How we use mediation to resolve even the most entrenched disputes
I recently dealt with a highly involved and complex inheritance dispute between family members. The appointment had been made on the recommendation of a solicitor acting for one of the parties, and was booked as a three-hour mediation under our fixed fee scheme.
It was fairly clear, from the outset, that relations and communications between the parties had broken down considerably.
They were quite well entrenched in a conflict that had, in a variety of ways, deeply affected them all.
I must confess, on a first glance of the background paperwork, my thoughts were not filled with expectations of a swift and straightforward settlement. There were many layers of emotional and practical issues that needed first to be carefully and sensitively peeled away.
It was clear that bringing the parties together into the same room would disrupt the mediation process, perhaps irretrievably.
Throughout the mediation I held various, private meetings with both parties and their solicitors, keeping what they told me in the strictest confidence, except where I was given authority to pass information on to the other.
In the early stages of the process, I needed to listen very carefully to and gain a quick understanding of not just the parties’ legal issues but, far more importantly, their wider interests and why it was so important for them to resolve their dispute on the day. I reminded them that their first step on the road to resolving their dispute was simply to attend the mediation, which was a meaningful and positive development in the overall case.
At one stage during the afternoon, both parties indicated they had made their best offers and, in what was developing into a stalemate, discussions risked ceasing altogether.
The parties had, however, made good and steady progress throughout the session, up until that point. With encouragement and reassurance from me, they kept going. Ultimately, with effort and co-operation from the parties and their lawyers, I helped settle the case.
At the end of the appointment, I was congratulated by both parties for my tenacity and energy throughout the process and this was reflected in feedback we subsequently received, where we were rated 10 out of 10 for the following:
- Preparation by the mediator
- Punctuality of the mediator
- Availability of the mediator for discussion
- Ease of booking and administration
- Value for money
The above appointment illustrated two things that make Leonard Gray one of the best places to come for an effective and well handled mediation.
Firstly, our facilities are first rate. Our mediation suite is set up in such a way that enables the parties to remain physically separate during any part or, if necessary, throughout the entire process. We have meeting rooms on separate floors of our building, giving the parties the comfort and privacy they need.
Secondly, the importance of the mediator gaining the trust and confidence of the parties, at the earliest possible stage in the process, is absolutely paramount. If the mediator fails, in this respect, the entire procedure can very quickly be undermined.
It may sound slightly clichéd, but mediation (or, more to the point, the appointment of a good mediator) is, it seems to me, capable of helping resolve any conflict, no matter how disparate the parties’ positions may initially seem.”