ADR Specialists

Why our ADR specialists are among the best in the industry

What makes our ADR specialists different?

– Each member of our panel and ADR specialists establishes their own individual rates providing clients with the flexibility to select a panelist that matches the dynamics of their case

– Low administrative fees and case management from start to finish

– Our full-service conference facilities can accommodate virtually any size mediation or arbitration and are provided at no additional cost when using our service

– We offer complete litigation support services including online hosting and traditional document services to help organize and prepare your case for mediation

– Video and Web conferencing capabilities at no additional charge allowing for reduced travel and expense

Locally owned and family operated

View our full panel of ADR specialists and find the panelist that best suits your needs. View our ADR specialists here and read their full bio.

Providing in-person, remote, or hybrid style mediations, arbitrations and special masters.
Offering in person at any of our locations or the location of your choice. To schedule your ADR specialists, call us at (303) 355-2314 or schedule your mediation services here.

Congratulations on your retirement Joe Epstein!

Joe Epstein, ESQ.

I am writing to inform you that after 25 years as a litigator plus 27 years providing mediation services, I plan to retire from AB Litigation Services as of July 15, 2022. It has been my great honor and pleasure to work with you and your clients to heal wounds, solve disputes, and deal with complex emotional and financial issues.   I want to thank all of you for the tremendous personal and professional experiences we have had together.

My mediation practice has been a labor of love, and as I embark on this new phase of my life, I hope we can keep in touch. My email and phone will remain the same E:  P: 303-359-1459.

AB Litigation Services’ Mediation Panel will continue to offer high-caliber ADR services. Our distinguished panel of senior judges and seasoned mediators are ready to continue to serve you and your clients with the same passion and commitment you have come to know from me.  You can find more information about our services and access our panel’s biographies at

For future cases, call 303-355-2314 or email or schedule mediation services online here.

With warm personal regards,

Joe Epstein, Mediator

Using Mediation Effectively to Manage Competitive Advantage and Maximize Value for You and Your Clients

This article originally appeared in Trial Talk October-December 2021 Volume 70 Issue 4 edition.  Reproduced by permission. ©2021 Trial Talk. All rights reserved.  Modified from its original publication in Trial Talk.


By  Chad Atkins and Joe Epstein

Mediation has become a staple of the litigation process nationwide and in Colorado.1 Many jurisdictions require mediation prior to conducting a trial. The point of court ordered mediation for the court is to settle cases, reduce trials, and alleviate court congestion. The point of mediation for the defense counsel is to settle the case for the lowest settlement value, within coverage limits. The point of mediation for decision makers, composed of insurance adjusters and their supervisors, authority setters, and corporate counsel, is to settle under the estimated value to litigate. The point of mediation for plaintiff’s counsel is to cost effectively reach a maximum value resolution for your client. If done correctly, mediation remains the most effective tool and the best means to achieve a successful resolution of disputes.3

Most disputes involve an aggrieved party seeking monetary compensation from an insured individual or business entity who the plaintiff has alleged was, in some way, wrongful. The participants are rarely similarly situated. Litigation for an insurer and counsel is part of business, and the decisions are evaluated, measured, and justified empirically as good business decisions. Most aggrieved parties are not as business savvy. Often, aggrieved parties will evaluate cases emotionally and not empirically. This is to the aggrieved party’s disadvantage.

While insurance companies organize and incorporate to manage risk and litigate, injured parties do not typically organize their lives to participate with maximum effectiveness in litigation evaluation. Typically, an aggrieved party and counsel will seek compensation from an insurer or corporation with deep pockets, expensive litigation processes and tools, significant litigation budgets, and defense counsel who receive full compensation throughout the litigation process. Rarely, if ever, do the aggrieved party and counsel have any of those luxuries.

For the insurer, corporation, and defense counsel, income is not dependent on the outcome of the case. For the plain- tiff and you, the outcome is the sole determination of income for that dispute. Moreover, corporations and insurers do not have to take time off work to recover from injuries or litigate while trying to manage pain. Nor do they have to take time off work to attend a mediation conference. Corporations and insurers do not have to contend with managing disability or loss of function throughout the litigation process.

As a result of these differences between the parties, the litigation process is “zero sum” and almost always puts the aggrieved party at “competitive disadvantage” while putting the insured individual or business entity, counsel, and decision maker at “competitive advantage.”

As a business concept, “competitive advantage” results in one participant having an advantage of position and/or kinetics over another party.5 As a result, the entity possessing this competitive advantage, competes better and obtains superior results. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the civil litigation system.

The effective use of mediation helps manage and minimize competitive disadvantage and maximize competitive advantage for the aggrieved party, expanding the result and value for your client and your firm.

This article examines preparing for and conducting mediation efficiently to manage competitive advantage and maximize the effectiveness and value of mediation for you and your client. To examine using mediation effectively to manage competitive advantage and maximize value we will use the acronym “P DEAL” (Preparation, Damages, Evaluation, Advise, and Learn).



The first key to managing competitive advantage and maximizing effectiveness at mediation is effective preparation prior to mediation. Preparation aimed towards effective presentation of your position in a manner that resonates with the decision maker maximizes value.

The first consideration before you decide on mediation is cost. Cost falls on the aggrieved party disproportionally and presents a competitive disadvantage. The aggrieved party, unlike defense counsel and the decision makers, probably does not possess a budget with funds available for mediation. To your client, mediation means paying money out of pocket or incurring a debt to their lawyer. Evaluate the mediation costs— is there enough at stake to justify a full day mediation, or should you consider a shorter mediation? Should the mediation be flat rate or by the hour? Inquire about and examine pricing to maximize efficiency for the mediation and manage competitive advantage.

The second consideration is time. Focused presentation of synthesized material to the mediator is key.6 If the mediation is hourly, you can maximize value by summarizing case facts, deposition transcripts, medical records, and damages for a faster, focused presentation., The mediator may absorb the information more quickly. Less time spent on the hourly rate means a lower bill for your client. There is little value in having the mediator charge your client preparation time spent wading through volumes of records that do not significantly enhance the value of the case. Prepare the mediation with an emphasis toward the biggest impact of the materials you disclose and present to the mediator and defense decision maker. Effective summaries are cost- saving tools and can help you manage competitive advantage.

The third consideration is logistics— how are the participants appearing at mediation? Will the decision maker be live, by video conference, or available by phone? Access to the decision maker is particularly important to minimize competitive advantage, and a live or video conference is preferable. This gives the participants—including your client—the ability to potentially interact directly. This can be very impactful. Draft any document that summarizes the plaintiff’s positions with an eye towards effective presentation and impact through the medium in which the decision maker will appear. Tailoring impactful materials and presentation based on the logistics of the participants will reduce competitive disadvantage and gain competitive advantage.

Finally, sharing evidence and documents with the mediator and decision maker prior to the mediation is almost always effective for adding value because it gives the mediator understanding and the decision maker a chance to obtain additional authority prior to mediation day. Sharing documents ahead of mediation is effective at minimizing competitive disadvantage and enhancing competitive advantage even where the decision maker is not present at mediation. Prior disclosure of strong documents reduces the competitive advantage for the decision maker because they have to evaluate the material and must have an answer for it at mediation. Early disclosure means that they cannot dismiss it as untimely, and therefore claim that it is not at issue in the mediation. Sharing with the decision maker also costs your client nothing. Sharing information prior to the mediation increases the impact of the information and maximizes its value. This is an invaluable strategy to manage competitive advantage.

Mediation effectiveness and value can be lost through poorly prepared materials. What should you cover in your mediation materials to maximize value and competitive advantage?

The mediation statement should cover each of the basic elements of the claim you are making. As a simple example:

Defendant was driving a vehicle, breached their duty of care and rear-ended plaintiff’s vehicle, directly causing $143,500.00 in damages, injuries, and losses. Because defendant was speeding 25 miles over the speed limit and was intoxicated with a BAC three times the legal limit, plaintiff is confident that they can meet the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard and are amending to add punitive damages.

Those two sentences cover duty, breach, causation, damages, and punitive damages. Most disputes are more complex, but counsel should establish the basic elements of any claim in the mediation statement fully, but succinctly. Effective and concise coverage of the elements minimizes competitive disadvantage and maximizes effectiveness and value at mediation.

The mediation statement should cover both the strengths and weaknesses of the case, from each perspective. Do not ignore weakness, but face it head on. Point out the weaknesses of the arguments against your client, of course. But also spend time and preparation addressing the weaknesses of your client’s case. Addressing and neutralizing the weaknesses of your client’s case diminishes positional advantage for the decision maker and adds value to your case because it gives the mediator and counsel in the other room arguments to work with to convince the decision maker to add value. This alone is a mighty strategy for minimizing competitive disadvantage and maximizing effectiveness and value at mediation for your client.

Finally, do not ignore the logistics of the deal. You can add value by reviewing the settlement documents prior to mediation and hashing out acceptable terms. Work out issues such as liens, indemnification, and confidentiality ahead of time through e-mail. This can save significant, and more expensive, time on the day of mediation. Where possible, work up your costs, bills, and liens prior to mediation. This will always be a factor to settling the action. It is better to consider these matters prior to mediation, which will lead to an efficient and less costly mediation.



The best way to minimize the competitive advantage of the defense and maximize mediation effectiveness is to think like the decision maker you are trying to persuade. Insurance companies manage risk and have system protocols, forms, and programs that they use to compile damages for risk evaluation.

Present a summary of damages to the mediator and the decision maker, and you are speaking their language. Damages are the main component of the estimated value of litigation (EVL).

Maximizing EVL maximizes case value. Cover each category of special and general damages, in your mediation materials even if you are not making a claim for them. That way, the mediator and decision maker know that you considered these. Strongly consider sharing a revised version of the entire mediation statement with the decision maker. At a minimum, sharing the damage information forces the decision maker to evaluate damages, and causes the insurer to review and re-set reserves.7 This is a powerful tool, and increases your competitive advantage.

What should you include in your damage summary? Here is a partial list:

  • Past Medical bills.
  • Future medical bills.
  • Past wage loss.
  • Future wage loss.
  • Pain and suffering.
  • Permanent impairment and disability.
  • Disfigurement.
  • Inconvenience and general disruption of life.
  • Effect on daily activities.
  • Property damage.
  • Prejudgment interest.
  • Potential Penalties.
  • Consortium claims (effect on family relationships).


A simple chart or table that shows the claimed value for each of these will resonate with the decision maker, their authority setters, and will minimize their competitive advantage while increasing yours. This evaluation alone as an effective mediation value maximizer cannot be overstated.

Prior to mediation, make certain that you have fully disclosed the documents that support damages. The decision maker cannot effectively evaluate documents if you disclose them too close to mediation—or even worse, on the morning of mediation. Decision makers increase their positional advantage by taking the stance at mediation that un- documented injuries do not exist, and the late records cannot be considered and add no value. Often, the decision maker will start negotiation with a statement to the mediator that they are not considering X or Y damage, and that their top line number reflects this lack of record or record you disclosed late. This is not an admission that the damages are not valid—but rather a statement that they will not be considered. Destroy this decision maker’s competitively advantageous stance by proactively and timely disclosing your support documents.



Do not show up to a mediation without assessing value. Estimate what your highest trial award, lowest trial award and most likely award will be. Decision makers do this to maintain their competitive advantage. Consider the jurisdiction, the jury pool, and how the witnesses will present. Be prepared to discuss this on mediation day with the mediator, and if necessary, counsel and the decision maker. Evaluate the settlement value range of the case before you begin mediation. Know what the value range of your case is for settlement and through trial. Is the case a soft tissue case with $10,000.00 in damages, a $25,000.00 policy limit, and a judgment proof defendant currently residing in the department of corrections? Or is this a permanently life changing disability case with sufficient coverage and a well-heeled defendant? Evaluate your acceptable ranges and prepare to dis- cuss these on mediation day.

After you develop your value range, take the time to develop your opening demand and your projected final demand. Think about how you will move and respond to offers. Showing up to mediation without these numbers is usually a costly mistake and gives away competitive advantage. In effect, if you fail to develop your range, your first and last moves allow the decision maker to dictate the progress and result of the mediation without meaningful input from you. Use the prior objective evaluation of the strengths and weak- nesses of your client’s case to develop your numbers and range. Be prepared to justify your results and you will enhance your competitive advantage. Developing your range before mediation will give you an efficient map for negotiation and maximize efficiency and value.

Take the time before mediation to consider the strategies that you can use to get to a settlement on mediation day. Consider whether or not you will use a bracket or ask the mediator for a mediator’s proposal. If the parties cannot make a deal, should you suggest a high- low for trial? If the defense threatens or makes a statutory offer, will you reject, negotiate, or accept? How much would a statutory offer have to be to work for your client? Evaluating potential strategies and scenarios before mediation day will save time and add value during mediation. Better still, it will move competitive advantage closer to equality for the participants.



On mediation day, the mediator should discuss with and inform your client about the mediation. The mediator should discuss who is present and participating in the mediation. The mediator should discuss with your client at the first meeting of mediation day the process of mediation and the roles of the participants. The mediator should discuss the goal of mediation. The mediator should cover the finality of a settlement, the confidentiality and lack of admissibility of the negotiations under Rule 408, and all of the parameters of the mediation process. This is often important for the client to hear from the mediator and is worth the time spent covering these topics.

The mediator’s discussion should never be the only discussion concerning the parameters of the mediation. One of the smartest ways to maximize value and efficiency at mediation is to fully advise your client—prior to mediation day—of the projected course of the mediation. An uninformed client is a weak client. A weak client gives away competitive advantage.

Another consideration is while your firm case load is high, your client likely only has this one case. It is the most important case to your client. An uninformed client is a dangerous client. It is easy for a disgruntled client to contact Attorney Regulation Counsel and start an ethics complaint. Therefore, do not fail to advise your client prior to mediation. Take the time to prepare them for the process. Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the case. Discuss the elements, and what evidence and testimony you require to meet the burden of proof. Discuss damages in depth. Often during this discussion your client will reveal damages that you did not know about that add value. Discuss the value range of your client’s case for settlement and for trial. Develop with the client a value that makes business sense for you and your client to demand and accept. Explain different strategies that can get the offer to the demand number or even higher and mistakes that make the offer number lower. Let the client be an active participant in the process. As a benefit, when you do this with the client, you will increase trust and your power in the room and in the mediation, and that minimizes client control problems. It gives you more competitive advantage. It leads to referrals and more business. This alone is always worth the time invested.



Use the mediation process to learn the arguments you will face at trial. If you leave without hearing these arguments, you have lost competitive advantage in this room and later in the courtroom. Prepare questions ahead of time. Write them down if necessary. Have the mediator ask your specific questions concerning these arguments, and relay to you the answers. Listen to the answers and consider the impact on your position. Learn the case against your case.

Rarely should you leave a mediation without getting the last, best offer. Leaving without the last best number leaves you without knowing what the defense valued the case for settlement. Sometimes to get the last best number would require going lower than the evaluation, and you should consider whether to do that before mediation day. Be prepared to consider the ramifications of that on the day of mediation, especially because some decision makers are reluctant to let a low demand go high later in negotiations. To preserve your position, and not give up competitive advantage, consider the possibilities prior to mediation.



Mediation will continue to be a means of effective dispute resolution for the foreseeable future. You can maximize the effectiveness of mediation and manage the competitive advantage for the benefit of you client. Work P DEAL for maximum effectiveness. Preparing before the mediation by sub- mitting effective materials enhances your competitive advantage and adds value. Compiling and timely disclosing an effective and complete Damages analysis will enhance case value. Evaluating your case values and projected demands will enhance your competitive advantage and add value. Advising your client and developing your mediation day approach with a focus on working with the client and mediator to Learn the case you face at trial will enhance your competitive advantage and add value, making your mediations efficient and cost effective.

Prior to graduating from law school, Chad Atkins studied economics and business. Chad has 26 years as an attorney with more than 100 trials. Chad served as a plaintiff’s and defense attorney for multiple Fortune 100 global insurance carriers, and as named Managing Attorney for Colorado for Liberty Mutual/Safeco. Chad understands case evaluation from the viewpoint of the litigants, claims adjuster and claims supervisor, with a focus on settlement. Chad handles personal injury, trucking, wrongful death, product liability business, industrial, employment, and contract litigation. Reach Chad at 303-667-0528 or

Joe Epstein has 25 years as a mediator with over 4,000 mediations. Colorado Law Week has selected him four times as Colorado’s “Barrister’s Best Mediator.” He has served as a Vice-President of the International Academy of Mediators. He is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. He is a panelist with AB Conflict Resolution Services. His mediation focus is on complex high value cases. Joe handles personal injury, wrongful death, trucking, product liabil- ity, employment, civil rights, and other complex matters. Reach Joe at 303-359-1459 or



1 Colorado established its Office of Dispute Resolution (ODR) in 1983. Mediation services made up approximately 98.8% percent of ODR’s services in fiscal year 2020. ODR estimates that the overall agreement rate after alternate dispute resolution (full or partial) was 51.3%. Colorado Judicial Branch Annual Statistical Report, Fiscal Year 2020. While self-reported, private mediators reporting success rates that exceed 80% are quite common.

2 The estimated value to litigate, or EVL, is the dollar amount below which it is worth settling the case for the insurer, and over which it is worth taking the case to verdict.

3 While 2020 statistics are not representative because of the state’s pandemic- related shutdown, recent Colorado Judicial Department Statistics indicate that 99% of civil district and county court cases settle before a trial or final hearing. Colorado Supreme Court, Mediation Guide for Colorado Courts (Oct. 5, 2018), available at

4 A simple two party “zero sum” situation is one in which a gain for one party corresponds with a loss for the other party, whether equally proportional or not.

5 “The essence of competitive advantage can be interpreted as the asymmetry or differential among firms along any com- parable dimension that allows one firm to compete better than its rivals.” Hao Ma, Of Competitive Advantage: Kinetic and Positional, 43 BSNS. HORIZONS 53- 64 (Jan. 2000). While beyond the scope of this article, Hao Ma divides competitive advantage into two types:

“Positional advantage often derives from ownership or access-based sources. Specifically, it comes from a company’s unique endowment of resources, market positions, established accesses, and other traits that are relatively static in nature. And it is based on the company’s status, social or economical, actual or perceived, in the eyes of customers, competitors, partners, regulators, and other stakeholders. In contrast, kin- etic advantage typically arises from a firm’s knowledge, expertise, competence, or capabilities—including those gained from accessing or tap- ping other firms’ knowledge and capabilities. It is based on a firm’s competence and skill in conducting business activities, including, but not limited to, the ability to identify market opportunities, knowledge of customers, technical know-how and capability, speed of action and response in the marketplace, and efficiency and flexibility of business or organizational processes.”

Hao Ma (available at https://www.research petitive_advantage_Kinetic_and_positional

6 For an in-depth analysis of considerations for a successful mediation, Joe Epstein and Chad Atkins, An Insider’s View of Mediation, TRIAL TALK (Feb/Mar 2020).

7 Reserves are a percentage of insurance premium held “in reserve” by insurance carriers that, by law, must be kept liquid for the payment of claims


An Insiders View of Mediation

This article originally appeared in Trial Talk February/March 2020 Volume 69 Issue 2 edition.  Reproduced by permission. ©2020 Trial Talk. All rights reserved.  Modified from its original publication in Trial Talk.


By Joe Epstein and Chad Atkins


Colorado Judicial Department Statistics indicate that 99%of civil district and county court cases settle before a trial or final hearing.¹  Many cases settle at mediation and many more settle due to the forces created at mediation. For those cases that do not settle at mediation, United States Department of Justice studies conclude that mediation was a significant factor in resolving some or all significant issues in 71% of all United States Department of Litigation mediated cases nationwide.²  Based upon our wide and deep experience in evaluating and mediating cases we offer questions for you to answer in enhancing your mediation practice.

This article is designed to help to encourage attorneys to design and time their mediations to have the greatest possible effect in their case management. Decisions made to use treating physicians as experts, engage independent causation/damage experts, engage personal injury finance companies or not are some of the keys to pre-mediation preparation.

What follows are some questions we have framed for your consideration for successful mediations.

  1. What is the role of creativity in mediation?

Mediation should be a creative process for case resolution.  An example of creativity was a case involving a fixed wing aircraft/helicopter crash we recently mediated. The Subrogation Plaintiff did a marvelous recreation of the crash. They displayed it to us Co-Mediators at mediation. We called a joint session so it could be played to the Defendant/Cross Claimant. When an impasse developed, we persuaded the Intervenor/Helicopter pilot to bid against himself to get the personal injury case into a realistic settlement range. After both of these creative moves occurred, both cases settled.

Another example of creativity was displayed in a pre-litigation catastrophic injury case mediation involving a trucking accident. Plaintiff’s counsel had disclosed all available medical records and reports. Yet there was still a gap relating to the current status of Plaintiff’s medical and emotional status. A “meet and greet on steroids” was arranged and the Plaintiff and her sister were interviewed for 45 minutes in open session by the mediator. Given the new information and the manner in which it was conveyed the case rapidly moved to settlement.

  1. When should litigators alert the mediator about special issues?

All parties should alert the mediator to special issues when setting their case for mediation. Special issues include client control issues, difficulty with opposing counsel, coverage issues, lien issues, subrogation, indemnification, additional parties or non-parties to the case, any complication. Addressing these issues pre-mediation through calls with the mediator or an in-person meeting saves time at mediation. In some instances, a site visit or house call may also be necessary.

Pre-mediation meetings are especially useful in high valuation cases. They should always occur where the value exceeds one million dollars.

  1. When should you consider using co-mediators?

Co-mediation is a good idea when you have multi-level litigation. Co-mediators are better with multiple parties possessing differing interests, or where there are counter and cross claims. Co-mediators often possess different, complimentary skill sets. Co-mediators can more effectively manage multiple plaintiffs with inadequate coverage. Co-mediators are also useful where there are multiple insurers. Often, this leads to questions as to which policy is primary and the order of liability, or coverage. Additionally, co-mediation is useful where there are subrogation, indemnity and reservation of rights issues.

  1. What is “Data Dumping” and when is it good, when is it bad?

Data dumping occurs when a litigant discloses irrelevant material and late material. This most often occurs with the documents supporting the mediation statement and with late disclosures on the day of mediation itself.

Limited, relevant and focused attachments that clarify the position advocated are the key to effective mediation statements. Provide the mediator with needle—not the haystack. The needle is the point you want driven home. This helps the mediator appreciate the risks faced by both the plaintiff and defendant. Providing new information of the day of mediation is missed opportunity because the full impact of the disclosure cannot be appreciated and acted upon with sufficient time by opposing counselor decision makers. The mediator cannot be effective in the other room unless the risks are known, well developed and fully considered.

Data dumping is good in pre-litigation and in the early phase of litigation, when the Rule 26 dis closures are being made. Give the other side what they need to see the case the way you see the case. In pre-litigation, the adjuster needs the information to evaluate the risk with enough time to act, set reserves and value the case.

  1. When should you disclose your “good” evidence?

Disclose your best evidence early, before mediation. New information disclosed at mediation usually is lost opportunity. If disclosed at mediation no one can effectively evaluate the information for maximum impact on value. Good evidence creates risk of loss at trial. Evidence which creates risk is most effective when disclosed timely, giving the participants time appreciate the risk, act and reevaluate the case. Disclose good evidence with enough time that opposing counsel and decision makers can act with authority.

  1. When should the initial demand be made?

Demands should be made by Plaintiffs 30 days in advance of most mediations. This requires that there is a disclosure of relevant data and a demand made timely. Make the demand a risk factor in case evaluation for your opponent. Where the demand is made prior to mediation, let the Mediator know the status of negotiations. It is helpful to let the Mediator know your impression of the interests and issues that have prevented reaching agreement. A good axiom is the greater the demand, the greater the time required to evaluate, process, and act on it.

  1. What questions should I ask myself when drafting an effective mediation statement?

The four key questions are: 1) who are my witnesses and what will they testify to at trial; 2) what are the key exhibits and what do they prove; 3) what is the credibility factor matchup between the various plain tiff and defendant witnesses; and 4) what is the negotiation history between the participants? Each of these questions focuses your preparation toward effective communication of your client’s position to your intended audience in a concise and persuasive manner. Answering and addressing these questions is the core of your effective mediation statement.

  1. What should be included in the mediation statement?

Less is not necessarily more, but concise, focused mediation statements that communicate better are more. Bigger cases have better, more concise mediation statements. This is likely because concise, focused statements are harder to write, and many litigants spend more time writing the mediation statement in bigger cases.

Most mediation statements are a chronological statement of medical treatment, and many documents that are related to the case, but not relevant to any issue in dispute. If a matter is not in dispute at mediation, spending much time on it is wasted time.

  1. What are the key questions that you should ask yourself when preparing to mediate?

What is the comparative strength between the parties of causation? It may be helpful to express the answer as a percentage. What is the comparative strength and credibility of the key witnesses and the evidence that each of these witnesses will develop for the litigator? Often, this is a subjective analysis. Do not let that stop you from conducting the analysis and answering the question. What conclusion does the application of common sense point the finder of fact towards? Design a model jury pool that best represents the actual jury pool. Answer these three questions for any disputed issues for yourself, your opponent and for the mediator.

  1. When should the case be set for mediation?

Settings for mediation conferences should be done at least 45 days in advance of the mediation. For maximum effectiveness, prepare the mediation statement and conduct mediation after expert disclosures but before expert depositions. Conducting mediation far enough in advance of trial saves transactional costs.

Consider mediation pre-litigation. This works better if counsel can exchange information freely, and in this instance more is better. Give the other side the information that they need to evaluate the case as you evaluate it. Expect resistance but explain that the mediation will flow faster and have better chance of settling if there are no surprises.

  1. Should you share a version of your mediation statement with opposing counsel?

Sharing a version of your mediation statement is a preferred practice. Sharing a version of your mediation statement avoids surprise and maximizes impact. Sharing a version of your mediation statement avoids “unrealistic expectations” or overly favorable evaluation on all sides. Sharing gives the opposing decision maker the information necessary to effectively evaluate and settle the case.

  1. Should you obtain a draft release in advance of mediation?

Defense should provide a draft release ten days prior to mediation. Plaintiffs should make proposed changes in the Defendant’s release three days before the mediation This enables the mediator to anticipate any issues and also to speed finalization of the settlement. Any issues with the final documents are apparent, open, clearly negotiated. More importantly, this allows focus on the terms that really matter, and avoids terms which are added without negotiation. Having the documents ahead of time avoids this needless and time-consuming impasse.

  1. How can you create risk before and at mediation?

Evaluating and managing risk is the key to resolving legal disputes. As a result, creating risk before the mediation is effective. Taking depositions, visiting sites, reviewing reports, gathering evidence, working with experts all create risk. Good, well timed motions help create risk. Expert Reports help create risk. Outlining and evaluating all of the damage categories in detail help create risk. Concisely state in the mediation statement why your evidence creates risk of an adverse result for the other side at trial. State why the other side has a weaker position. Support these positions with relevant documents. Tell the mediator what the jury will see at trial that will make them find in your favor.

  1. What do you want to get from mediation?

The point of mediation is to settle cases efficiently and cost effectively for maximum value for your side. At mediation, the goal is to close the best deal that you can. Mediation is the best opportunity to craft a certain and final settlement by the parties who know the case best and not leave it to the uncertain ruling of six jurors and an alternate.

Be patient at mediation and let the process work. Rome was not built in a day, and the Roman Empire did not fall overnight. Prepare your client to be patient well before mediation. Impatient clients reduce risk for the other side and are a liability for your search for settlement. Leaving before finding out your opponent’s best number demonstrates a lack of patience and renders the process ineffective.


As Counsel sets up the case file, there is a folder for opening and closing statements. Similarly, there should be a file for mediation. In the mediation file, answer the questions: what is the status of liability, causation and damages? Which party has causation, credibility and common sense on their side? Who are the key trial witnesses and what will they say? What are the key exhibits, and what do these prove? Answer these questions and help the mediator and your opponent understand the case as you do, to find the right settlement value.

Joe Epstein has 25 years as a mediator with over 4000 mediations. He is a four-time selection by Colorado Law Week as Colorado’s “Barrister’s Best Mediator.” He has served as a Vice-President on the International Academy of Mediators. He is a member of the National Academy of Distinguished Neutrals. He is a panelist with AB Conflict Resolution Services. His mediation focus is on complex high value cases. Joe may be reached at 303-359-1459 or

Chad Atkins has 25 years as an attorney with more than 100 trials. Chad served as a plaintiff’s and defense attorney for multiple Fortune 100 global insurance carriers and as named Managing Attorney for Colorado for Liberty Mutual/Safeco. This gives Chad a broad perspective for mediation. Chad understands case evaluation from the viewpoint of the litigants, claims adjuster and claims supervisor, with a focus on settlement. Chad can be reached at 303-667-0528


1 Mediation Guide for Colorado Courts, Colo. Sup. Ct., Draft 4.1 (Oct. 5, 2018).

2 Use and Benefits of ADR by the Department of Justice, Fiscal Year 2017; Overview, U.S. Dept. of Justice (2018).

Colorado Trial Lawyers Association Trial Talk February/March 2020