One of the best, and worst, parts about being a baby lawyer is all of the new experiences associated with having never done anything before. It is simultaneously terrifying and exhilarating the first time a partner lets you do something, ANYTHING, on your own. It is like a emotion roller coaster...and the best/worst part is that you don't really have a choice. These are assignments...like being at school. So, ready or not, you are pushed into the deep end to either sink or swim...and usually there is a record for someone to pick up at a later date to evaluate your performance (or, at the very least, there is a client and another attorney in the room to verify that you were either excellent or a total flop).
Today I had one of these experiences. Today, I did my first mediation. It was...interesting.
In this case, I represent the defendant. The plaintiff has sued my client to recover $15,000 in damages...our last offer to settle was around $1000. Because of a statute, if the plaintiff recovers more than $1000, he will also be entitled to attorneys' fees. I have been preparing for this mediation for a while, and I feel very comfortable with the case and my (and the partner's) determination that our initial settlement offer is fair.
So, this morning I wake up and put on my lawyer suit, get in my car, and drive two hours to the mediation (and get lost thanks to the awesome GPS on my phone...). I arrive at the mediator's office and find my client. The plaintiff is already there, but we don't actually see him. We are taken to the mediator's office where he tells us what he thinks of the case, asks me if I am ok with him swearing (me being the only lady in the room and all), and takes off to meet with the plaintiffs to get the mediation ball rolling.
Shortly thereafter, the mediator comes in and says that their first offer is to settle for $15,000 (for those of you keeping score, that is exactly what they claimed for their damages...) and will agree to not seek attorneys' fees. Ok, great. Not exactly what I was expecting, but I've discussed my first move with the partner on this case, and I know exactly what our first counter-offer is. My client and I discuss, we provide some more information to the mediator, we do some math (did you know you have to be able to do math to be a lawyer?), and then we tell the mediator that our counter-offer is $3,000. Mediator takes the offer to plaintiff.
About 10 minutes later, the mediator comes back into the room and says, "Well, the chickens have flown the coop." Apparently displeased with our counteroffer, and unwilling to come down from $15,000, the plaintiff just decided mediation was a waste of time and left.
So...I tried to mediate. Mediation failure.
The good news = I may actually get to try my first solo jury trial! There's always a silver lining!