By Russell Evans, Mediator & Lecturer
The Mediation Battleground: Getting to the Ring
After recently successfully concluding mediations for a world champion boxer, title contender and manager as well as a premiership football club, leading university and the Board of a Government Agency I have had cause not only for thought but time to reflect.
Mediations are focused on dispute resolution. Not all Mediations of course are the same. There can be many flavours and nuances and as experienced mediators will tell you similar disputes can play out in very different ways. As mediators we forever have to adapt to the circumstances and the situation which unravels before us.
There can of course be much pageantry and showmanship before the bell rings on the day of the mediation. Each mediation and indeed every fight comes with its own history.
And So the Bell Rings
And so the bell rings and we are off. In reality much mediation work has already been effected before the bell sounds. Parties of course can adopt many changes of position and stance: orthodox; south paw; counter punch as well as downright unconventional and sometimes even a jab, hook, cross and upper cut are displayed. There is frequently a sub plot. Mediations often unravel in intriguing ways. Merlin himself with his many potions and incantations may even be impressed; conjuring spells, directing focus, calming flashpoints.
Beyond the Scars
Mediations can certainly be challenging. They are certainly not a stroll in the park whether in London, Paris, Berlin or the leafier suburbs and can require a great deal of resolve and strength of purpose. Mediations often however present the best opportunity for parties to explore and resolve their dispute in the quickest, most diplomatic, least stressful and least injurious of ways. In any fight or gladiatorial contest both parties are invariably hurt and it is rare for any party to emerge unscathed. We can often lose sight of this amidst the emotional battle cries and the call to arms.
Surprises and curve balls can abound and are often thrown into the mediation mix not only with new material disclosure but astonishing new revelations. It can often be as well to find this out before the ‘certainty’ of the trial. A recent revelation concerned a battling Lord, whistle-blowing as well as the Cabinet Office. Fortunately for all this did not play itself out on the front pages of the press.
On occasion mediations have resembled more of a cold war James Bond spy plot rather than a classic exploration of issues and diplomatic engagement. The boxing mediation at times had all the atmosphere of the OK Corral albeit without colt 45s. The mediation concluded with lawyers and mediator apace marching up Chancery Lane and signing the settlement agreement in the street outside of our hallowed hall. One of the lawyers involved in the ‘boxing ring’ intended to wreak his wrath or more fortunately relief the following day on a racing circuit with or without the classic Aston Martin. James Bond eat your heart out.
The Beautiful Art: Using Diplomacy
As Mediators we are there to serve all parties, to use, adapt and adopt whatever mediation methods and techniques help the parties on their path to resolution. Mediation can sometimes be a shadowy world but one in which much can be achieved behind closed doors.
Finding a Language: Enabling Communication
As Mediators we often enable discussions to take place which would not ordinarily happen. We can facilitate discussions between parties, discussions between lawyers and indeed the release of documentation and information in a diplomatic way. Mediation provides the safety of confidentiality which surrounds the mediation process. Comments can be made to the mediator that you may not want a judge or indeed the other party to hear. Comments made at the mediation also can not be repeated in court. The court will often simply see the settlement fait accompli and in many cases the court process can be avoided altogether.
Recent mediations have presented opportunities for both lead front and back page stories as well as opportunities to initiate further speculation and conflict. I have had numerous lawyers and parties tell me that there were no prospects of resolution only to be pleasantly surprised. Some combatants have even walked away linked arm in arm.
Beyond the Rules
Mediation is of course a part of every lawyer’s dispute resolution armoury and its consideration is mandated under both Pre Action Protocols and the Civil Procedure Rules. Its timely adoption can sometimes save not only months but years of heartache.
The Mediation World
What then of the Mediation World? Mediation is certainly high on Lord Briggs agenda as most will know. Some of you may even have had the pleasure of attending Lord Briggs talk in November 2017. The Civil Justice Council for its part has backed the presumptive use of mediation as set out in its 98 page report. At the CIArb Mediation Conference in September 2018 focus was placed on topics ranging from; high conflict parties; challenges and dilemmas to mediation mastery. We have sadly now lost one of the true mediation masters David Richbell a friend who a number of you will know.
I recently had the pleasure of attending another Talk at the Oxford University Policy Institute given by another friend Dr Nikita Chiu about War & Peace & Space. As a species we will certainly return to the stars and other celestial bodies. Mediation in Space however may be some way off. I don’t think that I will become an astronaut just yet.
On the earthly stage whether your dispute is commercial, property or contentious probate for some great institution or other greater cause we perhaps need to consider not only ADR but IDR ‘intelligent dispute resolution’. There may be fights to be had but often cleverer ways to achieve your goal. Even a boxer will pick his fights carefully.
Fighting the Good Fight
We are all fighters in our own way. Resolution of course can be worthwhile fighting for.
C 2018 Resolve UK
Russell Evans lectures on Mediation for the Law Society, RICS & CISI. He is a full time Mediator and has judged the Finals of both the UK & International Mediation Competitions.
Russell has conducted mediations involving ftse companies, government agencies, premiership football clubs, world sports champions, national charities with royal patrons as well as the family of a Law Lord.
Russell Evans firstname.lastname@example.org Mob: 07986 550969
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This blogpost is for information purposes and should not be relied upon as legal advice because it does not consider or take into account your own personal circumstances. If in doubt, seek legal advice.