Business Mediation FAQs

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary and confidential form of conflict resolution in which a neutral third party, called a mediator, helps disputing parties to arrive at a mutually acceptable solution to their conflict.

Mediation is a step-by-step process in which agreement and disagreement are explored, relevant information is collected and shared, options and proposals are discussed, and negotiations between the parties are conducted to resolve the conflict.   Unlike a judge, the mediator does not make any decisions, but rather helps the parties to discuss their viewpoints, generate new options, and create effective outcomes. Again, mediation is a voluntary process. Parties are free to leave at any time with or without having reached an agreement. Furthermore, parties do not lose any rights by participating in mediation. If parties do not reach an agreement, they are free to pursue their conflict in another venue, such as court.

It is not uncommon for a dispute to require multiple mediation sessions in order to reach an agreement. However, most mediations result in a full or partial agreement between disputing parties.  If a mutually acceptable agreement is reached, full or partial, it is then put into writing in the form of a stipulation of settlement.  Once signed, the stipulation of settlement becomes a legally binding agreement.

Do I have to be in the New York City area for you to mediate my dispute?

All disputes are mediated in person at the real estate law offices of Hafif and Associates, PLLC, 275 Madison Avenue, Suite 800, New York, New York 10016.    The entrance to the building is on 40st Street, just east of Madison Avenue.

What are the goals of mediation?

  • To save disputing parties the time and expense typically associated with  litigating disputes in court 
  • To allow all parties to the dispute to remain in complete control of the outcome of the dispute 
  • To prevent the escalation of disputes into more serious conflict or criminal activity
  • To relieve the courts of matters that do not require a formal court structure

What are common outcomes of mediation?

  • A mutually acceptable, legal binding, financial and/or non-financial settlement
  • Dissolution of business partnership
  • Reorganization of business or non-profit team toward improved efficiencies and outcomes
  • Reduction in business relationship-sabotaging behavior
  • Better understanding of and empathy for the other party's wants and needs
  • Improved inter-personal communication skills
  • Increased harmony and overall fulfillment

What is the role of a mediator?

A mediator is not a judge or therapist. S/he does not evaluate evidence, decide who is right or wrong, impose a decision, or diagnose or treat mental illness. A mediator has absolutely no vested interest in the outcome of a case one way or another, except to ensure that both parties try as hard as they possibly can to reach a mutually satisfactory agreement. S/he is completely neutral. In fact, it is important that the mediator not personally know any of the disputing parties personally, in order to assure neutrality.

What is the difference between a mediation agreement and a court decision?

When a decision is imposed by a court, typically there is a winner and a loser, often leading to ongoing litigation and conflict. However, through mediation, in approximately 85% of all cases, all parties to the dispute leave with a mutually satisfactory agreement and, consequently, a high agreement compliance rate.  Moreover, when properly written, signed stipulations of settlement reached through mediation are as legally binding as a decision or judgment rendered by a court.  Finally, some courts can only impose financial judgments and so order financial settlements.  However, a stipulation of settlement reached through mediation can include financial and non-financial agreements (e.g. to complete or cease an action or service).

Why should I consider mediation?

  • It will occur at a time and place convenient to all parties
  • All matters are confidential
  • All parties will be able to present their positions and interests
  • Agreements focus on the needs of all parties
  • Restitution or monetary settlements may be paid by one party to another
  • You remain empowered to resolve your own dispute
  • Minor disputes or conflicts will not grow into serious ones
  • The process has shown high satisfaction and compliance rates
  • Mediation is often a very viable alternative to longer-term, more emotionally and financially costly forms of conflict resolution such as traditional couples therapy or civil litigation.
  • What kinds of cases do you mediate?

There is a wide range of conflicts that mediation can help resolve amicably. I am particularly interested in, but certainly not limited to, mediating the following types of cases:

  • Disputes between small business co-owners
  • Disagreements between small business owners and sub-contractors, suppliers, or agents.                                                                                                                  
  • Disagreements between small business owners and clients, customers, or consumers.

What happens during a typical mediation session?

The mediator will provide all parties with an opportunity to share their respective understanding of the conflict. If one party wishes to share documentation, it must also be shared with the other party. Although it is important for the mediator to understand the nature of the dispute from both parties' perspectives, the majority of energy should be focused on what the parties will and will not do moving forward. In order to move the process forward, the mediator may choose to meet with each party individually. This is called a caucus. If a caucus is necessary, the mediator will meet with one party, followed by the other. All information shared in caucus is kept strictly confidential, unless otherwise authorized by the caucusing party.

How long is a typical mediation session?
Mediation sessions are typically 2 hours in length.

What is expected of the disputing parties during a mediation session?

There are two important ground rules that all parties must follow in order to ensure the most productive mediation hearing possible. The first ground rule is that when one party speaks, the other(s) listen. Listening is as important as talking, as one party may share information that the other(s) are not aware of, and that may be instrumental to reaching an agreement.

The second ground rule is for all parties to work together and try as hard as possible to find a solution that is at least minimally acceptable to all parties, as it is unlikely that disputants will reach a perfect solution for all concerned.

How will I know that what I am sharing will remain between us only?

Mediation is a strictly confidential process. Nothing about the content of any session, verbal agreement or written agreement will be shared without the permission of all parties involved in the dispute. The only exception to the confidentially rule is if one or more of the parties poses an intention to endanger self or others, or if one or more of the parties makes any allegations of domestic violence.

What happens if one of the parties violates the agreement?

It depends on the nature of the agreement and how the agreement is written.  In some cases, if the judgment debtor fails to make payment(s) as stipulated in the settlement, the judgment creditor can ask the appropriate court to issue a default judgment for a specific sum of money previously agreed to by the disputing parties. After an agreement is reached, written and signed, any alleged violations of the agreement should be immediately brought to my attention so I can give parties appropriate direction.

What are your credentials for being a mediator?

From 1989 to 2006, I held a number of progressively responsible direct service, supervisory and senior management positions with New York City government agencies, including the Departments of Probation and Correction, the Mayor’s Office of the Criminal Justice Coordinator, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Police Department.  I have also volunteered with several non-profit organizations, including Safe Horizon, Coalition for the Homeless and Partnership for the Homeless in New York City, as well as the Center for Neighborhood Technology and West Side Senior Center in Chicago.

These health and human service-oriented positions have afforded me ample opportunity to conduct strategic planning; perform population, training and program needs assessments; design, implement and evaluate numerous health, education, social service and community outreach programs; institute performance management accountability systems; and coordinate and partner with city, state and federal government agencies, as well as non-profit and other community-based organizations. I also conducted individual and group behavioral modification counseling with thousands of human service clients, and completed individual intake assessments, progress reports and comprehensive discharge plans with hundreds more.

Since 1999, I have become a certified mediator with the Columbia University School of Law and the Safe Horizon Center for Mediation, a certified coach with the Coaches Training Institute, and a pre-certified organization coach with the Center for Right Relationship.  Further, I have completed intensive certificate training in small business development with the State University of New York’s Levin Graduate Institute of International Relations and Commerce and the Workshop in Business Opportunities (WIBO).  During this period, I have gained significant coaching and conflict resolution experience with individuals in employment transition, aspiring and established entrepreneurs, business partners, and non-profit and corporate teams.

In 2007, I established Hatch Ventures LLC, an incubator for new business products and services.  During the past three years, Hatch Ventures LLC has successfully developed and launched four new business products, with three more business products and one business service currently in development.

In addition to my role as founder and principal of Hatch Ventures LLC, I currently serve as Mediation Coordinator for the Civil Court of the City of New York and maintain a private personal coaching and conflict resolution practice, Andrew D. Lewis Coaching and Mediation LLC. I am also an active member of the New York State Dispute Resolution Association, the New York City Chapter of the International Coach Federation and Business Networking International’s (BNI) Manhattan     Chapter 19.

What is your fee structure for mediation?

$125 per hour (including a $25 per hour pass-through fee for meeting space)
$100 per hour for stipulation of settlement writing, if required.

Included: regular telephone and email communication between sessions

Fee structure subject to change.

What is your fee if all parties do not show up for mediation or if one or more of the parties leaves before the conclusion of the session?

Except under extenuating circumstances, you will still be charged a minimum of $125 for the first hour.   This provides additional incentive for all parties to show up and stay for the entire session, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of reaching an agreement.

What forms of payment do you accept for mediation?
I invoice clients by email following each session. Session fees are payable by cash, check, money order, debit card or credit card. If you choose to pay by debit or credit card, click the Pay Now button on your electronic invoice.  Please wait to be invoiced prior to making payments.

How do I know you would be a good mediator for me?

If one or more parties is not comfortable with me after my in-person orientation to mediation at the beginning of the first session, you are free to terminate the session at no charge, less a $25 pass-through fee for use of the meeting space.