From Volume 76, Number 1 (November 2002)
Mediation—the process through which a third party neutral assists parties in reaching their own agreement—has achieved a prominence in our legal system that belies its youth. Earlier in the twentieth century, the use of mediation was limited almost entirely to small disputes (which did not justify the expense of litigation) and labor disputes (which required quick resolution in order to avoid costly strikes and shutdowns.) By contrast, mediation today is touted for disputes of all sizes and in all areas of the law, including probate, family, commercial lending and business, criminal, employment discrimination, environmental, legal malpractice, medical malpractice, and maritime law. Indeed, such is the enthusiasm for mediation, that one is hard pressed to find a legal area in which mediation is not actively encouraged. Despite such broad encouragement, its success varies widely in different fields of law. While in some areas of law it has achieved dominance, in others its development has been far slower. Two areas where this disparity is particularly puzzling are divorce and will contests.