Robert C. Mueller, ESQ.  |  Phone: 443.994.7266

217 Upper Mill Court Centreville, MD 21617

Mediation is a voluntary, confidential, and informal process for resolving disputes of all sorts. A neutral person – the mediator – helps the participants in a dispute have a civil conversation in which they explore the nature of the issues in dispute and the possible alternatives that would resolve the dispute. The participants, themselves, agree upon the solution, rather than have one imposed on them by an outside person, like a judge.

Yes, in fact after you file a lawsuit in some jurisdictions, you may be required by the court to enter mediation to try to resolve the dispute before trial.

No, mediation is private and confidential. There is no airing of the dispute in public, like in a trial. What is said and done in mediation is confidential and cannot be used in any later proceeding, except in only a few specific and unusual circumstances (such as instances of child abuse or credible threats of violence).

No, in mediation, the mediator helps the participants to negotiate a resolution of their dispute. With the assistance of a trained and experienced mediator, the participants explore the real issues in dispute between them and brainstorm possible options to resolve the dispute.

Yes, if the participants want (and most do), the mediator will write a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that will reflect the points of agreement reached by the participants in mediation.

The MOU itself is not a legally enforceable contract. In Maryland, mediators generally are legally prohibited from acting in any other capacity while mediating, including giving legal advice. Writing a legally enforceable contract, as opposed to drafting points of agreement in an MOU, would constitute practicing law. However, with the participants having already resolved the details of the solution of their dispute, it would be an uncomplicated and low-cost matter for an attorney to re-draft the MOU into a legal contract. Also, in a jurisdiction in which oral contracts may be enforceable, the MOU may be evidence of the oral agreement reached by the participants. Moreover, where there will be a court order that ultimately resolves the matter, such as in the case of a divorce, the participants could agree to ask the court to adopt the mediated MOU in the court decree.

In some instances, lawyers who are experienced and knowledgeable about mediation have no reluctance for their clients to enter mediation sessions without accompanying them, which saves the participants the legal fees for this time. In other instances, due to the complexity of the dispute or some other reason, lawyers are more comfortable being present in the session. Either way, you will have opportunities to consult with your lawyer when necessary so that you are appropriately informed during mediation of your legal rights. Also, you will be encouraged to consult with your lawyer and to seek your lawyer’s advice before reaching any final agreement in an MOU.

Yes. Mediation is successful in resolving disputes in the large majority of cases. However, participants do not give up their right to pursue a legal decision in court if mediation is not successful.

Bob’s fee is $250.00 per hour for each hour you actually spend in a mediation session. This fee usually is shared by the participants. Unlike most mediators and other service professionals, who typically charge a client for all office time spent working on the client’s case or for certain administrative matters, Bob’s fee is solely based on the time you spend in a mediation session. If you are comparing fees among mediators, it is important to keep that in mind and to learn ALL of the charges that you may incur.

Unfortunately, there is no “average” mediation because there is no average dispute – each one is different from the others. In a divorce case, for instance, the participants may want to reach agreement on a parenting plan, various financial issues, and distribution of real and household property. While such a full-range divorce mediation can be anticipated to require four to six 2-hour mediation sessions, it could take less time where the participants are especially cooperative with each other – or it could take longer where they are especially difficult with each other or where there are unusual underlying matters that need to be resolved. And, of course, some divorcing participants do not want or need to mediate the full range of issues (e.g., where there are no children, or where they have a simple financial picture that they already have resolved). Other types of civil disputes or real estate disputes, for instance, often are resolved in one or two 2-hour sessions, but sometimes more is necessary.

“Facilitation” is a process in which a trained and experienced facilitator, who is not himself or herself a stakeholder, plans, develops, and runs a structured and effective meeting that produces a clear result that is commonly understood and supported by all participants.

Most any meeting that involves at least a handful of people with varying ideas or views benefits from having a facilitator. It might be a meeting of just a couple or a few hours that is focused on a narrow and specific question; it might be a meeting that is part of a larger project; it could be a part-day or a full-day planning retreat. It might be a meeting to plan a large and noteworthy family event; it might be a meeting to solve a particular workplace issue; it might be a session in a long series of meetings to develop or redesign a whole new operation; it might be a neighborhood or community gathering to address an issue that has quality-of-life consequences.

The facilitator’s role is to bring careful planning and a logical structure to the meeting. After pre-session interviews with the participants, the facilitator will identify the purpose and goals of the meeting and plan a process that will permit full expression of ideas and views in a discussion that will funnel those views to points of general agreement and support. In short, while many meetings more resemble a casual and rambling conversation, a facilitated meeting is structured in a manner that begins with open expression and acknowledgement of a range of ideas and concerns, and leads the participants in a process that focuses on a decision or result that accommodates those ideas.

Bob’s fee is based on an hourly rate of $250. The rate applies to hours in which Bob interviews the participants, as well as hours in which he is actively planning and conducting the session. It does NOT apply to travel time or to usual telephone conversations that are administrative or scheduling in nature.

Facilitations vary considerably in the required planning and preparation, and of course vary somewhat on the length of the session or sessions. Bob will discuss the scope of the facilitation with the meeting’s sponsor and, based on that discussion, provide the sponsor with an estimate of Bob’s time commitment and fee for the undertaking. If, along the way, Bob foresees that they have underestimated the commitment, he will raise this with the sponsor so that the sponsor may decide how to proceed. In most cases, the fee is due at the conclusion of the meeting or project, and is based only on the hours actually devoted to preparation and meeting time – if the time spent was less than anticipated, the fee that is due will be less than the estimated fee. In unusually complex or lengthy projects, partial payment of fees may be requested for time spent to that point.