Can We Hire Mediators Instead of Lawyers?

Since we do both mediation and representation, we are often contacted by people who want to hire one of our lawyers as their mediator so they can get everything done by one person. However, the functions of mediators and lawyers are different, even when the mediator is a lawyer. We act as a lawyer when we represent one side, interact with the court, or prepare legal documents. The role of a mediator is to act as a neutral third party assisting people in coming to agreements, to facilitate their discussion with each other and help them get past “stuck” spots.

When we act as mediators, we are limited in what we can do without stepping into the roles of lawyers (non-neutrals). A recent decision by the Washington State Bar Association recently clarified that the preparation of legal documents for unrepresented parties goes beyond the role of a mediator and is therefore prohibited. If we are acting as your mediator, we will therefore ask that you also have an attorney you can turn to to have your legal questions answered and to do the final preparation of the legal documents and deal with the court on your behalf. As long as you have an attorney, we may prepare initial drafts of legal documents containing your agreements, but your attorney will need to review them and will be responsible for the final documents to be filed with the court.

Many people bring this up because they fear bringing attorneys in will turn an agreed case into a fight. If we are acting as your mediator, we are happy to refer you to attorneys that we expect will take a more cooperative approach, and if we are acting as your attorney, we are happy to refer you to mediators you can work with to come to your own agreements.