By Steven G. Mehta

Recently I saw some advice for businesses that related to the pyschology of business success.  I thought some of the advice would be helpful in the legal and mediation context.

The following is a brief excerpt from Forbes’ article The Pyschology Behind the Best Business Strategies

2. Let Them Know You’re Working, Even if You’re Just a Website

People don’t mind waiting if they know you’re working hard. Just think about Starbucks and their unnecessarily long and complicated cappuccino maker. It’s not that they couldn’t figure out how to make one faster, it’s that Starbucks knew customers attributed more value to perceived barista effort.

This concept was applied to online products in an Harvard Business School research paper that looked at search features. The Web is unusual in that automating a service actually shields customers from the underlying complexity of the service. But there are steps product managers and designers can take to enhance the perceived value.

The most compelling experiment looked at search time for travel websites.  They found that customers actually prefer websites that require waiting as long as they demonstrate their labor, like a tally or progress bar.  (Think: the way Kayak displays a continually changing list airline sites being searched).  Of course, a pleasant wait experience won’t help you if you’re search results suck.

This advice is very applicable to the mediation and legal setting.  Often, the parties don’t know what you are doing when you are in the other room or the clients don’t know what you are doing in the office.  Indeed, clients often only see a small picture of what you do for them and the magic that you create.   Think of ways to let the clients know that you are working for them.  Here are some suggestions to show your work.


– When you are spending a lot of time in one room, let the other side know some of the things that are going on (without revealing confidences)

– When you are waiting for one side to make a decision as to an issue, check in with the other parties and let them know that you are thinking of them.

– Be aware of how time passes.  Time that passed for you as a mediator quickly in room may be agonizingly slow in the other room


– When doing work for a client, give detailed bills reflecting your work.

– Provide monthly updates to the clients

– When writing a letter to opposing counsel, cc: the client

– Before the client calls for an update, you should provide them with an update

– Give relevant (especially lengthy) documents to the client to show them how much time it will take to work.