Mediation, by definition, is an amicable conflict resolution method by which a third party - independent, neutral, unbiased and expertly trained - helps diverging parties, alongside their counsels, to find a negotiated outcome by agreeing to a mutually satisfactory solution.

When should one seek mediation ?

The decision to enter into a mediation is usually either judicial (ordered by a judge) or conventional (agreed to by diverging parties).
In a judicial setting, the counsels of both parties will share with a judge the willingness of both parties to resort to mediation. The judge will then appoint a certified mediator and allow up to three months (this timeframe can be renewed once) to perform the mediation. Once a mutually satisfactory agreement is reached, the agreement protocol is then forwarded to the judge, reviewed and approved.
In a conventional setting, mediation is sought out by diverging parties willing to settle a dispute outside of the judicial sphere. In this case, the mediator is chosen concurrently by the counsels and/or the parties themselves.
The european statistics show that mediation is successful at achieving a mutually agreeable outcome in 87% of cases.
It is common for the counsels of each party to draft an agreement protocol to be ratified. In the event where neither party is accompanied by a counsel, they can draft the agreement protocol themselves and choose whether have it reviewed by a counsel or not.
Under no circumstances can the mediator draft the agreement protocol. The mediator can, however, choose whether or not to sign the said protocol and attest that it was indeed established under his supervision.

Mediation, arbitration and conciliation

Both arbitration and conciliation aim, as does mediation, to resolve a conflict or a litigation. Both of these methods have disadvantages for several reasons.

Faster that a court procedure but far more costly.
Arbitration settles a conflict, as in a court proceeding, which usually leaves one if not both parties with an unfavorable verdict and often without appeal.

It is often used while the court proceedings have already begun. Although it favors an agreeable solution, it only allows for a very brief timeframe to delve into the core of the issue whereas mediation leaves ample time to thoroughly examine the case. Conciliation, on average, lasts only a couple of hours at the most. Mediation, at the minimum, cannot be shorter than a full day session and is usually spread out over several days. The average mediation is 3 to 4 sessions spanning one to two months at the most. Unlike the mediator, the conciliator directs and habitually imposes a solution, often unacceptable to either party. Non binding, this solution can, and usually is, rejected in front of the judge, further lengthening and adding costs to court proceedings.