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Need to mediate? Stay safe, mediate safe

View profile for Richard Kerry
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Here at Bell Lax Solicitors, we have experience of assisting our clients in a range of different commercial disputes.  Often such disputes are best dealt with by bringing the parties together, and seeing whether common ground can be found and a mutually acceptable deal struck. Generally, the Courts also require the parties to try to resolve the dispute outside of Court, if possible.

We therefore frequently advise our clients to consider engaging in a mediation.

A traditional mediation usually involves all the parties travelling to the same location, where an independent mediator, usually legally trained or otherwise an expert in their field, helps the parties, to resolve the real sticking points in relation to the dispute. Sometimes those sticking points are legal points, but they can equally be non-legal factors that are standing in the way of a resolution.

However, I recently organised a “virtual” mediation for our clients, in light of the need to stay safe and prevent the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19), since it was not possible to attend a traditional “in person” mediation with the other side.

Using suitable software, the parties, their legal representatives and the mediator all participated fully in the mediation, while being physically present in their own homes or office spaces.

By the use of such technology, the parties were able to meet safely online, and the mediation was conducted in just the same way, with exactly the same degree of flexibility.

Whether it is possible (or desirable) to conduct a traditional mediation or a virtual mediation, the mediation process has exactly the same advantages:

  • The process is confidential and is “without prejudice” to the rest of the dispute resolution process, meaning that anything said at the mediation cannot be used by either party outside of that process.
  • There are no set rules in relation to a mediation, so it can be completely flexible.
  • While it is the role of the mediator to be fully independent, they can help each of the parties to see things from the perspective of the other party. They can also help each party to be realistic about the prospects of their case succeeding and the financial implications either way.
  • The mediation process generally has the effect of focussing minds. In the process of preparing for the mediation, the parties review their case, and take stock of the future of the dispute. The day itself can be the first time the parties have seen one another since the dispute started. Sometimes it may not be appropriate for the parties to meet at all, but simply for the mediator to speak individually with the parties and their legal representatives throughout the day.

Either way, the presence of an independent mediator can bring a fresh perspective. During the day, there is usually a sense that real progress is being made.

  • While not all mediations end in a successful settlement, the majority of mediations do result in the case being settled, either at the mediation or in the following days or weeks.

Our clients successfully settled their dispute at the recent virtual mediation we advised them to attend, while all the parties stayed safe by mediating virtually.

So, even with the various restrictions in place, we are confident that we will be able to help you to find a resolution to your dispute.

Please contact us to discuss your commercial dispute, and we would be very happy to discuss how we could best assist you, in your particular circumstances.