Multi-Party Mediations are inherently more difficult and challenging than mediations involving just two parties. Bankruptcy disputes are often multi-party in nature so bankruptcy cases create many instances of multi-party mediations.
The structure of mediation is always important. The wrong structure can doom a mediation to a disjointed process that impairs the chances for a negotiated settlement. The correct choices on mediation structure are even more critical in a multi-party mediation.
There is no single structure that is correct for all multi-party mediations. Starting a two-party mediation with both parties and their counsel in one room making preliminary statements can often be effective. Sometimes it leads to the parties staying in the same room for most of the remainder of the mediation. But in multi-party mediation situations, the sheer volume of party representatives and lawyers can make for a long process of just hearing opening positions. Keeping parties and their counsel together after opening position statements is less likely to be productive than in smaller two-party situations. Often there is not complete commonality of the issues or disputes. Little can be more annoying to a mediation participant than to listen for hours to issues and disputes that touch upon that one mediation participant’s issues and disputes only tangentially or not at all.
Sometimes conducting a multi-party mediation in stages can be helpful to the process. In other words, with the agreement of the participants tackling certain issues first and leaving other issues for later (and perhaps subject to reaching settlement on the first issues). In this way some of the parties may be able to avoid lengthy waits while other participants are addressing certain issues.