The assigned judge may refer, or the parties may ask for a conference with a settlement mentor either on the morning of trial, or earlier in the case. These informal conferences usually last about two hours. These processes are not the same as mediation, and are not confidential per Evidence Code Sections 1115-1128. Parties meet with an attorney who has significant litigation experience with similar cases (called a settlement mentor) to review the issues, analyze the case, and consider settlement recommendations. The parties do not present evidence, and witnesses are not called. Although information may be shared with the settlement mentor and not shared with the other party, any information given to the settlement mentor may be shared with the judge. When appropriate, the settlement mentor may involve the judge in the settlement discussions.
- Selection of settlement mentors: Settlement mentors are selected by the ADR Programs office based on their stated areas of expertise, and in consultation with the assigned judge.
- Settlement mentor qualifications: Settlement mentors are highly experienced trial attorneys with a general background in the issues involved in the case.
- Settlement mentor conference fees: There are no fees for participating in the settlement mentor program for the first 2 hours. If the parties agree to continue settlement discussions with the settlement mentor, then they shall equally share his/her usual fee.
- Attendance at the settlement mentor conference: Unless excused by the judge, all trial attorneys, principals, clients, claims representatives, or other decision–makers must attend the settlement mentor conference. Telephone standby is not allowed unless approved by the assigned judge before the conference begins.
- Confidentiality: Although information may be shared with the settlement mentor and not shared with the other party, any information given to the settlement mentor may be shared with the judge.