4-Way Conferences: Productive Tool or Waste of Time and Money?

A four-way conference is precisely what it sounds like: four people sitting around the table trying to work everything out.

A husband, a wife, and each of their attorneys, negotiating in a way to try to resolve all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of both parties.

Many lawyers believe that four-way conferences are highly productive; I for one do not.

Indeed, it is been my experience over the past 32 years that there is a lot of grandstanding that occurs at four-way conferences, and they tend to be a waste of time and money in my experience and in my opinion.

That’s not to say that occasionally a four-way conference cannot be productive; indeed, occasionally it is, but more often than not my experience the high cost of preparing for such a conference and attendance at the conference is offset by the relative lack of productivity.

How then can we meet in a way that moves the ball forward, that pushes us closer toward a true resolution, that gets temporary relief in place by agreement when possible?


Mediation is basically a four-way conference in the presence of one other person: the mediator.

In mediation, rather than meeting at one of the attorneys' offices, we will usually meet the mediator’s office.

Frequently the mediator will separate the parties into two separate rooms, and the mediator engages in a form of “shuttle diplomacy” so to speak, shuttling counter-settlement-plans between both rooms.

In my experience, mediation is usually much more productive than a simple four-way conference.

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