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How to Hustle Yourself to 70 Mediations

How to Hustle Yourself to 70 Mediations

How do you prepare yourself for the moment when you get the call to say you are now a fully fledged mediator? Most mediators struggle their way to their first few mediations, not Henry Minto. In his first year he clocked 18 mediations and doubled this count in the following year. In this interview Henry reveals how he did this and also how he landed by far the coolest (and most lucrative) mediation of all.

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Full Transcript

Aled: My name is Aled Davies, founder of, the home of the passionate and ambitious mediator and a place where mediators, old, new, and aspiring mediators come and listen to experienced mediators tell a story about how they’ve built their mediation practice and how it handled particular challenges along the way, and what they’ve done that’s really helped them be successful.

I love these interviews. I find them inspiring. I get so much from them and I hope you will too so that you go out there into the big world, make a difference, build your own success story, and come back here and do what today’s guest is doing, and tell your story to my audience. Okay.

We’ve all been in this situation at some point, and if you haven’t yet trained as a mediator but are contemplating a career in mediation, then be prepared for this to happen: Okay, you immerse yourself in six days of intensive training, feeling totally inspired and motivated to change the world. You’re chomping at the bit to put all your hard earned skills into practice and nail down those first batches of mediations. But just like an old western movie, the tumbleweed rolls on through and you’re having to hustle your way just to get your first assistantship, which is just taste of the real world of mediation.

Well, my guest today has hustled his way to close to 70 mediations in just a few years, and he’s here to tell you how he’s done it. He qualified as a commercial mediator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in December 2009. Since then, he’s worked his way up to almost 70 mediations, and for 30 years he was a lawyer in private practice specializing in the real estate and construction sectors, but saw the light and has since been converted to mediation in evangelical proportions or as he’ll describe, had a sense of moving on. He gets a real buzz from mediation because it holds the possibility for everyone to win. I’ve got to say this about him, he’s one of the nicest blokes you’ll ever meet. Henry Minto, welcome.

Henry: Hi.

Aled: Henry, now I said…

Henry: Quite the introduction.

Aled: I’ve said in the buildup of this story that you’ve hustled your way to success, and I just want to qualify what I mean by that because I think part of your success is down to an attitude that you seem to have where you say, and I quote, “I adopt a flexible approach. I am happy to take on a mediation whatever the value or location.”

Henry: Mm-hmm.

Aled: What’s helped you get to where you are today, Henry?

Henry: Well what’s helped me get to where I am today is, Aled, assisted me in training me so that was the first one. Then at the end of the course I asked him, I said to him, “How many mediations do you think this class will have done in the first 12?” And Aled in his own typical way said, “Well one would be a good start.” I thought, “Well that’s a bit of a challenge. I want to see whether I can beat that.”

Aled: And did you beat that?

Henry: I did. I did. I think I’ve had 17 or 18 in the first year which is unbelievable, just unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. But as you said, I qualified in November, December of 2009 and as I came out starting blogs in January 2010. I thought to myself, “Well, how on earth am I ever going to get any mediations, this is a 60-year-old turned, former lawyer? How was I successful in the law and how do I manage to make the money I did in the law?”

Of course, it’s all about networking. I mean, it’s just absolutely no question. You’ve got to be able to network. I looked at all my contacts and potential contacts and just got on the telephone. I always think that’s better than email because you actually can create a conversation. I talked to people. Saw what potential opportunities were. And actually from then off, although I’m not a barrister, I’m a solicitor, it was a bit like, I suspect, a pupil. A barrister’s pupil it feels like.

I sort of thought to myself, “Well, now I’ve got a [mental age]. I can go back to the start again. I’m [inaudible 0:05:31]. This is a new career. Let’s just go for it.” The way that you get experience is by carrying the bags of all very experienced people. And I was fortunate. I have some fortunate from a financial quantity, so I just exited from a pretty lucrative career in the assisting. So I was able to take on whatever. It didn’t really matter for, [foot] note, for a full and possible future in.

I managed to get a hold of various contacts and seriously top class mediators. I came across
Well actually, I’ll tell you what happened. What actually happened was, because of the lack of financial constraint, I came across a firm called Law Works (Sp), or a group called Law Works, which is the national pro bono helpline for barristers and mediators. I found out living in a short [inaudible 0:06:40] that you may have come across, I was no [inaudible 0:06:49], absolute poppet. I said, “How do I become a mediator, Lavinia? How can I do this?” “Well, you need insurance, you need to put yourself on our panel and you’ll need to do three or four observations.” I think it was then. It might have been fewer actually, a least three. And we have this amazing system. We put telephone mediations online. You can just pick them and you get them. Easy, you know.

Aled: So you did telephone mediations to start off?

Henry: No, I didn’t actually do them, but that was the introduction. I didn’t actually do them yet at that point, but then once I was on the panel and I became… I did three observations and I was very, very fortunate. The first observation I ever did was with Beverly-Ann Rogers who is just inspirational. Just unbelievable. She was just charming and brought me in, and I began to realize that actually I wasn’t just an observer. She sort of asked my opinion in sitting in our private sessions, and I thought, “Oh, somebody is asking me my opinion.” She sort of said some basic things like, “How do you think that person is feeling?” That’s like a, sort of… That’s not a legal question is it? You know. Where did you get a thing like that? It was just basic sort of human question which was of course certainly important in that you being able to build rapport with the various parties.

In the end, I almost felt, not quite because I wanted to run before I could walk, but I sort of started to feel that I was actually assisting as opposed to observing. I wasn’t quite co-mediating. Let’s be clear about that, nut I did feel that there was this world which I discovered, which was different to these real estate laws in the city and developers. I felt there was a real human side to the whole thing.

Actually, that is what enables mediations to settle or to progress. They don’t necessarily settle. They don’t all settle, as you know. But at least they enable a conversation to take place about things other than the issue. That to me was just so, eye opening, it just sort of inspired me. I mean, I was inspired, completely, by Beverly.

I understand even more fortunate, well equally fortunate. Be careful, Beverly might be listening to this, but equally fortunate to observe with Elizabeth Birch. She was doing a shipping case, and I can remember I was just sort of sitting in the corner and she suddenly said to me…
Well, actually what happened was, that the opening session didn’t go very well. One of the parties walked out. They had flown in from Switzerland and they said, “Well that’s it. If you’re all starting to say that, well that’s it. We’re walking out.” They went back to their room and

Elizabeth wasn’t certain whether they actually were going to leave. She said to me, “Could you just go down to the room and just sort of keep them talking for a half an hour or so, so that I can sort of continue this mediation.” I thought, “Well, that’s a challenge.” As I was walking on the corridor I thought, “What am I going to say to these people? They’ve come in from Switzerland and I think, “Well, they’re tax excels from [inaudible 0:10:38] or somewhere.” The only thing I could think I had in common was actually Switzerland because my wife is Swiss.
I just said, “Where do you live?” They [inaudible 0:10:50] the place for ex-pats in Switzerland. We just talked about mountains and skiing, and the company side. I also set-up for them
My developing career, I developed something in Donka state [sounds like], sort of remembered it as I was sort of going along. I just basically had a one-to-one cocktail party conversation with them. And cracked a few jokes and we had a bit of fun. We didn’t talk about
oh, actually, we did talk about shipping because I knew nothing about shipping law at all. I read the papers before we went in and they started talking about, what was it?

They said, “It takes [inaudible 0:11:33] to get from Caracas to Buenos Aires,” right? They probably got four, so four in the wrong places but it doesn’t really matter by way of example. I said to these guys
When I read the paper, I thought, “Well, it’s a bunker. The only thing I know about bunkers is, you can’t get out of them with a golf club.”

Anyway, I have actually researched it and of course they are where the world goes. But it was quite good. It was just proved to me, that you can more or less sort of talk about anything if you think [inaudible 0:12:14] and just to find a common thread. Just kept them going and it was about 45 minutes because Liz was trying to keep the other people there on the other side.

Aled: Let me pause you there for a moment, Henry. It sounds like then, in a relatively short space of time, you found yourself in a situation where you’ve been assisting a big ticket mediator, then finding yourself having participated in part of that mediation. Assisting the parties, just building rapport, helping your co-mediator, and realizing that actually this is quite a powerful process.

Henry: Oh absolutely. Absolutely.

Aled: You made a reference to some
A moment ago there was flippant reference about hard-nosed city lawyers.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: I read in your profile about you, sort of, having a sense of moving on from your career.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: I want to come back to the specifics of how you went about getting those assistantships and getting those opportunities. I know there’s probably a lot more detail around that I think would be helpful. But before we do that, I just want to understand a little bit more about this, as you described, a notion of moving on. What do you mean by that?

Henry: What I mean by it, I mean moving into a different environment and I think actually the sort of spirituality about it as well, really. I mean, I think that having done 30 years in a very commercial environment and dealing with a particular subject matter, property development. It’s really quite a tough world. I felt this, I don’t know. I mean the law can be quite dry in some senses and it is just a question of, this is right, this is wrong, and people negotiate around that.

I just sort of felt that I needed something more in my life. I did all the things, as well, actually, during that two year period, just as I was leading up to becoming a mediator, I did all sorts of different courses which assisted in humanities. I did a foundation course in history of modern art for example, which is just fascinating and just opened my eyes to all sort of new worlds. Then I did a course in the history of Islam which is just fascinating. It’s so key in the modern world.
I think it assisted me in understanding sort of cultural differences and religious differences quite clearly. I also did a foundation course in anthropology, which I did. But I was just so fascinated by that and I don’t know, maybe subliminally, things that were all going on. When we did the course with you and your colleagues it was all about behavior. It was all about what was going on underneath the surface , not just its postural bargaining that was going on in my life for the first years. Or we’ll have late payment of interest. Interest or late payment of rent, one side will say, “It’s 4%” the other one will say “It’s 2%”. “Oh well, let’s compromise at 3%”, and I thought this is just mindless. Why don’t you just go to 3% right away or just agree 4, because what’s the difference. They’re not going to be late anyway, are they? I don’t know, just other bits of my psyche sort of started to sort of fit in if you’d like.

Aled: So it sounds like you’ve gone through a bit of quite a significant period of change in terms of development and your thinking.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: Maybe your approach and attitudes, and having quite an indulgent couple of years by the sounds of it, as well.

Henry: It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all. Well, I planned it. I planned it. It was quite interesting. I actually offered it, as opposed to being told, which is another thing I wanted in life is you should always be ahead of the game.

Aled: Right. So this is why I think…

Henry: That [inaudible 0:17:15] early on in my legal career because you need to be at least four days ahead of the plan otherwise you’re just back peddling all the time.

Aled: Henry this is very interesting because…

Henry: I always [inaudible 0:17:26].

Aled: In an interview with Eve Pienaar recently.

Henry: Oh yes.

Aled: Eve was telling me that when she decided to train as a mediator, she sat down and wrote a business plan for herself for the next ten years. Detailed business plan, year on year, about how many mediations she would have done, how much revenue she was going to earn, where she was going to invest her time and resources. She thought it through very methodically, meticulously, and she’s been successful.

She’s still holding down a job, part time, or it sounds like full time almost. And she’s cranking up the mediation side of her life, her career, her business. I think you make your own luck and I think part of that is preparation and planning. Tell me a little bit about the planning, the preparation that you did to get those 17 or 18 mediations, the specific tasks day-to-day, the thinking that went into it.

Henry: Yes. Perhaps I should just mention that, I also registered with Classroom, who had been very good to me as well and I think that was important. I had this sort of pro bono, unpaid mix. But the basic task was to write a profile. To become better at the technology. I have to say that this is not the first interview on Skype. I just installed it from, from figuring out the chat and know to make it work, and we’re actually talking together is amazing.

Well I suppose, yes, certainly, I have to make it a proper photograph, get myself properly, get my CV. Well, I don’t really call it a CV, a sort of profile put together and I tried to be quite some modern about it.

Aled: How do you write the profile for a mediator when you haven’t got any mediations? How do you go about doing that?

Henry: Yes, that’s quite interesting. What you do is you build it up on a gradual basis. I’m sort of trying to remember things back as to what the, on the profile… Oh, actually I know now what I did. I talked to you. That’s what happened. I said, “No, that’s what happened.” Yes, I put together a sort of, very basic profile and I think it was about seven to ten lines long. It just simply said, truthfully, because you’ve got to be truthful, matter of fact what I was. This is all coming back to me now. That’s right.

Aled: I have a vague…

Henry: I said, “I’m a solicitor in private practice. I specialize in property, real estate construction, and planning. I have just qualified as a mediator.” I remember, now I remember vividly, you came back to me and you said, “You’ve got that rather the wrong way, Henry. What you should be doing is you should be saying, ‘I am a qualified mediator through the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and I was formerly a solicitor’.” So you actually coached me in how to raise my mediation profile.

Aled: Oh, Okay. It’s a fading memory.

Henry: Pretty much, yes, you. I remember this distinctly. I suppose the point is that there is always a story to tell, whatever stage in your career is. You can say you’re planning on training to be a mediator. You could in theory do that, but of course there’s no other point. It’s a bit like how do I solve putting a CV together as the lawyer. It’s exactly the same. The fact that you haven’t done one, you just say, “Well I haven’t done it”. It didn’t say anything about that. It just said what you were. Then I used that to put on the Law Works profile, on that panel, I then did exactly the same thing with Classroom.

I looked also at some of these social network sites. I started with [inaudible 0:22:27]. I don’t think that was particularly a great one to choose. I didn’t really do much for it. But the one that seemed to be the best was LinkedIn. So I joined LinkedIn. Then I worked on that profile, they sort of say to you, “Well you’re now 35% complete. Then you go off, and other things, you change bits and pieces.

So creating the profile was quite complex. And then as I kept going, I sort of observed other profiles on the web, most of them I thought were just boring. I mean, they looked boring. They just looked the same. In fact, I better be careful what I say because maybe [inaudible 0:23:17] listening to this, but there were a lot of them just sort of adding it onto their profiles as bad [inaudible 0:23:22] or solicitors. I didn’t feel that inspired.

I don’t know, I think there was somebody actually. Yes, there was. There was somebody who I spoke to. I can’t quite remember his name now. I just worked on trying to make a profile interesting and eye-catching. I start off by saying “Why choose Henry as your mediator? then, sort of, basic bullet points. I played around with the bits at the end.

Once I started to do mediation, then, of course, immediately put one down. The, “what’s-your-experience sort of thing”. I’ve always understood the culture of feedback, as well, which I think is terribly important. A lot of people are not that keen on giving it, but I think if you can persuade people to give you just a few quotes to strap on, that sort of thing. That can help. I think if you looked at my profile on Classroom you’ll see that there’s quite a significant number of quotes now. Obviously you’ve got to make sure that you get permission to attribute them but that’s kind of important.

Aled: Okay.

Henry: And they’re sort of building up, building. You eventually get to your first mediation.

Aled: So you remember your first mediation like it was yesterday.

Henry: I do. I do. It was worse that, sitting in the exam and taking A-levels. It’s not all that. They’re not called A-levels anymore. It was just the most frightening experience. I can remember going through it.

Aled: Go on. Let’s hear about it.

Henry: I did prepare. I prepared all night for it to make sure that I didn’t forget the absolute basics of confidentiality and authority, [inaudible 0:25:28] and all those things, and [inaudible 0:25:30] the constraints, etc., etc. basic rules, you know.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: I think I was probably a little bit stilted doing it but I did get through it and I relaxed once I remembered that it was all about just chatting. That’s a bit glib actually, but it’s about having a conversation. I just talked and talked, let them [inaudible 0:26:03]. Whether they’re married, do they have kids, where they live, how was their journey into the mediation, all the sort of things that you do when you’re trying to get to know somebody.

It wasn’t a particularly complex, the legal issue wasn’t particularly complex. So that was quite handy. I got sort of three or four hours into it and then suddenly these offers are sort of flying around. They were in separate rooms and I was trying to remember what people had said. Then it sort of allowed me to say the other side and all that that sort of thing. It was quite hard.

I have as a lawyer, always been a bit of a compulsive note taker. I mean, you’ll remember when you said, “Take your pen out of your hand, Henry. Just get rid of it. Just [inaudible 0:27:09] your hands with something else.” But I did feel that I had to write a lot of things down while I was going through this media, so I didn’t really do it that well, although it did settle.
And actually, whether a mediation settles or not, isn’t really the point, because at the end of the day, part of it’s [inaudible 0:27:31], of the day after you’ve facilitated. You do need to feel quite bad coming out feeling, “Well, I didn’t quite do that bit right.” I mean it’s all learning at the end of the day. You’re trying to learn
I did it on my as well, I didn’t have an observer or assistant. Is it a good thing or bad thing, I don’t know. Anyway, it was an amazing [inaudible 0:27:58].

Aled: Yes.

Henry: You’d come out and punch the air saying, “Yes, it’s settled” which is exactly the wrong thing to do. I’ve done particularly well because, well I suppose I might have done it. I certainly said a few bits and pieces to make them feel that it was worth not going any further.

Aled: You know, I think to punch the air and celebrate, I think that’s the right thing to do.

Henry: Well, sort of because what is it. You always should say the mediation settled. I’ve heard mediators say, “Oh I settled that one.” That isn’t right, actually. It isn’t the right sort of mindset.

Aled: You know what, yes. On the one hand I think it’s normal and natural to enjoy a mediation, when they’ve reached a settlement. I find it challenging when I mediate and it doesn’t settle. It doesn’t happen very often. [laughter]

Henry: [inaudible 0:28:58]. What’s your success rate?

Aled: But I do find I get a little bit frustrated and I get very reflective, and think what I could have done differently which is quite helpful. Then normally, sort of blame the parties for not being able to come to a settlement themselves. After all, they own the outcome.

Henry: Oh, I see you’re into blame culture. That’s interesting because I used to be into that and now I’m not into blaming culture.

Aled: Well, I used to blame myself. Now I just blame artists.

Henry: Oh you blame yourself, right. Okay. Blame yourself. Actually that’s very interesting because I mentioned Beverly-Ann Rogers at the beginning of this. She said that she got involved in some really, quite seriously, emotional mediations.

What I actually found is you actually begin to feel a bit like a sponge because the emotions are going to come out in some shape or form. It’s got to go somewhere and it tends to go into the mediator. Certainly in the early days, I really did feel it took me quite a long time to come down from the experience. I had lunch with Beverly and we had a chat about this. She said, “Do you know Henry, A lot of people are mental.” And I thought, “Wow”. This is a top flight, really experience lady mediator. She had a mentor. I said, “Oh, who’s that?” And she said, “It’s”, and I’ll probably get the name wrong, but I think it’s, “Henry Brown.” He was part of the Mandela and [inaudible 0:30:49] while Mandela was involved in Northern Ireland. And he made it out to the UK, South African [lawyer].

What she used to do is to phone Henry up and say, “I’d just like to talk this through.” And I’ve actually used the same thing. I mean, I have tools for a, I want to say colleague mediators, who I do speak to and say, “God, you know that was a terrible one.”

Or sometimes the other thing that can happen is that you really think that you’ve done a really good job at facilitating and then there’s this amazingly adverse feedback that comes to you. The first time I had adverse feedback, I’ve only ever had it twice actually in the whole time, which I’m really shocked about.

The first one that came in, where it was like sort of one out of ten: Would you use this mediator again? ‘Absolutely, no way Jose.’ And you couldn’t understand why because the mediation had settled but actually it was the lawyers that didn’t want it settled. I can remember I actually phoned this chap up and I said, “If you don’t mind me asking, how do you think the mediation went?” He said, “Well it’s settled but you just cost my firm 75,000 pounds worth of trial fees.” And I thought, “Ah, there we are. Self interest from the lawyer.

Aled: Okay. Did you notice that playing out in the mediation at all?

Henry: Yes. Yes, and it was quite interesting because what actually happened was the lawyer put a physical barrier between me and his client, and the physical barrier was himself. So actually what happened was that I was trying to his client and he kept moving so that I couldn’t make any contact with him. He kept doing this. Even when I was standing, the client was behind.

Aled: How did you deal with that Henry?

Henry: Well, I just listened and relaxed into it. I mean, underneath I’m boiling. I was actually very upset about it and actually quite annoyed because I felt that the client, the [inaudible 0:33;24], was not acting in, and this is a bit forward opinion, I mean, let’s face it, of course, but I did feel quite, that he wasn’t really acting in his client’s interest.

It’s the sort of thing, I don’t know if you remember, there is an example you gave when we were training. You sort of managed to crack things when there were breaks, natural breaks, like going to the loo, like having lunch, like having a cup of coffee, or a cigarette break, or whatever it might have been. And you’d sort of be walking around and you were able to speak to somebody informally.

I think your example was Ivan had a television and he’s going. There was the Welsh, well, it would be Welsh in your case, there would be the Welsh rugby match or something. There was a match on. So you started talking about the rugby and the client would be next door, and then you could suddenly say, “How do you think it’s going?” Then you begin to be able to communicate. I mean it wasn’t contrived. It was luck, in a sense.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: But these, sort of, interludes I found amazing. It’s just amazing how you can unlock the whole thing. When the protected barrier of the legal profession, actually is a way, you’ve got to think anti-lawyer in some ways mediation purposes. I am actually.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: I don’t think that they really help at all. Some are great, but some are a real barrier, too. They think they’re doing their client a favor and quite often the worst ones are counseled or briefed the night before. “Look, we need you to go to the mediation today”. They have no idea, they never met the client, and they just do their speech. And of course, [inaudible 0:35:19] in their defense. They’re doing it because that’s what they’re employees do, but they’re not actually acting in the best interest of the clients. I always feel that, there’s somebody who taught me this, which is basically, the lawyers sort of sit in a sort of a castle. So you’ve got a castle on one side and a castle on the other.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: And they sort of tell their story, which is the legal story.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: And quite often they don’t even know what their date of birth is, whether they’re married, it didn’t make any difference. It’s a [inaudible 0:35:54] issue, so it’s property. It doesn’t matter whether they have a yacht in the Algarve or they’ve sailed around the world, or they play golf, or done three marathons, as you have, things like that. It’s just that story and of course what you’re trying to do as a mediator is to try and match, or to try and get the lawyers to come out of their castle. I’ve actually talk the same talk as the client is effectively, and that’s what it’s really all about. If you can get both of them coming out and get both of the clients all talking in a common way, that’s when it starts unlocking.

Aled: Okay. In that example then, what helped you overcome the attitude of the lawyer, was just finding an opportunity just to take the party to one side and have that sort of one-to-one conversation.

Tell me a little bit about mediation. There must be one Henry, a situation that you found yourself in that you thought to yourself, “Oh my goodness, this wasn’t in the manual. They didn’t teach me this on the course”.

Henry: Well Yes. Actually there is one. There is one because you’re always supposed to, well quite apart from the nonlinear approach to it, because I don’t always do an opening session. It just depends. I mean I might have private sessions, than an opening, in fact, I might not even have one. I had one where… Sorry, just repeat the question because I think I do know the example to give. The question was?

Aled: The question was a situation, a mediation that you found yourself in, that you’ve been completely caught unawares. Either you handled it badly and regretted it or you just happened to know what to do, and you’ve done something and it worked.

Henry: Yes. Okay. Not knowing what to do. Yes, I’m not sure. I can’t actually think of an example like that, but I would actually spin that slightly and say I did something which was actually not in the manual. I mean, absolutely not. And it worked. It was a slightly calculated gamble. It was as a result of the lawyers being too protective.

What I actually did, was I managed to get a joint session and I had the lawyers talking like this, and I had the clients sitting next to me because I always make sure that’s the case. Not because you told me to but because I think that actually is a really good idea because it does get you into this sort of private conversation. And I sort of got to know the clients quite well.

I just sort of suggested to them, I said, “Why don’t you just go and have a private conversation without, ‘Well what do you think lawyers?’ Why don’t you just go and have a private conversation.” The lawyer says, “Well, yes, I suppose that’s all right. But, you’re going to be there too?” And I said, “Well, it’s up to the clients, if you want me to be there.” They said, “Well you can come if you’d like but I’m sure we’re grown up enough to work it out ourselves.” Anyway, they went off into another room, or into a…

Aled: Who now? The lawyers and the client?

Henry: No. Just the two clients on their own.

Aled: Oh, Okay.

Henry: Without anybody, and the lawyer stayed in the joint room. I went off and had a cup of coffee. They went off and just had a chat and 20 minutes later they had settled it. I don’t know why I decided to that but maybe it was inspired. It was a highly risky thing to do, I think. Wasn’t it? I don’t know.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: But that’s not in the manual.

Aled: I think that’s the beauty of mediation isn’t it. It’s a flexible process.

Henry: It’s great. That’s what I always say. What I actually always say is “There are no rules apart from two”. I say, “No interruptions. Treat each other really with respect. And by the way, the ten minute rule” and you know what that is. Those are the only rules and the rest of it no rules. It’s great. It’s a great release for me because although I’m a former solicitor I don’t have to keep up with the law. That’s a inaudible 0:40:44] option there which is quite nice. You can do what you like more or less. As long as you tell me it before you leave so there’s 10 minutes just to do a bit of a reality check, to see whether it’s such a good idea or not. Actually, it’s very important, that one. It’s a very, very important statement to make at the beginning of mediation, because it comes back. Those opening words you say, at the beginning of a mediation are just absolutely crucial because you can always default back to them. Things like, “We don’t give advice. Invariably they will say, “Well what do you think Mr. Mediator?” “Don’t know. What do you think?”

Aled: Henry, one of the questions I’ve got in my mind, do the mediations that you typically find yourself getting have anything to do with your background as a lawyer, or how they vary?

Henry: Yes, that’s a very interesting question. As a percentage, I would say something like 25% of the mediations are real estate related.

Aled: Okay.

Henry: It’s my core subject. The remainder, are just about anything under the sun. I mean, I’ve done co-habitation break ups, I’ve done contracts for services, defective goods, boundaries, well boundaries sort of speaks to real estate, most car industry. I can’t quite remember. I mean all sorts of completely different things. Employments are done.

I haven’t done family mediations actually. Well I’ve done habitation break up. I haven’t actually done formal family mediation, but I think that probably requires a bit more specialist training. It’s a different sort of… There’s much more of a need to rebuild, to make sure the relationship stays solid, to get children involved. That’s the thing. I’m just not trained to do it.

Aled: Yes, I think there’s some additional specialist training for family mediation.

Henry: I think so.

Aled: So most…

Henry: And that’s interesting. Sorry.

Aled: Go on.

Henry: I was going to say, what is most interesting is that in the early stages I found the ones where I didn’t have the specialist knowledge were easier to mediate because I didn’t come in with a prejudged baggage of saying, “Oh yes. That’s the answer.”

Aled: Okay.

Henry: Which was helpful and it helped me to use my pure mediation skills much more, and I felt that my mind was clearer but I didn’t necessarily know exactly what the answer might be.

Aled: Oh, okay. That’s interesting.

Henry: Having training is a lawyer you understand offer and acceptance, you understand sort of [inaudible 0:44:00], and all the acts of parliament and everything. If I read the papers there’s nothing particularly difficult about the papers. I think that people ask and have said to me and do you think [inaudible 0:44:12] a good lawyer and not to be a mediator expert. I actually think if there was an element in the training which was the basic sort of rules of law and court procedure. Well there is a little bit actually. There is a little there. But I think if there was a little bit more of that, I think that I would definitely say that a non-lawyer potentially is a better mediator than a qualified lawyer. I do actually believe that.

Aled: Yes. That’s quite interesting. Interesting on a number of levels I think. I can relate to mediating a particular dispute that one has substantive kind of knowledge of the dispute.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: And how it’s easier to get caught up in the detail that way and miss the bigger picture. The process.

Henry: Exactly. I think that’s absolutely right.

Aled: On the other hand, I think for a mediator starting out, I think it can be helpful if you have a particular specialty or expertise that you say, “I only do this kind of mediation. I don’t do anything else. This is all that I do.” Just to start. Particularly, if you’ve got an acknowledged expertise or reputation in that field. You talked about how you started by phoning, picking up the phone and networking, and calling all your contacts.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: Just making them aware of the things that you’re currently doing in mediation and just seeing if there are any opportunities and so on. I think when you’re starting out it can be helpful.

Henry: Yes. It’s interesting because I share a philosophy that mediation is universally applicable. I mean, I don’t think it’s philosophy, it’s a fact actually. It’s not a philosophy. It’s absolutely true, that you should be able to use all those skills in any situation. One thing I suppose I regret slightly is not having discovered this rule world because again, not to say never, but I would be very, very interested in moving into some form of international mediation. I just think that it’s, absolutely key, to unlocking some of the really hard, difficult problems that are around the world. I’m sure there are mediators that are in there.

In fact I know that they exist in the Middle East. What they’re doing is they’re working off of the surface. The governments ought to do that sort of thing, posturing each other but actually what you’ve got is mediators in the background. I suppose they used to be called diplomats. That’s possibly what they were. I don’t know. I do think it’s quite the same thing.

Aled: Well, I think they call it “track to diplomacy”.

Henry: Track two diplomacy. There we are, Yes. Yes. I came across this other absolutely inspirational mediator, Tina Monberg. I don’t know if you’ve come across her.

Aled: Yes.

Henry: She’s just incredible. She’s Danish. Qualified solicitor. Qualified mediator. Qualified psychotherapist, I believe. She told this story at one of those master classes where they [inaudible 0:47:49] which was when the Copenhagen, were having the [Climate Change Summit]. She did an alternative mediation summit and she invited the government to go and actually only one turned up. What she was trying to espouse was the purposes of the mediation in order to assist in the climate change issues because most governments are actually pure positional bargaining. That’s how they operate as well. The Americans are well known for it. They’ve always been like that. But whether that’s a successful way of creating a global understanding is a very interesting question.

Aled: Henry, I know we are sort of approaching the end of our mediation.

Henry: Our interview. We’re not mediating.

Aled: Sorry. Our interview.

Henry: [laughter] [inaudible 48:58].

Aled: Our mediation interview. I’ve got mediation on the mind, I don’t know why. [laughter] We’re coming to the end of the interview.

Henry: Actually, I’m very disappointed. You never accepted me as an observer, Aled. I’m very disappointed. [laughter] Never mind.

Aled: You’re on the list. It’s a long list. [laughter] So a couple of things I wanted to come back to you with. Now, you said earlier that you’re in a very fortunate position in terms of you’re able to get off the ground, not have to rely on making an income from your mediation, so doing a lot of pro bono work. I think the pro bono work, by the way, that’s how I started. I joined a local community mediation. I just threw myself at anything I could, just to get experience, and the experience gave me more confidence which enabled me to talk more about it, and talk more from a place of feeling like I had some kind of expertise in it. And I think people picked that up.

What would you say to someone that is maybe in a different financial position than you, is contemplating a career in mediation? What advice would you give them about training? Starting out? What would you say?

Henry: I think you’ve got to, again, you’ve got to imagine that you’re starting a completely brand new career and it may take time. I mean, if you’re a barrister’s pupil you’re going to make a significant amount of money for anything after ten years I would have thought. I think you’ve got to just keep at it and keep trying because the sort of mediations you’ll get in the early stages need to prepare you. They’re not particularly well paid. I mean, typically with Clarksroom they operate what’s called a 500 pound scheme which is 500 pounds to a party. Clarksroom takes a percentage of about 25% and then they arrange the rooms and all that, so, 500 quid. You need to be doing quite a lot of those annually to make a living. And of course it is a dilemma. It’s sort of Catch 22 because you’ve almost got to be full-time to get one in the first place. If you’ve got another career then invariably the dates won’t work. It’s really a challenge and I’m not actually sure that I know what the answer is. Just keep going. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

Aled: And where are you getting most of your referrals at the moment?

Henry: I would say I’m getting them all from Clarksroom. As the time goes by, as your profile increases, it’s quite nice. [inaudible 0:52:01] mediator Aled. Can you believe it?

Aled: I can. I can.

Henry: I can’t believe it.

Aled: Are you ranked number seven in the lead table, I believe?

Henry: I thought, is it seven today? I thought it was five or six. But anyway, yes I’ve gone up the rankings pretty quickly and I just keep going. I mean, I’ve actually had direct referrals from lawyers or clients, or parties. I’ve had repeat business. There’s one thing that I did want to actually mention, as well, which is that I have acquired mediation. Sorry. I have acquired work through my profile as a mediator. If you’ve got two minutes, I must tell you the story. It’s just the business.

Aled: Go.

Henry: Have enough time?

Aled: Yes. Yes. Go for it.

Henry: Second of October of last year, I’m sitting at my desk here, twiddling my thumbs with one meditation in the pipeline between 1st of October and the 31st of December. The phone rings. It goes like this. “George, here.” “George? Must be George Josselyn. It couldn’t be anybody else. Why on earth are you phoning me? We haven’t spoken for 20 years”. And he and I were partners together in my first law firm after I qualified. I sort of tracked his career and he had ended up as an in-house lawyer with a quite well known property developer in the west end.

Then he said to me, “I’ve just been Googling you.” That’s how he talks. That’s why I’m saying it like that. “I’ve just been Googling you and I see you’re a qualified mediator. I see you’ve done lots and lots of mediations, and your ranking seems to be quite amazing, seems to be right at the top,” sort of thing. So I said, “Yes, Yes. That’s right George. I gave up the law.” “Well, I’ll tell you what Henry. I’ve got a proposition for you. I’m an in-house lawyer to the Irvine Sellar Group”. Now you may not know them but Irvine Sellar, over a ten year period, put together the land and the planning, and the funding to build a thing. A little pimple on the South bank called the Shattered Glass. Okay.
He had managed to get the state of Qatar [sounds like] to fund the whole thing. So he changed from 100% stake to 5% stake. It did alright. Anyway, you may have seen it. It’s difficult to miss it. It’s now just being more or less completed. So I said to him, “What’s the story? Why are you phoning me for?” And he said, “Well, you’ve got mediation skills, you’ve got property development background skills, and we have a project that we need to be put in place in six weeks from the day after tomorrow. Would you be interested in getting involved?” And I said, “Well I haven’t got a practicing certificate. I haven’t got a proper PI cover.” But don’t worry, you won’t be giving advice. You’re a [inaudible 0:55:30] accountant. So what do you need? Send me your CV.

So I put together some joint CV of mediation and property, went for an interview with Irvine, and the [inaudible 055:53] are the National Bank, which represent London. The interview lasted seven minutes and they said, “Well if you’re interested in doing this project you may, provided we can agree financial terms, you’re in.” So then they told me exactly what it’s about. Basically, it was putting together a joint venture between the state of Qatar and Irvine Sellar to manage the Shard of Glass Tower asset going forward. Highly complicated tax structures and offshore funding with Jersey boys, UK boys, Luxemburg and Qatar. And suddenly I was right in my sweet spot. I’d actually merged both skills.

Aled: Fantastic story.

Henry: But it was as a result of my mediation profile that George decided to pick me up. And I think it’s just an amazing story.

Aled: That is an amazing story.

Henry: Isn’t it?

Aled: It is an amazing story.

Henry: And the point actually is that mediation is not about dispute resolution. It’s about conflict management. That’s actually what it’s about, and this continuum that start at the beginning, because conflict is good. I mean, how on earth did anybody ever work out the earth was round. Because they challenged what happened before. People are in conflict. Conflict is positive. It’s not negative. It’s all about the how are we going to create something and make something happen going forward. I just felt that was… I was just so blown away by it. As I started to come down from that I certainly needed a mentor because it was a very short term project. I got into a sort of complete and utter high. It was a very intensive six week period. Very well paid, actually. [laughter] I was very well paid. That sums it up. [laughter]

Aled: Yes. That’s a lovely story Henry, and right at the outset when I asked you, what’s helped you get to where you are today one of the things you said was writing a profile. You said you found it a challenging thing to do. It’s time consuming, you have to sit down and think, particularly if you haven’t got any mediations under your belt. How do you become creative enough so as not to be misleading or disingenuous, but you’ve got to give yourself a start somehow.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: And to win a piece of work that sounds so interesting like that as a direct result of having updated your profile, either on Clarksroom or LinkedIn.

Henry: Yes. It was Clarksroom actually. It would have been Clarksroom.

Aled: Okay. It sounds like Clarksroom has been a real win for you.

Henry: Yes, they’ve been great. They’re great. They really are.

Aled: It wouldn’t be a mediation interview Henry, if I didn’t summarize back to you all the key learning points that I’ve taken from this interview.

Henry: As long as I don’t have to summarize, I don’t mind.

Aled: Well, let me try and quickly do it.

Henry: Go.

Aled: You went from, going back to the conversation that we had whenever it was, November, December 2009, and you said, “How many mediations should this group expect to have in their first twelve months? I said, “Well one would be a good start.” And you decided I’m going to beat that. I’m going to challenge that assumption and reality test that assumption.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: In your first year you clocked 17 or 18 mediations. The way you did, that was you contacted Law Works. What’s the lady’s name at Law Works again?

Henry: Lavinia. Lavinia.

Aled: Lavinia.

Henry: Lavinia [inaudible 0:59:55] Brown.

Aled: That’s it. And she gave you some advice around getting yourself on the panel, getting some observations, getting yourself insurance, establishing your profile. It sounds like one of the things that you did that was more of almost like a mindset shift. Get yourself into the right mindset, was to imagine that you’re starting out, you’re 21 again, you’ve just graduated, and you’re starting out in a career.

Seeing your mediation career that way rather than getting up and established within a short period of time. You mentioned that you’re fortunate to be in a financial position where you could just take any piece of mediation. That really helped you get that experience that you wanted and you needed. I also think doing those kinds of mediations as well, even though you might not get paid or you get paid a small amount, you’re then networking with people. You’re meeting people. The more people you can meet I think starting out as a mediator, the better. Particularly people that are in dispute and conflict.

You started getting some feedback and you’re very open to feedback. One of the things that you realized, it was an interesting story about getting some feedback that was “No, I would never use this mediator again”. Actually, that was the lawyers experience of a successful mediation but one that the outcome didn’t meet their expectations and it did amount around $75 grand for the fees.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: But the way you talk specifically then about your experience of dealing with lawyers that were putting up a barrier between you and the client, between you and the principal. And you used opportunities during the course of the mediation just to have an informal conversation, a chat, with the client, with the principal, without the lawyer present.

You’ve described, also, how mediation for you is just like a conversation and how it’s almost a relief to do away with all the formality and all the structure. Actually just have a conversation with a group of people, building rapport. If you need to talk about their journey, if you need to find out a bit about their family, if you want to be curious and connect with them at a human level, mediation gives you that implicit permission to do that, whereas, in a legal context, it might seem inappropriate. It might seem out of place.

I think that’s the beauty about mediation as well as mediator, I give myself permission to ask any question that I want to. My caveat is, “I’m going to ask you questions that you might think are unusual or unrelated to it but that’s just me being curious and it’s all part of the process”. I get a sense you’re really enjoying that part of mediating, Henry.

Henry: Yes, very much so, yes.

Aled: Creating a profile, really, really important. Your LinkedIn profile, your Clarksroom profile. You gave a brilliant story at the end about how an old contact picked up the phone, called you up, gave you just the dream proposition, but here’s the bit I like about that story, and it’s the bit that connects with me and my mission with Mediator Academy.

Is mediation isn’t about two people sitting down in a room with a mediator talking about their differences. That’s just one side of it. Mediation is about conflict and conflict management. Conflict resolution. To be able to use your skill set, skills that you’ve learned and the thinking that you’ve developed over the past three years, and apply it to that sort of real estate joint venture. I wouldn’t want someone to have an opportunity like that, and see it, and put it in a box that they might not think they have the skills to deal with.

Henry: Yes.

Aled: But to be able to go, “Okay. I can see how that might create conflict that’s just not helpful and I can see how my skills might really help those two parties get off on the right foot in a joint venture like that”.

Part of my mission with Mediator Academy is just to help people think differently about how they apply the skills that they’ve got. It’s not just mediations and commercial mediations, civil mediations, employment mediations, but conflict. How do they resolve conflict on a global scale? You also talked about international mediation track to diplomacy. There are so many different, sort of, spheres of conflict. So many people doing so many different things, and I’m hoping to interview lots of people on Mediator Academy, just to expand people’s thinking, expand people’s perspectives, just like your perspectives have changed and expanded over the years.

You talked about studying anthropology and humanities, and history of Islam, expanding your thinking, developing your thinking. Going outside of what’s comfortable and what’s familiar to a place that’s unfamiliar and uncertain. Actually how, that can just change your thinking, change your values, change your philosophy, change your ideals, and how people talk.

Mediation is just sort of commonsense but unfortunately it’s not common practice. I think more people like you, Henry, doing what you’re doing out there, being proactive, clocking-up the mediations but also being open to other opportunities, I think will definitely help contribute to my mission of world peace. [laughter]

Henry: Right. Well done.

Aled: I think that’s it, Henry. I think that’s it. I think I’ve covered everything.

Henry: It’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you, I must admit.

Aled: Oh, it’s a real pleasure to catch-up. We haven’t spoken for a while. The last time we saw each other, was it…

Henry: At [inaudible 1:06:55].

was last year. The trouble with the mediation get-togethers, gatherings, training courses is you have five minutes here and five minutes there and it’s never enough to get down to the nitty-gritty. I’m really appreciative of you.

Henry: I did forget it, of course, I forgot to mention that I have actually done one mediation on Skype. Maybe that’s for another time.

Aled: Well, maybe that’s definitely for another time. A mediation on Skype, now, there’s the future.

Henry: Yes. It’s [inaudible 1:07:31].

Aled: Breaking down geographical barriers. Henry, if people want to reach out and say thank you to you, connect with you, how can they do that?

Henry: I suppose, well, certainly by phone and email. I don’t know what do I need to do? Do I give you my details now or what’s the best thing to do?

Aled: Is there an email address people can reach you on?

Henry: Yes. It’s on

Aled: Okay.

Henry: My mobile is the best way, actually. It’s 07775950522

Aled: Five, two, two. No doubt you might get a few requests for assistantships.

Henry: Right. It’s interesting actually, because after the first one I did on my own, I actually embraced the ability to have an observer. I was technically an observer. I’ve just been very lucky to have some just amazing people. I’ve met all sort of different types from different backgrounds. Doctors, dentists, economists, people in the oil industry in Africa, a bit like probably world view at some point because you did diamond mining. You used to make guns or something. I can’t remember what it was. You did something like that. [laughter] You were [inaudible 1:09:03]. Then you started digging up these rocks and you made so much money that you didn’t need to work anymore, so you became a mediator. That’s not true. That doesn’t happen. It’s partly true.

Aled: Partly true, apart from the making so much money bit.

Henry: Yes, Okay. But I’m right about diamonds aren’t I?

Aled: You’re right about diamonds. There’s a history of Aled Davies on the website ,as well so that you can refresh your memory.

Henry: [inaudible 1:09:34].

Aled: Henry, let me say thank you to you, for investing your time and giving your time. I really appreciate it, and onwards and upwards. Hopefully the next time we speak you’ll be in triple figures.

Henry: Well let’s hope.

Aled: And you have a little Pina Colada in your hand.

Henry: That’s it. Got it. Yes. Thank you very much indeed, Aled. I’ve really, really enjoyed it. All the best in your project, as well.

Aled: Brilliant.

Henry: It sounds absolutely amazing. I think I’m connected to Mediator Academy in some… Am I on? I think I’m on LinkedIn under it.

Aled: Yes. There’s a group on LinkedIn.

Henry: It’s a group.

Aled: I’ll send you a link once we’re done and then you can take a look.

Henry: Okay. Great.

Aled: Okay. Thanks Henry.

Henry: Bye.

Aled: Take care.

Henry: See you, bye.

Aled: Bye.

About the mediator

Henry Minto Profile Pic

He qualified as a commercial mediator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators in 2009. Since then he’s worked his way up to over 70 mediations. For 30 years, he was a lawyer in private practice specialising in the real estate and construction sectors but saw the light and has since been converted to mediation in evangelical proportions, or as he’ll describe, had a sense of ‘moving on’. He gets a real buzz from mediation because it ... View Mediator