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.
Understanding Our Approach To Mediation
Mediation is a highly effective form of alternative dispute resolution. Mediators employ various approaches and styles, including “evaluative” “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 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. Although Mr. Betts limits the amount of time he charges for preparing for mediation sessions to a maximum of three hours, Mr. Betts, in advance of every mediation session, devotes whatever time is necessary (typically more than three hours) to studying the parties’ mediation submissions, all of the documents the 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 reasons 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.
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 usually serves as a helpful guide in formulating positions and in appreciating the risks of adverse outcome scenarios.
Efficient, Cost-Effective Strategies
Mr. Betts is sensitive to the cost of mediation and structures mediations to efficiently use the time and resources available to the parties to mediate their case. At the parties’ request, Mr. Betts conducts shortened, half-day sessions. Also, when permitted by court rules, Mr. Betts also can arrange a “virtual” online mediation or telephonic mediation to reduce costs. Although in most cases in-person sessions are regarded as most desirable (and may be required by court rules), a virtual or telephonic mediation session may prove to be the most efficient approach, particularly when significant travel by the parties or their counsel is involved or when scheduling a timely in-person session may be impracticable.
Mr. Betts’s hourly mediation rate is $350 for all parties, regardless of the number of parties. Parties usually agree to allocate the mediation fees equally; for example, if a case involves one plaintiff and one defendant, each party would be responsible for one-half of the fees. Time spent by Mr. Betts in preparing for the mediation session is capped at three hours. Mr. Betts does not charge for travel time or expenses.
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 Betts Dispute Resolution
To schedule a mediation session or for additional information about the mediation services provided by Betts Dispute Resolution, please contact us by telephone at (412) 935-7073 or online.
Michael J. Betts LLC represents clients in commercial litigation and securities litigation matters in federal and state courts in Pittsburgh and throughout Western Pennsylvania. Michael J. Betts also provides mediation and other ADR-related services in connection with commercial litigation, securities litigation, and FINRA arbitrations.