The Truth about Mediation
Mediation is one form of ADR, in which a neutral third party, the mediator, assists two or more parties in order to help them achieve an agreement on a matter in which they are in dispute.
The short answer is yes – if used properly and effectively at the right time in the life of a dispute.
While many hanker after their ‘day in court’, mediation can provide an opportunity to put your case at a more affordable price, and remove the uncertainty of trial.
Just an expensive meeting?
‘Why do we need to pay a mediator when we can sit around a table ourselves; we are never going to settle anyway’ is a common mantra of many clients.
Mediation goes beyond a formal all parties meeting by introducing an independent party. The impartiality of a good mediator ensures an additional and very important dimension to settlement discussions.
A good mediator will listen to the parties and will identify the areas where the parties are in agreement. This is in complete contrast to the usual approach in litigation where lawyers are encouraged to find the (often subtle) differences in facts, legal argument and to find clever ways of distinguishing case law to support the case he/she is being asked to advocate.
Mediation is sometimes the first time that parties to litigation ever recognise that there are points upon which they agree. This can be a positive experience and can have an impact on the ability to find common ground.
An effective mediator will also identify the parties’ objectives both short term – i.e. on the day itself – and longer term – i.e. wider issues surrounding the person who is engaged in the dispute. It is often these wider issues which provide a catalyst for settlement of the dispute. The mediator will attempt wherever possible to take the parties away from the minutiae of the legal issues and to get them to focus on the commercial objectives that they may share.
Mediation can be costly but compared to the costs of running a dispute to trial it is commercially sensible to keep it open as an option throughout the course of any dispute.
Key points to note are:
- Timing – ensure you understand each other’s case before entering into mediation
- Costs – ensure they do not dominate the day or cloud the issues
- Choice of mediator – clients often wish to have laywers as mediators and this can be incredibly effective. It is very helpful to have a mediator who quickly and easily understands the legal issues and can ask relevant questions to establish how both sides see their respective legal case
- Allow time – the general rule is that parties attending mediation should be prepared to stay at the mediation for as long as it may take to reach a settlement
- Be open minded – sometimes surprising, rewarding and novel results can emerge when least expected
- Have clear parameters in mind – decide in advance the point at which you will walk away – and stick to them
Successful mediations can be very rewarding and produce a real feel-good factor. Clients have commented on the fact that they felt they had their day in court; the feelings of euphoria the following day when they realised the litigation was behind them and the positive experience of looking at a dispute from all angles which has empowered them in future negotiations.
Solicitors Journal Feb 2010
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Arbitration claims solicitors: lawyers for London, Bristol, UK, international clients: arbitration & litigation proceedings: determined dispute resolution lawyers: Humphreys & Co. Solicitors.