About

Services

Mediation

Common Ground specializes in negotiating the settlement of litigated cases and pre-litigation matters through the services of an experienced neutral in mediation. While the American legal adversary system of dispute resolution through trial has proven itself over centuries, it also leads to significant roadblocks to agreed dispositions. No advocate or party wishes to concede weaknesses, and even the most experienced can develop “blinders” to issues that are apparent to a sophisticated mediator.

Common Ground provides mediation services in matters ranging from simple injury cases to complex business disputes. Every matter is unique, and cannot be forced into a “cookie cutter” mediation platform. Some large damage case might be settled with only a relatively short mediation, while some “smaller” cases might require longer, and even multiple, sessions. Every potential mediation matter results in a pre-mediation consultation by our mediator to set the “ground” for the services— length, cost, participants, location, terms, and medium (virtual, in person, or combination). We also pride ourselves on post-mediation follow up.

We specialize in the settlement of major personal injury cases, business torts, contract disputes, partnership and corporate conflicts, agricultural matters, oil and gas cases, alternative energy issues, water issues, banking, labor and employment cases, products liability, class actions, and probate, estate, and trust matters. We also provide mediation for business matters such as partnership or corporate dissolutions outside of litigation. If a matter is not suitable for our mediation practice, we will let the parties know immediately. All mediations are conducted by written agreement pursuant to mediation confidentiality under the California Evidence Code.

Arbitration

While we emphasize the settlement of disputes, there are cases that require a forum other than the court system by contract or stipulation. Subject to available calendar dates, we provide for arbitration under the California arbitration rules, as well as arbitration subject to the federal rules of arbitration. Unlike many ADR companies, we maintain a small private hearing room for testimony and advocacy.

Temporary Judgeships

Many are unfamiliar with the concept of using Temporary Judges by stipulation. The California Rules of Court at Title 2, Division 6, Chapter 2, provide that parties may stipulate to an order of appointment of a temporary judge for adjudication of all or part of any civil litigation. The advantage of this process is that it remains a constitutional adjudication, rather than a purely private determination, preserving, for instance, the right of appeal or writ. Temporary Judgeships are used infrequently, because there is no suitable venue. Because Common Ground maintains a hearing room setting, these matters may be appropriately noticed under the Rules. Common Ground arranges for and provides for all necessary services (including security, clerk’s minutes, and court reporting) to preserve a constitutional process. In fact, Common Ground encourages the use of Temporary Judgeships, including in mediated matters. Because the law requires a Mandatory Settlement Conference, litigants may consider stipulating to a Temporary Judge in mediated matters so that, by order, the mediation becomes a Mandatory Settlement Conference, avoiding duplication of cost and expense. Parties and attorneys are afforded the same seriousness, substance and weight of a trial courtroom. In the event that a public courtroom is made available upon showing of good cause (such as, for jury trials) we are available to preside.

Appointed Referee

Common Ground also provides services for trial by reference, or discovery references, as set forth in California Code of Civil Procedure, Title 8, Chapter 6 (section 638, et seq.). Many matters or issues are suitable for timely and cost-effective resolution through the reference process. Common Ground is able to provide litigating parties the opportunity for prompt informal or formal resolution of disputes without resort to costly motion practice which frequently results in protracted delays due to our several impacted trial court calendars. We are able to conduct informal discovery conferences under Code of Civil Procedure section 2016.080.

Virtual Appearances

Personal appearance by all necessary persons is preferred. The physical presence of those with ultimate settlement authority is one the key necessities of successful negotiation. Also, in-person availability of witnesses in contested matters is frequently critical to the assessment of credibility. Nevertheless, Common Ground recognizes that personal appearance is sometimes impractical, and we provide suitable platforms and facilities for virtual remote attendance at proceedings, including mediations.

Selective Counsel

Common Ground will also provide separate counsel in selected matters, not inconsistent with serving as an agreed neutral. Many attorneys may wish a “second opinion” on certain legal questions, or wish to conduct focus group sessions under the guidance of a neutral judge. Such services are rare, because they may create conflicts for the conduct of Common Ground’s principal services.

Fees & Costs

All fees and costs for any matter will be negotiated and established through an unbilled preliminary conference with all parties. The length of the matter, calendaring, and cost will be determined depending on the nature of the retention.

Generally speaking, the typical cost for a one-day session is a minimum of $7,500.00. Half day sessions are a minimum of $4,000.00. Fees include administrative set up and preliminary work up and preparation. Complex matters may be more, and simpler matters, involving less time, may occasionally be available for less. Out of town or out of jurisdiction matters involving travel may also require additional costs and fees.

Advance payment or retainer is required based upon time estimates and other issues discussed at the preliminary conference. Once payment is received, dates will be confirmed. The deposit is a true retainer guaranteeing the time scheduled. All payments are subject to the following cancellation policy. If a matter is cancelled at least 30 days prior to scheduled services, a full refund is available, less a $500 administrative fee (unless a new date is agreed upon). For cancellation within 29 to 15 days before scheduled services, a 75% refund is available, less a $500 administrative fee. For cancellation within 14 to seven days before scheduled services, a 50% refund is available, less a $500 administrative fee. No refund is provided (except in the discretion of Common Ground) if a cancellation occurs within seven days of scheduled services.

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