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Why a cancellation/rescheduling charge in private mediation?

October 5, 2012

Three recent instances of last minute cancellations prompted me to write about this subject.

When I was practicing law, I nearly always had billable desk work that I could do if a deposition, court appearance or appointment had to be rescheduled, or was simply canceled.  Almost always I could fill the time remuneratively with something else.

Now, as a full time mediator who no longer practices law, I no longer have that luxury.

If I am not actually conducting a mediation, I am not earning.

Long ago in mediation practice I learned that the only constant in calendaring is change.  Mediations go on calendar and off calendar all the time.  It is a fact of life.  I have written about this before.

If mediations go off calendar with enough advance notice, many times I can schedule a replacement mediation with no loss of revenue.  I can live with that, or alternatively, I can accept the risk if it doesn’t happen … so long as I have had the opportunity to try to reschedule.

On the other hand, if a mediation goes off calendar very shortly before the scheduled session (i.e., a week before or less), almost certainly I will be unable to schedule a substitute mediation on such short notice.

Consequently I lose a day’s work completely and the opportunity to mitigate the loss has been taken away.

That is why I have a cancellation/rescheduling charge.  It helps to mitigate the loss.

But I try to be fair about it.

On the “Bio and Fees” page of my website (http://karpmediation.com/bio.html), I disclose this policy in simple terms:

“Karp charges no administrative fee but does charge a cancellation/rescheduling fee of not less than $500.00 if a mediation session is taken off calendar seven days or sooner before the scheduled hearing date and no substitute matter can be heard in its place.”

I also include a provision in my retainer agreement that covers this issue.

I am not alone in this.  It is the custom and practice of most other full time mediators as well, some of whom charge more than I do; and for some, their cancellation/rescheduling charges sometimes apply farther ahead in time than mine does.

The charge is not an absolute however.  As I suspect other mediators choose to do, I sometimes waive the cancellation/rescheduling charge — it is within my discretion to do so — if there are exigent circumstances (i.e., if there has been a true family emergency of a litigant or attorney, or if the lawyer is actually called for trial).  Or, if the mediation will be re-calendared for hearing within a very short time (like next week), I may also waive the charge.

But even if I don’t waive the charge, my cancellation/rescheduling charge is less than the usual expenditure by counsel or their clients for mediation (and considerably less than I would usually make in a day).

It is my way of balancing my interests with those of the attorneys and their clients, which of course I take into account.

Nevertheless, as to the attorneys with whom I mediate, I expect that they understand the value of my time.  They are professionals.  As I do, they themselves use time as a measure of their livelihood.

Thus, when I have scheduled a mediation and reserved a day exclusively for an attorney who then cancels with only a few days’ notice, I expect that that attorney will act professionally, accept with grace the cancellation charge assessed, and pay it.

That’s what I would do.

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From → Mediation

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