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Convincing People of the Benefits of Mediation

Convincing People of the Benefits of Mediation

02.15.2016

How can you convince the public of the benefits of mediation?

 

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It’s a time of a general election. I remember an election not long ago where the prime minister of the day preached education, education, education. I would like to give the same message, perhaps with more success than he may have achieved. I don’t know. But yes, the public have to be educated into the benefits of mediation. They have to somehow be persuaded that it will save them time. It will save them money. It will save them emotional energy.

 

In terms of business, they’re not paying lawyers a massive sum of money. They’re not wasting their manager’s time in working on the litigation when they could be earning the profits for the company. In that way, we have to persuade, well, the world really, that it works.

 

We had a meeting a year or so ago trying to restore an initiative that was begun under a previous Minister of State in this government to encourage business to commit to the use of ADR. With a change in the deployment in the MOJ, that just sank it into, I don’t know, oblivion somewhere. We tried to resurrect it. To my astonishment, I had an official from BIS, Business, Innovation, and Skills, say to me, ‘Prove the case that mediation works.’

 

There is abundant evidence that it works, but it is surely common sense that business should embrace it. Assume you have a member of your staff whose life is bedeviled by an acrimonious divorce or separation. Who has problems dealing with his children that could be quickly, quietly, and effectively resolved by family mediation, relieving him of the anxiety. Relieving him of taking days off work, endlessly, to deal with that personal problem. That must advance his profitability to the company.

 

Assume there’s a work place dispute. There’s a struggle within the office which is tearing everybody apart. Why not have your in-house, work-place mediation there to resolve it? Then you have another poor worker who’s having sleepless nights because the neighbour upstairs is banging around endlessly and jumping up and down and keeping him awake. There’s a thing called ‘community mediation’, which works fabulously well as I’ve seen, as I’ve observed them at work, to resolve their neighbourhood dispute.

 

Finally, you’ve got the management who’s spending thousands of pounds and hours and hours and hours on litigation to take a case to the court, having been told by their counsel, ‘This is a hum-dinging certain winner. You’re going to win.’ What happens? They lose and they have to pay the other side’s costs. Are they happy with the advice? On the contrary. They should not be happy with the advice. They should have said, ‘Why didn’t you get us to settle?’

 

Then, of course, they won before the judge. Then they go on appeal. If you had a County Court battle, there’s a 40% chance you may lose on appeal. It may be a 20% chance if you had your trial before one of the clever clogs of the Chancery Division or the Commercial Court, but there’s still a risk that on appeal the judgment will be changed. Litigation is inherently uncertain, and inevitably costly in terms of time and money. It just makes sense.

About the mediator

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Sir Alan Ward began his career in the law signing Articles of Clerkship attorneys in Pretoria, South Africa on his 17th birthday. He was duly admitted and practised as an Attorney until 1961 when he left to read law at Pembroke College, Cambridge. Among memorable moments of his time in South Africa, riven as it was by the injustices of apartheid, was his answering the telephone to Nelson Mandela who instructed him to represent his client in an ap... View Mediator