Mediation – is everyone aware now?

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In the latest UK200Group blog post Nick Parker Dispute Resolution Partner, Berry Smith LLP, discusses the benefits of the mediation process

Nick Parker
It seems that just about every week provides an excuse for the promotion of one campaign or another. Last week it was ‘Mediation Awareness Week’ (or MAW for short).

It may be that you picked up on some of the publicity that was generated as a consequence, or were aware of one of the events held across the country?

Or perhaps not. If anything, this year’s event appeared to pass under the radar compared to previous years, which is somewhat surprising given the clear direction of travel that has led to mediation being regarded as an established and popular dispute resolution mechanism. Are people now sufficiently aware of the process?

Mediation has grown as a method of resolving disputes in a wide range of areas in the last fifteen years, from civil law and commercial disputes, to workplace and family law issues. It has helped numerous businesses and individuals resolve their disputes.

In short, the parties agree to appoint an independent mediator to meet with them, on the same day, and to try and facilitate an agreement. If agreement is reached, it becomes legally binding. The mediator does not decide the case for them, but works with each party separately to try and broker a deal that each can live with, and that is better than the option of continuing the dispute.

It can offer an opportunity for parties to resolve their dispute in a quicker, more flexible and less costly way than through court proceedings. An agreed solution inevitably involves some compromise by both parties, but when measured against the time, cost and risk of pursuing the dispute, many parties consider that it ‘makes sense’ to settle at mediation.

Solutions can be particularly useful in helping maintain and restore business relationships, and to provide flexible solutions that go beyond payment of money from one party to another, which is the usual remedy awarded in a court process.

In civil and commercial disputes, the latest statistics show that around 12,000 cases go to mediation each year with an impressive settlement rate of around 89%. It is mainstream.

Of course, many business disputes are resolved on a daily basis through direct dialogue and informal negotiation between parties. Some cannot be however. Mediation has the benefit of introducing an independent third party into discussions, which can assist in dealing in discussions that have otherwise proved intractable and breaking the logjam.

Ironically, one of the reasons for growth has been encouragement for use from the courts themselves. This is likely to increase further as a consequence of the Civil Justice Council (an advisory body on civil justice) report from a year ago, which made a series of recommendations to continue to encourage and promote alternative dispute resolution.

The process has become established as a prominent consideration for any professional advising a client that is embroiled in a dispute. Perhaps there is now sufficient awareness of the process?

• Nick Parker is a Dispute Resolution Partner at Berry Smith LLP, and is an independent mediator practicing across the UK. He is the Law Society representative on the new Judicial ADR Liaison Committee.

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