Mediation is a formal meeting with the parties and lawyers, but the process itself is informal. There is no testimony or court reporter. There is no judge. The mediator facilitates a productive discussion meant to get to the heart of the dispute.
The process is entirely voluntary and non-binding. And the process is completely confidential.
A mediation typically begins in a joint session where the mediator explains the process. The attorneys often each take a turn explaining their position.
Following the opening sessions, the parties are often separated and the mediator caucuses with each side in a series of private meetings, The mediator works with the parties to explore the strengths and weaknesses of their sides and helps them curate a settlement.
The American Arbitration Association says that over 85% of all mediations result in a settlement. That is because discussions are controlled by the mediator, who can steer the parties from unproductive communications. During mediation, each party can educate and be educated about the other side's position, often shedding light on the realistic outcomes of trial. Settlement can be creative and offer the parties options a court may not have authority to.