The decision of whether or not to have an attorney when you are participating in mediation is yours to make. We do not require clients to have an attorney. However, we believe it is prudent to get some legal advice somewhere along in the process.
When you have an attorney, his/her role is lot different than it would be if you were not participating in mediation. Usually, he/she is more in the background, serving as an advisor or consultant rather than being actively involved in the process.
The ideal way to utilize the services of an attorney when participating in mediation has three aspects. First, either before you start or early on in the process, have an initial consultation in which the attorney gives you an overview of the relevant laws and an opinion about the range of outcomes in your situation, should the matter be decided by a court. This results in your participating in the mediation process in a more informed manner. Second, during the course of mediation, there may be questions you need to discuss with your attorney. Sometimes, the mediator may ask you review various matters with your attorney and bring that information back to the next mediation session. Third, once the agreement is reduced to writing, it would be reviewed with the attorney before it is finalized or signed. If the attorney raises any questions about the agreement, those questions are taken back to mediation in order to iron out any remaining wrinkles.
If you choose to have an attorney, you want to have someone who will be supportive of your efforts in mediation. If you obtain names of attorneys from others, be sure to ask questions which will help you decide if this attorney is appropriate for you as a participant in mediation. Such questions include how the attorney feels about the use of mediation, what he/she sees as the advantages and disadvantages of mediation, how many previous clients have been in mediation and the attorneys view of the outcomes. Upon request, we provide our clients with names of attorneys we have worked with whose style is compatible with mediation.