Resolving Disputes through Mediation

Mr. Betts serves as a mediator in a wide range of disputes – including commercial litigation, business disputes, employment discrimination, trade secrets and restrictive covenant litigation, banking litigation, claims arising from the sale of insurance products and variable annuities, securities and investment-related litigation and FINRA arbitrations. Mr. Betts is on the approved roster of mediators and ADR neutrals for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He also has been approved by the Court to serve as an E-Discovery Special Master. Mr. Betts also is on the American Arbitration Association’s national arbitrator panel for commercial and consumer cases and he is certified by FINRA Dispute Resolution to serve as a mediator and arbitrator in connection with FINRA arbitration cases.

For mediations in cases pending in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Sections 3.1 through 3.10 of the Court’s ADR Policies & Procedures apply to the mediation process.

Mr. Betts is experienced in conducting mediations “virtually” at the parties’ request, and when consistent with court rules.

Understanding Our Approach To Mediation

Mediation is a highly effective form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediators employ various approaches and styles, including “evaluative” and “facilitative.” Mr. Betts draws upon his nearly forty years of experience in exploring the resolution of cases to tailor an approach that is best suited for the case at hand and that in his judgment will maximize the potential for settlement. In general, Mr. Betts prefers to use an evaluative style, through which he assists the parties and their counsel in objectively and realistically evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of their positions and in recognizing the considerable risks and expense associated with ongoing litigation. Many parties, and even their counsel, enter the mediation process with polarized positions, having become entrenched with the perceived strength of their claims or defense and a belief that if the case proceeds to trial or final arbitration hearing that they are destined to prevail. Mr. Betts’s effectiveness as a mediator and his success in settling cases stems in large part from his credibility with parties and their counsel in appreciating the risk of an unfavorable outcome if the parties do not achieve settlement and if they place their fate in the hands of the judge, jury or arbitration panel. A settlement, while likely not an ideal outcome for either party, has the advantage of providing all parties with a self-determined outcome.

In employing an evaluative approach to mediations, Mr. Betts enters every mediation session fully prepared to discuss the factual and legal issues the case presents. All of Mr. Betts’s preparation time – typically at least several hours – is included in the flat rate charged for the mediation.  Preparation time includes all time spent studying the parties’ mediation submissions, all of the documents that parties have filed with the court and any deposition transcripts and other discovery materials the parties provide to him. Mr. Betts’s thorough preparation allows him to evaluate and discuss the issues in the case in an informed manner.

In using an evaluative style and in substantively engaging with the parties and their counsel concerning the factual and legal issues of the case, Mr. Betts avoids the “cookie cutter” approach regrettably used in many mediations where the role of the mediator is reduced to shuttling settlement proposals back and forth between the parties.

Decision Tree Analysis

A factor contributing to Mr. Betts’s success in helping parties resolve disputes through mediation is his use of Decision Tree Analysis. Decision Tree Analysis is a highly effective tool in connection with Mr. Betts’s evaluative approach to mediations, as it assists the parties and their counsel in predicting possible outcomes in the case and in identifying an appropriate negotiating range for the case. When Mr. Betts employs Decision Tree Analysis, he works with the parties and their counsel to build the tree through predictions of outcomes at various procedural stages of the case (e.g., motion to dismiss, motion for summary judgment, trial, appeal). Discussing the factors underlying these predictions increases the parties’ “buy-in” of the case’s estimated settlement value and increases the odds of arriving at common ground for resolving the case.

Many parties – particularly business executives in commercial litigation matters and business disputes – prefer the disciplined approach used in Decision Tree Analysis as compared with simply relying on their intuition, and that of their counsel and/or the mediator, concerning the value of the case.

There has been much written about Decision Tree Analysis – for understanding the value of Decision Tree Analysis in resolving legal disputes, a very informative article is Robert Copple’s “How to Handicap a Lawsuit: Decision Trees and Probability Analysis.”

In the cases in which he serves as mediator, Mr. Betts frequently engages with the parties, either jointly or separately, in constructing a decision tree for the case. As the tree is built out, Mr. Betts discusses with the parties and their counsel various outcomes that can occur and a realistic assessment of the probabilities of those outcomes. The decision tree software then calculates the settlement value of the case, based on each branch and its assigned probability. Of course, the ultimate settlement value of the case, as determined by the decision tree software, does not necessarily dictate the settlement positions to be taken by the parties or the amount at which the case should settle; but it can serve as a very helpful guide to the parties and their counsel in formulating settlement positions and in appreciating the risks of adverse outcome scenarios.

Reasonable, Transparent Rates

Mr. Betts’s fees for mediations are based on a $400 hourly rate. When engaged jointly by the parties, which is typical for mediations, the fees are spread equally between or among the parties or according to any other allocation to which the parties have agreed.

In the interest of efficiency and cost-effectiveness, particularly when travel is involved, Mr. Betts is amenable to conducting mediations virtually.

There is no fee charged for canceling or rescheduling a mediation session.

There is no fee charged for canceling or rescheduling a mediation.

FINRA Mediations

Mr. Betts has extensive experience with FINRA arbitrations, and is a certified FINRA arbitrator and mediator. Mr. Betts is familiar with the factual and legal issues that frequently arise in connection both “customer” and “industry” arbitrations. In private practice, Mr. Betts has represented not only investors but also brokerage firms and securities professionals, which allows him to bring an impartial and objective point of view to every case. When requested to do so, Mr. Betts is pleased to travel to mediations scheduled in other states and does not charge the parties for his travel time.

Scheduling a Mediation with Michael J. Betts

To schedule a mediation session or for additional information about the alternative dispute resolution services provided by Mr. Betts, please contact us by telephone at (412) 935-7073 or online.

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