Wednesday 10 July 2019

Mediation Toolkit for Beginners

At McCague Borlack, students are given a checklist of experiences and tasks that the firm wants us to experience. One item on the list is to attend a mediation.

"We are only six weeks into our summer term and I have already had the chance to attend two mediations!"

The mediations I attended could not have been more different. The simple fact is that one case was ready to reach an agreement, and the other one was not. While the outcomes of these mediations were different, I found myself reaching for similar things. Based on my (limited) experience, here is my mediation toolkit for beginners:

File Material

At the beginning of the mediations I attended, each party had the opportunity to make opening statements. Having all of the file material available allowed the lawyer to check particular facts raised by the opposing party.

Laptop/Pen and Paper

The mediator’s role is to keep parties talking. To do this, they go between parties delivering messages and offers. The offers are often broken down, line by line, and are delivered quickly by the mediator. A laptop or pen and paper are important to take down these numbers and keep track of offers throughout the day.


As a law student, and now a summer student, I spend a lot of time reading, writing and analyzing problems. During mediation, I had to access a skill I have not practiced regularly since high school – math! As mentioned above, offers are often broken down. The addition is simple enough, but once you bring in the post-judgment interest rate, a calculator is necessary. The lawyers I shadowed had sophisticated Excel spreadsheets that did the calculations automatically. I will be sure to include something similar in my intermediate toolkit!


One of the mediations I attended was scheduled for 10 am to 4 pm. While it did not take the whole day, there was a considerable amount of time waiting for the mediator to return from speaking with the other party. This time is a great opportunity to speak with the lawyer about their strategy and to get to know your client.

An Appetite

When I arrived at my first mediation, I was pleasantly surprised by all of the food! I quickly forgot about the lunch I had packed as I eyed the sandwiches, lasagna, salads, and a mountain of Timbits.

I am looking forward to checking the next item off the experience list and building my next toolkit!

by Sarah D.