Mediation is becoming an increasingly popular way of settling disputes. But what’s involved? Roger Levitt and Greg Campbell explain
Mediation is nothing new, but it is set to increase significantly. The court service in England and Wales faces major cuts - up to 25 per cent of courts face closure. Litigation is slow and costly while mediation is often quicker and cheaper.
The coalition’s recent proposal for mediation to be the first step in matrimonial disputes could be just the start. Some in government circles are suggesting making mediation a requirement for all civil disputes worth below, for example, £30,000.
Mediation is capable of resolving a wide range of disputes for housing organisations, including tenancy matters, contractual disputes and employment problems. The key is for participants to want to find a resolution in this way.
It is a confidential, voluntary and non-adversarial method of resolving disputes without going to court. A qualified independent mediator helps participants negotiate their own settlements. All parties must agree to participate.
Mediation is different from ordinary negotiation. Sessions usually take up to a day. The aim is to find a solution acceptable to all, which is cost and time-effective. Successful mediation concludes in a resolution that all participants can ‘live with’. Ideally, each wins some concessions and gives something up. This is often preferable to a court-imposed solution which involves risking all or nothing.
The process is informal and takes place on neutral ground.
Each participant can bring a solicitor or other companion. Usually, the fewer people present, the smoother it goes. All must agree to complete confidentiality of the process. One person on each side must have authority to settle the matter.
The mediator starts by explaining the procedures. Each participant then makes an opening statement explaining their position and what they hope to achieve.
Sometimes participants respond well to the initial exchange and continue engaging together. More often, they retire to separate rooms and the mediator goes back and forth negotiating terms.
If a mediator has done a good job, the defendant has conceded more than desired and the claimant has achieved less than hoped. The participants no longer have to go to court, have helped craft a workable solution and the matter is concluded. The terms are confirmed in a written settlement agreement which is legally binding.
Roger Levitt is a solicitor specialising in commercial property and commercial mediation. Greg Campbell is a director of consultancy Campbell Tickell