Nick Henchie (19 March, page 64) suggests that many disputes successfully resolved by mediation would have been settled more cost-effectively had the parties engaged in "the most overlooked method of dispute resolution", namely good old fashioned, without prejudice meetings and face-to-face negotiations.

I would guess that few, if any, industries are more skilled in the art of negotiation than the construction industry. In my experience, in almost every situation where parties have opted to mediate a dispute, the prospects of resolution by negotiation and face-to-face discussions have, quite rightly, been fully explored by the parties and usually exhausted.

In spite of this, the power of the mediation process coupled with the assistance of a skilled mediator have enabled many of those disputes to be resolved in one or two days and without the heavy preparation costs to which Nick refers.

Mediators have a unique ability to identify and explore, through the caucusing process, settlement routes and options, which the parties may not previously have believed to exist. This can inject new energy into the resolution process and open up the prospects of solutions that simply could not be found through other means.

Skilful dispute resolution requires careful consideration of the range of options and routes open to the parties and their advisors. It should be seen as an integrated process often involving the use of several different techniques, not as a one-course menu.

Of course, mediation is not the appropriate dispute resolution method in every case but its value has been established time and time again and should not be overlooked or dismissed as a passing fad.