Most mediations begin with a general session. In the general session, the parties and their attorneys are present and the attorneys will present their client’s case through an opening statement. They will present their client’s case in a light most favorable to their client. I typically warn the parties in advance of this and advise them not to get excited when they hear from opposing counsel as their attorney will do the same thing. I also advise the parties that they have the right to speak at mediation but that they should consult with their attorney before doing so. Occasionally, the attorney will advise his or her client that it is okay to speak. If this has not been vetted, prior to mediation, it can be a big mistake. Clients who are overly emotional will often run on about the case and make disparaging comments about the other side. This can be fatal to an efficient, productive mediation. My advice to attorneys is to discuss with your clients, in advance of the mediation, whether they want to speak and, if so, do your best to predict whether that will be helpful to the process. If not, give your mediator some advance notice so that he or she can plan accordingly.

Rod B. Neuman is a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Court Mediator Certified Mediator (also admitted in the United States District Court, Middle District of Florida) and offers these observations based upon his experiences mediating cases throughout the State of Florida.