In my mediation practice I am often asked the following question. Should you mediate first or start litigation proceedings and then mediate?
It is an interesting question because there are many ways to answer it. People sometimes feel if they ask to mediate first it will be seen as acknowledging a weakness in their case or they are not serious about proceeding with the conflict resolution. 
I often answer this question by offering the following analogy.  This is not a process that requires you go in alphabetical order.  I realize L comes before M in the alphabet.  In practice that should be the only place were people feel litigation should precede mediation.
In a recent conflict I was asked to mediate, the pet owner asked the insurance company for the vet to try mediating the conflict before they started the litigation process.  The insurance company refused.  It seems the seriousness of the party to the action is not seen unless litigation is initiated.  If the pet owner simply wants to have a discussion about the conflict they have with the vet there is yet to be a place for that conversation to take place.
This is a no brainer for a mediator of conflicts between people involving pets.  When they can have the discussion before litigation is initiated most often the conflict can be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The process to mediation need not be in alphabetical order.  Step out of the dictionary and offer to mediate before litigation ensues.  Resolutions may be easier to come by.  Thus making alphabetical order sequence work for the parties  – resolution before suing.

—Debra Vey Voda-Hamilton

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