Settled in 3 hours


3 hours may sound like a long time but, in mediation, that time can pass very quickly.

One of the most popular services we offer at Leonard Gray is our fixed price 3 hour mediation package for Civil & Commercial disputes. It is a good fit in a number of cases, particularly where the parties:

  • Have the same understanding of the issues involved
  • Are willing to start negotiating early on without getting bogged down by past events and disagreements
  • Have come to the mediation armed with a framework settlement agreement in mind

No one can predict, however, how the opening elements of the mediation will develop. It is always possible that the parties may need more time to reach an understanding of the issues at stake and to develop potential solutions that might lead to settlement. By limiting time it increases the pressure to move forward and settle but the allotted period can always be extended by agreement.

A Recent Example

During a case I recently dealt with, both parties had already thought long and hard about mediation and the result they hoped to achieve at the end. They had resolved in their own minds that there was no point in allowing the dispute to drag on. Their legal costs were already high in the context of the overall value of the case. They wanted to draw matters to a close and move on with their lives.

Against that backdrop and, having agreed, at the outset, to fix a 3 hour time limit for the mediation, both parties spent only a small amount of time discussing background points in the initial sessions, instead moving very quickly into making opening settlement offers. This maximised the opportunity for the parties and their representatives to discuss different options and ideas for bringing the dispute to an end. It also allowed time for a typed mediation agreement to be prepared, settling all points/issues once and for all.

Joint Opening Session – Yes or No?

To make the 3 hour slot work, the mediator will usually dispense with an opening joint session. This is where both parties and their representatives meet in the same room (typically the mediator’s ‘break out’/‘neutral’ room) to make opening statements.

To its credit, the joint session can represent a good ice breaker. It can also aid the parties’ understanding of just how far apart they are in terms of their positions, giving them a helpful reality check.  However, sometimes these sessions (and the individual meetings between the parties and the mediator beforehand) can take up time, which can eat into those precious 3 hours.

So, whilst there are occasions when the joint session can help draw the parties closer to settlement, even as part of a 3 hour appointment (please see my article at, in most cases, such a session may be too time consuming for the parties’ liking.

The Importance of the Mediator’s Role

For a 3 hour session to succeed the mediator plays a vitally important role. A key element of my approach to any mediation is to be focused and realistic with the parties, listening carefully to their concerns and intended outcomes but being quite direct about how likely they are to realise and achieve those.

If you book one of our mediators, the chances are you will manage to draw your dispute to a close on the day. Over 90% of all civil and commercial mediations we conduct on a 3 hour basis successfully settle.


John is an ADR Group accredited civil, commercial and family mediator. He adopts a practical and focused approach to mediation and uses the benefit of his experience in commercial transactions and disputes to reach a solution.