Don’t Skip Your Opening Statement
An opening statement is a critical tool in your mediation toolbox, but attorneys often choose to waive their opening statement. Such a choice results in missing the opportunity to set the tone for a more meaningful mediation. An opening statement will almost always raise your chances of a settlement that aligns with your client’s goals. Because you are making them directly to the other party, opening statements are the best chance to explain your perception of the facts and the applicable law. It might also be the first time the other side has had a chance to consider seeing the strength of your case and the consequences of not settling.
The possible benefit of giving a powerful opening statement is very high. In contrast, the cost of giving an ineffective one rarely spells doom for your client.
- Be polite and respectful in both tone of voice and demeanor.
- Assure the other side that your comments are not meant to upset them. You just want to explain to them how you and your client see things.
- Acknowledge that this is your perspective of the law and the facts. While their attorney may not agree, note that this is how you intend to present the case if it goes to trial.
- Explain the likely outcome of the case if you succeed.
- Assure the opposing party of your client’s willingness to work towards a successful settlement.
- Don’t say anything derogatory about opposing counsel. I once mediated a case where an attorney told the opposing party that their attorney was not competent to handle that type of case. I had to spend over an hour talking them off the ledge before they would consider any settlement offer.
- Don’t brag about your abilities or successes. You are not going to intimidate the other party. Your reputation will precede you, and they will already know about you. And if they don’t already know about you? They’ll learn quickly and well if you let your opening statement and overall handling of the case speak for you. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
I hope you find these ideas helpful when planning your mediation. I offer both in-person, online, and hybrid mediation services and would welcome the opportunity to mediate your cases. You can sign up for my mediation newsletter here.