THE RIGHT LAWYER
When you are mediating, you need a lawyer who truly supports the process. It helps when he or she is also a trained mediator. Many lawyers see their role solely as advocates, and find it difficult to change gears to focus on helping people work out a compromise solution.
Fortunately, while some family lawyers are still adversarial, most work well within the mediation process. Many family lawyers are skilled negotiators, and some of them are mediators themselves.
If you are only interested in retaining a lawyer for an initial consultation, his or her personality and attitude toward mediation doesn't make much of a difference. However, if you want your counsel to guide you throughout the mediation process, you have to make sure that your lawyer supports the process, and will not derail it by escalating conflict and adding misplaced antagonism.
If you do need a lawyer to advice and guide you through the mediation process, you should make it very clear from the beginning that you are looking for a lawyer who understands and supports mediation. This means your lawyer has to accept that mediation sometimes involves compromise, and that while what you settle for in mediation can be influenced by the law, but it will likely not be determined solely by what the lawyer believes a judge or jury might decide in your set of circumstances.
Ask your lawyer whether he or she has ever worked with clients going through mediation, then listen carefully to what the lawyer tells you about his or her prior experiences in mediation – it can be very revealing.
Lawyers who have been trained as mediators, can actually be your best option, as they can advise you while you are mediating. Mediation training and accreditation with a regulatory body indicates both interest in, and support for, the mediation process.
If you do retain a lawyer to help you through mediation, be sure you understand correctly how the lawyer’s fees are going to be calculated. Most lawyers charge an hourly rate for the time they spend helping their clients.