The mediator makes use of specialised skills to assist the parties to generate options for the resolution of their dispute, options that are generally not available during litigation.
The most important differences between mediation on the one hand and litigation and arbitration on the other hand are:
The mediator will make all the necessary arrangements for the mediation after his appointment at a preliminary meeting.
At the mediation the mediator explains the essential features of mediation to the parties during a joint session. Then he gives everyone the opportunity to explain the events leading up to the dispute.
After their opening statements the mediator has private sessions with the parties during which he explores their interests and concerns and how these may be satisfied. All private sessions are private and confidential and the mediator may not disclose anything said to the mediator at a private session to the other party, unless expressly authorised to do so.
The entire mediation process is also off the record and confidential. This means that absent an agreement to the contrary, nobody is at liberty to disclose or to make use of any confidential information that would not have been disclosed but for the mediation.
Lawyers can attend mediation in support of their clients and sometimes this is desirable. In mediation however it is the clients that take centre stage while the mediator explores their interests and concerns. It is accordingly not compulsory for lawyers to be present during mediation.