Your mediator will discuss with you whether or not there will be a joint meeting at the outset of your mediation. If there is, it is a good opportunity to explain the impact the dispute has had upon you and doing so verbally can have a very different impact than someone reading it to themselves.
Often legal representatives present the opening statement. The Mediator will however give everyone an opportunity to speak. The purpose of the opening statement is to persuade those present of your position and also it can demonstrate your commitment to finding a solution at the mediation as well as your conviction about your case. It is useful to focus upon the points that will make the most impact on the other party.
You can prepare for this part of the mediation. An opening statement written beforehand and read out. Here are some tips:
- You should set out your interpretation of the events and describe them without reference to legal terminology.
- Deliver the statement in a confident way – take your time, don’t rush, speak clearly.
- If there is common ground between the parties, acknowledge that and identify what is agreeable – strange though it may seem a slight acknowledgement of an agreed fact however obvious can make a difference
- If there are weaknesses in your case, do not overlook them completely. This should be treated with care. If you acknowledge that there are areas which are open to challenge, it demonstrates you are aware of those issues and yet still remain confident in your position – as opposed to failing to think there is any potential risk at all. This can remove the thought from your opponent that you have failed to consider the bigger picture;
- Explain what will happen if settlement is not reached – this is key for everyone to understand. What are the consequence of not securing a settlement at mediation?
- Confirm that you are attending the mediation in a hope to see the dispute resolved
The opening statement itself enables everyone present to understand each other’s interests, aims, objectives and priorities. It is also your opportunity to show how you will react in Court and whether a Judge would see you as a credible witness. This could be very important in persuading the other party present to agree to settle.
Often a joint meeting at the outset can move negotiations forward much more quickly. Be guided by your mediator and if you are not sure, ask during one of your private conversations with the mediator.