees who have become part of the business family. The consultant counter-demands damages equal to the revenue it would have earned for the remaining 15 months of the project, thinking that will provide enough time to keep the employees on the payroll and find substitute work for them.

The parties stop talking, lawsuits are threatened and then filed, and both sides are faced with the prospect of years of expensive and consuming litigation.

Litigation may be able to resolve the financial aspects of this dispute – after months, if not years, of paying lawyers and experts to sort through the relevant information. But it will never resolve the personnel issues the consultant faces as the owner of a small business, or the reputational concerns the consultant has from being suddenly terminated from what it thought was a successful relationship. Nor will it allow the public company to address in a private and confidential setting a messy contractual dispute which resulted from its failure to follow agreed upon contractual terms.

Mediation is the best option to contend not only with the monetary dispute, but also with the other factors that have arisen. Mediating such a matter not only keeps decision-making in the hands of the parties, but also offers the best chance at salvaging at least some of the work on the disputed project, preserving the parties’ relationship for future work together, and negotiating important issues such as recommendations that the consultant can reasonably expect from the company for the work it successfully completed over the years.

An experienced mediator, skilled in business disputes, can help the parties air and resolve all aspects of their grievances in a controlled and confidential setting. Quickly, efficiently, and less costly than protracted litigation, mediation offers unparalleled creative problem-solving opportunities.

Why Collaborative Divorce is Different & Better

By:  Anthony C. Adamopoulos
MDRS Neutral and Guest Blogger

THE DIFFERENCE:

The Collaborative Divorce Process is so much better because it is the only process where the attorneys are committed, by written agreement, to concentrate on settlement, AND, if they cannot get a settlement, they cannot represent you in litigation.

The difference is truly transformative in divorce law. In litigation, divorce attorneys cannot say that their first and only priority is to get a settlement. Collaborative Attorneys can and do.

THE PROCESS:

First, you must be committed to a quick and less expensive resolution of your divorce; rather than winning in court litigation.

Once you are committed to a quick and less expensive resolution, you each select your own Collaborative Attorney who is specially trained to practice Collaborative Divorce. Not all attorneys are certified to be Collaborative Attorneys.

You, your spouse, and the two attorneys then sign a contract committing all efforts to resolution.

The next real difference from litigation is that you and your spouse, with the guidance of your Collaborative Attorneys, will then use two key experts – a Financial Neutral and a Facilitator Neutral. Your Facilitator expedites the process by helping you and your spouse identify short and long term goals and overcome inter-personal roadblocks. Your Financial Neutral expedites the process by analyzing the unique needs of your family, identifying tax provisions related to those needs and creating realistic plans to preserve family income and property. And, the neutrals will bill at fees below the attorneys’ fees. This means that unlike other divorce situations, if, for example, you and your spouse disagree over a parenting plan, the Facilitator Neutral will help resolve the parenting problem at a lower rate than the attorneys’ fees. Or, if there is a disagreement over whether to sell the house, the Financial Neutral will work on a resolution rather than the two higher paid attorneys.

In resolving issues that are delaying settlement, neither the attorneys nor the neutrals will be concerned about “winning”; they will concentrate on meeting the real needs of you and your spouse rather than any psychological “want to win”.

The Elements of Disputes

by Timothy J. Langella
MDRS Neutral and Guest Blogger

Business disputes come in all shapes and sizes, and often have both monetary and emotional elements.  Take this case, for example:

Two brothers-in-law go into business together and form a partnership or closely held corporation, after marrying their respective wives (who are sisters).  After a rocky start, the business is soon notably successful.  The two couples are close:  they work, vacation, and even socialize together.  They each start a family and the cousins seem like siblings for many years. But as the cousins age, they grow apart, causing tension among the four parents.  Small issues become large ones, tensions escalate, and the previously-strong partnership is in peril.  The men begin to bicker and argue at work, one claims the other is not as dedicated to the business, and claims of unreasonably-inflated business expenses are made – and categorically challenged.  Eventually, the two sides don’t even speak to each other, the sisters are alienated, and a lawsuit claiming breach of contract, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty is filed.

Litigation may be able to resolve the financial aspects of this dispute – after months, if not years, of paying lawyers and experts to sort through the relevant information – but it willnever resolve the family dynamic issue.  Mediation is the very best option to not only contend with the dispute, but to deal with the factors that have also arisen beyond the business issues.  Mediating such a matter not only keeps decision-making in the hands of the partners, but also offers perhaps the best chances at preserving (hopefully improving) these complicated relationships.

An experienced mediator, skilled in partnership disputes, can help the parties air and resolve all aspects of their grievances.  Quickly, efficiently, and less costly than protracted litigation, mediation offers unequalled ROI.

What is the Difference Between Divorce Mediation and Collaborative Divorce?

MEDIATION is an independent, voluntary, confidential process conducted by a mediator, who is neutral. Attorneys are not required. The mediator will:

  • Assist you and your spouse in identifying those issues preventing settlement.
  • Explore various avenues to resolution.
  • Develop a settlement resolution acceptable to you and your spouse.
  • Will prepare a Separation Agreement for presentation to the Court. (Only mediators who are attorneys may draft Separation Agreements.)
    The two of you will select the mediator. The mediator’s fees will usually be split between the two of you, however, the two of you may agree to a different responsibility for the fee.

The major benefits of Mediation are:

  • The mediation is private.
  • The mediator will provide all the time you and your spouse need to work on a resolution.
  • Experienced mediators have settlement rates of between 85% and 97%.
  • An attorney need not be present at mediation sessions.

In COLLABORATIVE DIVORCE, you, your spouse, your Collaborative lawyers and Coaches make up the Collaborative Team. The Team has one goal, the quick and efficient resolution of all issues without trial litigation.Coaches make your divorce process efficient and usually less expensive. The most common Coaches are the Facilitator and the Financial Neutral. The Facilitator expedites the process by helping you and your spouse identify term goals and overcome inter-personal roadblocks. The Financial Neutral expedites the process by analyzing the financial needs of your family, identifying tax provisions related to those needs and creating realistic plans to preserve family income and property. Coach hourly fees are often much lower than attorney hourly fees.

In Collaborative Divorce, attorneys are specially trained and certified.

Your Professional Collaborative Team will:

  • Identify issues regarding the children, support and property division that are preventing resolution.
  • Divide primary responsibility for resolving those issues. For example, issues dealing with the children will be addressed primarily by the Facilitator Coach; issues about the amount of support needed will be addressed by the Financial Coach.
  • Have the required Separation Agreement, Petition for Divorce and Affidavit prepared, executed and filed.
  • Have your attorneys accompany you to the Probate and Family Court for your divorce hearing before a Judge.


The major benefits of Collaborative Divorce are:

  • From beginning to end, you are with and “supported” by a team dedicated to getting you and your spouse divorced quickly and efficiently.
  • All issues are dealt with and resolved in confidential sessions.
  • Your attorneys handle all the administrative court matters to get your divorce papers filed, docketed and scheduled for a hearing.
  • At your divorce hearing your attorneys will respond to questions of the judge, thereby avoiding rescheduling of the hearing because you did not have an attorney to correctly answer questions.


by Anthony C. Adamopoulos

How Long Does It Take to Get a Divorce Through Mediation?

The time it takes to get “through” the Mediation Process initially depends on whether or not each party returns a properly completed Probate and Family Court Financial Statement. The Mediator needs a correct Financial Statement for many reasons. An insufficient Statement causes delay and increased cost. At the outset, the Mediator will provide clients with the form and instructions.

To complete the Divorce Mediation the mediator will guide the parties through any issues surrounding the three major components of a Separation Agreement – the children, support and division of property.

The length of time it takes to resolve each component is directly related to the amount of disagreement on each component.

For example, if the parties have already agreed on how many over-nights the children will spend at each parent’s home, they have essentially resolved about 1/3 of the Divorce Mediation. The same applies to support. If the parties agree with the accuracy of each other’s Financial Statement and their respective post-divorce financial needs, they will also have resolved 1/3 of the Divorce Mediation. Lastly, if the parties agree on the accuracy of each other’s Financial Statement and have already decided how the property listed on each Financial Statement will be divided between them, then they will have resolved 1/3 of the Mediation.

Assuming a fact pattern similar to the above, then the mediation can be completed in less than three hours. There remains only the preparation of the formal Divorce Separation Agreement by the mediator. (Only divorce mediators who are attorneys can prepare Divorce Separation Agreements.) Under the above scenario, it would take about one and half hours or less to prepare the Agreement.

So how long does a divorce mediation take? About four to five hours if the Financial Statements are accurate and the parties are in agreement as to the major issues.

by Anthony C. Adamopoulos

Read the Original Blog Here: https://www.divorcingoptions.com/Blog/?p=346

Stuck in Divorce Court? Here is Your Last Chance to Cut Costs and Aggravation

By Anthony C. Adamopoulos

Are you in divorce litigation?

Are you having second thoughts – time standards, discovery cost, no trial in sight? Enough!

You have complained to your attorney and your attorney reports that your spouse’s attorney has heard the same complaints from your spouse. Your attorney suggests mediation or conciliation.

What is the difference between Divorce Mediation and Divorce Conciliation?

Mediation is an independent, voluntary, confidential process conducted by a mediator, who is neutral. The mediator will:

-Assist you and your spouse in identifying and discussing those issues keeping the two of you from settlement.

-Explore with you and your spouse various avenues to resolution.

-Develop a settlement acceptable to you and your spouse.

-The two of you will select the mediator. The mediator’s fees will be split between the two of you or paid as the two of you agree.

The major benefits to Mediation are:

-The mediation is private. There is no report to the Judge.

-The mediator will provide all the time you and your spouse need to work on a resolution.
Experienced mediators have settlement rates of between 85% and 97%.

-If the mediation is in the 3-15% that fail, you and your spouse may enter a written agreement (stipulation) stating that all that was agreed to in the mediation shall not be litigated at trial.

The major negatives to Mediation are:

-The Mediator is paid.
-If the mediation is in the 3-15% that fail, the parties will have to return to the litigation process for the unresolved issues.
-Since you are in litigation, you must get permission from the judge to “take a time out” for mediation. Your attorney will handle this.

Conciliation is a court related process in which a court appointed neutral (the Conciliator) assists parties to resolve their case by:

1. Clarifying the issues preventing a settlement; and then
2. Assessing the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s arguments; and
3. If the divorce cannot be resolved, then the Conciliator explores the steps which remain to prepare the case for trial.

The Court usually allocates two hours for the Conciliation session. The Conciliator is not paid, but there is an administration fee, currently $50.00 per party.

The major benefits to Conciliation are:

-The trained Conciliator will assess your “side” and your spouse’s “side”. You will then be able to consider the assessment in planning your next step, e.g., trial or settlement.
-The Conciliator does not get paid.

The major negatives to Conciliation are:

-The Conciliation lasts a short time, contrasted to Divorce Mediation.
-The Conciliator may report her/his assessment to the Judge and any opinion as to whether someone is not acting in good faith.

What should you do?

Statistically, 97% of divorce litigation will settle within days of the trial. That means, even though you and your spouse each paid an enormous amount of money to get ready for trial, it may never happen (97% of the time).

The sensible thing is to avoid more costs now, stop the litigation, and settle your differences in mediation or arbitration.

Read the original blog here

Divorce Arbitration is the Way to Go! So……

by Anthony C. Adamopoulos

A decision of our Appeals Court, Gravlin v. Gravlin, is helpful for those facing divorce.

For collaborative divorce attorneys and divorce mediators, the decision confirms that arbitration is the viable alternative to court litigation for resolving a single issue or even taking the place of a full court trial.

In Gravlin, the Appeals Court acknowledged “… arbitration has long been recognized as a valid means of resolving disputes between divorcing parties.” This Blog has often praised the value of arbitration as an alternative to divorce litigation; with Gravlin, the Appeals Court stamped an imprimatur of sorts on divorce arbitration.

While arbitration is available to replace a public court trial, it is also available if collaboration or mediation reaches a deadlock (a stalemate on one or two remaining issues); then, it is time for divorce arbitration.

When parties follow a simple process, the Appeals Court promises a “… strict standard of review [that] is high[ly] deferential…” to an arbitration award.

What does the simple process involve? The simple process requires that:

Respective counsel advise each party.
Parties freely enter an Agreement to Arbitrate.
Parties knowingly waive a court trial and submit to arbitration.
If there is any trial court review of an arbitration award, the review will be limited to determining:

The arbitrator’s award was confined to what he/she was asked to decide;
The award did not give relief that is prohibited by law;
The award is not based on fraud, arbitrary conduct, or procedural irregularity in the hearing.
(In my experience, the selection of an experienced, knowledgeable arbitrator will result in a positive review and enforcement of the award.)

For collaborative attorneys and mediators, Gravlin is another reason to recommend arbitration for settlement stalemate.

For parties facing divorce or divorce stalemate, arbitration is an alternative to a costly, lengthy and publicly litigated trial.

Anthony is a divorce arbitrator, collaborative attorney and divorce mediator. His office is in Salem.

Brian Jerome selected as Super Lawyer for 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

BRIAN R. JEROME, MDRS Founder and CEO, selected as 2018 Massachusetts Super Lawyer

DR Industry leader Brian R. Jerome brings valuable knowledge and experience of out-of-court Dispute Resolution to those seeking mediation and arbitration solutions as a means to achieve faster, less frustrating, and more effective resolution to business and personal disputes.  

October 30th, 2017 – BRIAN R. JEROME, MDRS founder and CEO, has been selected to the 2018 Massachusetts Super Lawyers list.  Each year, no more than 5% of the lawyers in the state are selected by the research team at Super Lawyers to receive this honor.

Super Lawyers, a Thomson Reuters business, is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.  The annual selections are made using a patented multiphase process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent research evaluation of candidates, and peer reviews by practice area.  The result is a credible, comprehensive, and diverse listing of exceptional attorneys.

The Super Lawyers lists are published nationwide in Super Lawyers Magazines and in leading city and regional magazines and newspapers across the country.  For more information about Super Lawyers, visit SuperLawyers.com.

Attorney Jerome, Chair of the Massachusetts Bar Association’s DR Section, is available for questions and interviews.

About MDRS – With offices in Boston and Salem (MA), Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services (MDRS) provides a full range of out-of-court mediation and arbitration services to private individuals, attorneys, business, labor, and the insurance community.  MDRS, one of the first DR providers in Massachusetts, offers a professional panel of over 35 select neutrals, including retired judges and experienced attorneys.  Including cases handled by the panel, they have resolved more than fifteen thousand cases for their clients.  Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services provides mediation and arbitration services to parties seeking equitable settlement of their disputes without the time, expense, and frustration which often accompany the more formal trial court system.  MDRS neutrals provide a wide spectrum of experience paired with a wide range of dispute resolution processes designed to meet the parties’ interests in solving disputes equitably and skillfully.

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If you would like more information, please contact Marketing Director Sheri Wilson at (800) 536-5520 or swilson@mdrs.com.

Massachusetts Dispute Resolution Services (MDRS)

60 State Street, Suite 700
Boston, Massachusetts 02109
Phone: (800) 536-5520
Fax:     (978) 741-2368
http://www.mdrs.com

MBA’s Conflict Resolution Week

By  Michael A. Zeytoonian, Member of the MDRS Panel of Neutrals/Guest Blogger

An annual national tradition in the legal community is the celebration of “Conflict Resolution Week” (CRW) and “Conflict Resolution Day” (CRD) on the third week and the third Thursday of October respectively. This tradition reportedly started here in New England by the New England Association for Conflict Resolution (NE-ACR). It is a week and a day to shine a spotlight on one of the most important bodies of work that lawyers and mediators do – help people effectively resolve disputes. This year, CRW will be from October 16 through October 20, with October 19 as CRD, and the Massachusetts Bar Association (MBA), through its Dispute Resolution Section, will be celebrating these events in a big way, from Springfield to Andover to Marshfield to Cambridge to Boston!

Dispute Resolution (DR), historically referred to as “alternative dispute resolution” or ADR, was once an alternative to going to a trial to get a case resolved. But recent trends show that people are increasingly choosing to resolve their disputes using these other ways of resolving their disputes more so than going to trial, and often in place of the entire litigation process. In the early 1980’s mediation was rarely used, arbitration was just beginning to be used more regularly by businesses and Collaborative Law (CL) had not even been created yet. (CL was created through the efforts of one attorney in Minnesota in 1990). Today, mediation is the most frequently used means of resolving disputes, even more so than trials or arbitration. As a result, many practitioners and organizations, including the Massachusetts Bar Association’s (MBA) Dispute Resolution Section Council, have “dropped the A” in ADR and now refer to these other options as either DR or DRA (dispute resolution alternatives), reflecting the fact that people are intentionally turning to mediation, CL or arbitration to resolve their disputes. Trials today are rare – 97% of cases filed in courts settle and do not go to trial – and have become the default, to be used only when another DR process doesn’t result in a full resolution of the matter.

To celebrate the emergence of DR, and to help spread the word throughout the Commonwealth about what DR is, how it works and when and how it is being used to successfully resolve disputes, the MBA, through its DR Section Council’s efforts, is offering five different events, one on each day of CRW and each one in a different region of our state. All five the programs are free and open to the public. The MBA encourages anyone interested in DR as well as lawyers, practitioners of DR, judges, law school students and the general public to attend one or more of these programs.

Conflict Resolution Day on October 19 will feature a gala Reception at the John Adams Courthouse’s Second Floor Conference Room in Boston, starting at 5:30 pm, with a program opened by our two Chief Justices Ralph D. Gants and Paula M. Carey and featuring as its keynote Kenneth Weinberg, a man who has done important work in several conflict situations including 9/11, the Boston Marathon Bombing and other hotspots and events around the world.

The Peacemaker, a documentary film on the outstanding work around the world’s trouble spots of one man, Padraig O’Malley, will be the featured focal point of the Friday, October 20 event. The screening of this film will begin at 7 pm at Harvard Law School’s Ames Auditorium. After the film, both Mr. O’Malley and the film’s producer/director James Demo will be part of panel about the film and Mr. O’Malley’s ongoing work. This event is co-sponsored by the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

Other events around the state will recognize the work of those hundreds of volunteers working all through the state in court-connected community mediation programs (October 16 in the afternoon at the Hall of Justice in Springfield), peer mediation and other programs designed to address and resolve youth and community disputes (October 17 in the late afternoon at Massachusetts School of Law in Andover) and the use of mediation and CL to resolve disputes arising out of families in transition – divorce, inheritance and family business succession matters (October 18 in the early afternoon at the Ventress Memorial Library in Marshfield).

We encourage you to attend one or more of these events, learn more about DR and encourage others who may be interested in knowing about the many options available to them for resolving their legal issues to join in the celebration. For more information or to RSVP, please visit the MBA’s website at www.massbar.org.

Dispute Resolution Day in Massachusetts

Governor Baker has declared October the 19th  2017 Dispute Resolution Day in Massachusetts!  You can read Gov. Baker’s full announcement here: https://www.massbar.org/media/1807084/dr%20day%20proclamation.pdf  The day falls within Conflict Resolution Week and Baker urges all citizens of Massachusetts “to take cognizance of this event and participate fittingly in its observance.”  Citizens deserve education and access to ALL appropriate forms of dispute resolution. October 19th will be a day to empower the public and improve access to conflict resolution. The Massachusetts Bar Association’s Dispute Resolution Section invites you to attend a FREE event on 10/19/17 from5:30-7:30 pm at the John Adams Courthouse in Boston featuring Attorney Kenneth Feinberg, best known for his special master work on the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund and his administration of Boston’s One Fund.  Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Ralph D. Gants and Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey will also be speaking at the event. We hope you are able to join us!  https://www.massbar.org/publications/e-journal/2017/september/09-28/dr-conflict-resolution-week