Why a cancellation/rescheduling charge in private mediation?
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.