Sam Glover tipped me off to a piece about how to entertain your clients during the long empty spaces that are the hallmark of a mediation session. Advice like “chat up the mediator” and “get to know your client.” No disrespect to the gentlemen solicitor authors (wait, does Canada have solicitors or lawyers?) but people, we need more.
What if the mediator doesn’t make many visits? What if your client is a terrible bore? Let’s spice things up with some much better ways to pass the time when you are locked in a room with someone for hours at a time.
Yes, it is the thing you tepidly amused yourself with as a child during those long family gatherings that dragged on, those holidays where your parents prohibited you from packing up the Intellivision and bringing it to your grandma’s house, paper football. It’s perfectly anodyne, as no one will be appalled or offended that you are a paper football aficionado. Besides, it gives you something to do with all the paper piling up as your client rejects offer after offer after offer from the other side.
If things really drag on, consider switching to dollar bills instead of paper to dramatize to your client the money they’re spending on your fees.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
Why not engage your client by playing near-infinite rounds of Roshambo? There’s not going to be any sort of dispute about the rules and the likelihood that you would accidentally best your client again and again, thus causing sore feelings is low, given that it is a game of chance. Under no circumstances, however, should you play it the way you did as a kid, where the winner gets to slap the inside of the loser’s wrist. That’s probably some sort of ethical violation. Also, do not play it like they do on South Park. That is definitely an ethical violation.
You will be either delighted or dismayed to learn that there is a United States Rock Paper Scissors League, and that the league rules state that one generally throws “paper” palm side down, but if one is feeling especially cocky, one throws palm side up, which is called “subpoena,” because of course it is.
Who doesn’t love charades? You get to make a fool of yourself and get exasperated with the failures of your teammate, all in just a few short minutes.
This one, obviously, only works if you’ve got another lawyer in the room or your client consists of multiple people. If you just act things out for each other, that’s sort of sad and lonely and is actually veering into a game of “Let’s Pretend,” which is a thing grown people do not do. Hopefully.
Now, this option isn’t for everyone. Are you a shy, retiring type? Do you rely more on your written skills than your courtroom flair? You may not want to engage in an epic contest of verbal sparring with your client. This is also ill-advised if your client is a particularly mousy type, as yelling at them about how they’re a baby or something similar will likely not result in good client-lawyer relations. But if you’re both combative and verbally dazzling, get to it.
For safety’s sake, consider some non-controversial topics like “defending the weird color of the drapes in the room you’ve been locked in for ten hours” rather than mocking your client’s sartorial choices, brainpower, or momma.
You’ve probably already got a long table at your disposal, so no need to cart in a fancy custom made beer pong table unless that’s just how you roll. If your client feels that regular beer pong simply doesn’t provide enough complexity, consider using the Saturday Night Live rules instead.
Originally published on 2014-04-19. Last updated on 2015-08-21.