Mediator Mac Pierre-Louis, provides this insight into the mediation practices of Texas. The opinions expressed are his own, and does not constitute legal advice. Mac is based in Houston, Texas and can mediate online with parties from anywhere. He can be reached at Oplawyers.org.
General Overview of Mediations in Texas
Texas mediations involve mediators helping parties resolve disputed claims in many various areas of areas. Whether the issues deal with family, probate, insurance, or personal injury, or it’s related to basic civils cases involving contracts or real property, Texas mediators help resolve an infinite variety of suits outside of court, saving parties time, money, and the inconveniences typically found in litigation.
Local Texas courts sometimes appoint mediators to help parties resolve disputes before those disputes are tried by the judge or jury. These “referral” cases are assigned to mediators who the courts know have a desire to receive mediation appointments. Downsides to the parties being assigned to a particular mediator by a judge might be the parties’ lack of control over who the mediator is and how much the mediator might cost. While many assigned mediators serve at the behest of a Judge, most of them still operate their own mediation practices where they work with voluntary participants by contract.
Several low-cost or pro bono mediation organizations exist in Texas. Some are not-for-profit organizations, and some are organized by local government agencies. They typically have staff and/or volunteer mediators available to serve parties and attorneys with private matters or issues in local courts. Oftentimes, many local courts will order cases to such organizations, especially lower-cost disputes, non-urgent disputes, or disputes that have high changes of settlement. While cost might be an upside to attending a low-cost or pro bono mediation clinic, there may be downsides related to urgent scheduling and personal attention.
Time & Money
While mediations may take on different formats across the state, in Houston, Texas’s largest city, it is not atypical to see mediators meet with parties and their lawyers in group/joint and caucus-style mediations lasting 4-hours at a time, a period commonly referred to as “half-day mediation.” For full-day mediations, a duration of 8-hours is common for more lengthy and detailed discussions. Long mediations may involve the mediator providing a short lunch and involve several breaks.
Typically, if done as a flat-fee, mediations might range from as low as $200.00 per party to over $1000.00 per party, depending on the subject matter, the qualifications, and experience of the mediator, and the length of time needed give the parties’ case the attention it deserves. For hourly mediations, the author has seen mediators charge from $100.00 to $500.00 per party per hour.
Online Mediations in Texas
a. Online mediation is a growing trend in Texas. Like other jurisdictions around the world, prior to the start of the 2020 pandemic most mediators handled their mediations in their offices, or visited the office of one of the parties’ lawyers, or they would meet at a local mediation center that offers mediators workspace. Many mediators are successfully mediating through internet video, with Zoom being the predominant tool of choice. With lockdowns continuing to limit face-to-face meetings, online mediation has become greatly beneficial to many Texas mediators and their parties.
There are currently no court or statutory restrictions against mediating online. In fact, with the state courts, including the State Supreme Court, promoting the use of remote court appearance, such as via Zoom, many mediators realize remote appearance via Zoom for out-of-court negotiations also makes a lot of sense. Whether use of video-based mediations will decrease when the pandemic ends is to be seen. But the technology that is beginning to grow around online dispute resolution due to the pandemic seems to suggest that despite an end to the lockdowns, most mediators and their parties will still seek out the conveniences brought on by online mediations.