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This post pushes back against a complaint by lawyers that early mediation is a waste of time. Attempts to settle cases early in litigation can be wasteful if the lawyers haven’t properly prepared and planned the process. Some people think that “early” means that lawyers should try to resolve the ultimate issues right after all the parties have appeared in litigation. This post uses the term “early” as a shorthand for “earliest appropriate time.” To be ready to settle at the earliest appropriate time, lawyers should promptly learn the parties’ interests and the critical facts, reasonably anticipate the likely decision if the case would go to trial, and consider possible agreements that might satisfy both parties’ interests. Preparation before mediation sessions is discussed in Section 6.