Typically speaking, in the first session, the mediator begins by introducing himself. He will also emphasize on the fact that he has no conflict of interest in the case. The mediator shall thereafter request the parties and their lawyers/family members/friend (if present) to introduce themselves.
After introduction, the mediator will ask the parties to confirm that the parties/ representatives have the necessary authority to negotiate and make final settlements. An affirmative answer to this question is vital for the mediation process to commence and continue.
The mediator will now inquire if the parties have ever been through the mediation process? Depending on the level of earlier experience, the mediator will briefly explain the mediation concept and the process to be followed. Issues like the role of the mediator, use of caucus (separate meetings), good faith and confidentiality will also be stressed upon.
The mediator will also clarify that the parties are free to approach their counsel for independent legal advice and they can get the settlement agreement vetted by their lawyer or any other stakeholder, if they wish before signing the agreement.
The mediator will also set the following ground rules of mediation for the parties:
- Mobile phones are to be switched off and presented for safe keeping.
- The parties should address all matters to the mediator and totally avoid cross-talk.
- While one person is talking, others are to refrain from interrupting.
- Adequate opportunity will be given to all parties to convey their point of view.
- Mutual respect and dignity is to be maintained at all times. There is no question of unparliamentary language or physical touch being used.
- All matters discussed during mediation are to remain confidential.
The mediator will continue to engage the parties in joint sessions or separate meetings called caucuses to resolve the issue. The mediation process is finally wound up with a verbal or written agreement depending on the mutual choice of the parties.