What Happens in a Mediation
Superficially, mediation looks very like arbitration. The parties are gathered or represented on either side of a long table often with their solicitors and counsel. There is a presiding figure known as “the mediator” who directs the proceedings. The process begins very much like arbitration with each party being called in turn to present its case. 

It is only after those initial presentations that mediation proceedings take a different course. The mediator sends the parties to separate rooms which he or she visits in turn to discuss the case. These discussions, known as “caucuses”, are very important because they help the mediator understand what the dispute is really about. They can uncover fears and animosities which brought the parties into conflict in the first place and get in the way of settlement. However, such discussions can also reveal interests upon which a solution can be built. Everything discussed in caucus is confidential. The mediator can never disclose the information that he or she learns in these discussions but he or she can and in fact is expected to use it. 

Inventing Options
After gathering information the mediator assesses whether the dispute is soluble through his or her good offices. If he or she believes it is the mediator devises possible options which he discusses with the parties in caucus. Through such discussions a settlement may begin to emerge which can be refined and tested. 

Final Negotiations
Eventually, it may be appropriate to call back into joint session where the plan is further developed. If everyone can live with the plan the terms are reduced into a settlement agreement or perhaps minute of order. A signing ceremony takes place and the parties go their separate ways.