Is there a way of solving disputes that preserves relationships, is quick, cheap and works about 80% of the time? Yes, it’s called mediation.
Mediation can be a very efficient way of resolving disputes. In my view, parties involved in every dispute of any significance should at least consider this option carefully.
Mediation is really no more than a carefully structured, without prejudice meeting facilitated by a trained professional. It usually takes a day or less and starts with a brief 10-15 minute presentation by the parties. They then divide into separate rooms and the mediator circulates and, using his skill and experience, tries to find the real positions of the parties and their ‘bottom lines’. It sounds simple enough, and the amazing thing is that it so often works.
A key element is that the parties have their ‘day in court’ which can be psychologically necessary to resolve a long-running and bitter dispute.
In addition, preparing the documents for the day can, perhaps for the first time, lead to real objective scrutiny of the case by the parties involved.
To ensure finality, when a resolution is reached, a written contractual agreement will be drawn up which is then binding.
Costs are typically around £1,000-£2,000 for the mediator and perhaps a day’s additional preparation from your legal adviser or commercial manager.
The best-known providers of mediators are CEDR (cedr.co.uk) and ADR (adrgroup.co.uk).
Here are some mediation tips:
- Say you must leave at a certain time, to bring matters to a head;
- Make sure the right level of decision maker is present;
- Use a mediator who knows about the subject matter of the dispute.
Stephen Clarke is head of construction at law firm Clarke Willmott