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My recent Newsletter, republished below, discusses SELF-DETERMINATION as a primary characteristic that sets Mediation apart from Litigation and Arbitration.  This blog seeks to share comments and illustrations from diverse legal practices regarding the role PARTY SELF-DETERMINATION plays in resolving specific areas of conflict.


Mediation is a widely used and growing dispute resolution process in federal, state, municipal, community and private forums throughout the United States. Parties, however, often lack a basic understanding of the unique characteristics that set mediation apart from litigation and particularly from arbitration. This series of newsletters discusses the basics, and the controlling governing law.



Federal and State Statutes governing Mediation, are to a great extent fashioned after the MODEL STANDARDS OF CONDUCT FOR MEDIATORS. * The Model Standards were enacted to serve three primary goals:**

  • Guide the conduct of mediators;
  • Inform mediating parties; and
  • Promote public confidence in mediation as a process for resolving disputes.

The characteristic of Self-Determination fundamentally sets mediation apart from litigation and arbitration.


  • A mediator shall conduct a mediation based on the principle of party self-determination.
  • Self-determination is the act of coming to a voluntary, uncoerced decision in which each party makes free and informed choices as to process and outcome.
  • Parties may exercise self-determination at any stage of a mediation, including mediator selection, process design, participation in or withdrawal from the process, and outcomes.


  • Self-Determination at the process design stage permits me as your mediator to work with the parties and counsel to uniquely tailor the mediation process for optimal results.  I consider the substantive nature of the dispute, complexity of issues, amount in controversy, overlap and differences of interests when multiple parties are involved, optimal timing and any particular needs of parties and counsel.
  • Unlike arbitration and litigation, Self-Determination during the negotiation stage permits parties to play a significant participatory role and to interact directly and confidentially with me as your mediator.  This promotes a greater respect for and ultimate effectiveness of the mediation process.
  • Verdicts in litigation and awards in arbitration are often appealed, leading to further delays and costs.  The buy-in inherent in mediated resolutions generates party adherence to terms and ultimate party/client satisfaction.
  • Significant involvement is particularly attractive to sophisticated parties who are often “deal-makers” in their own right.

* Prepared 1994, rev’d 2005 by American Arbitration Association, ABA Section of Dispute Resolution, and Association for Conflict Resolution

** Model Standards of Conduct for Mediators- Preamble