Resolve disputes faster through mediation

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Benjamin Franklin said “Time is money”.Surely no-one who runs a successful business doubts that he was right.Management time is the most valuable of all. Few things suck the time of executives and business owners than disputes. Worse still, disputes are emotionally burdensome to even the toughest and most experienced business people. Some disputes are so serious that they can’t be ignored and must be dealt with at the highest level. In those cases, a prompt resolution process is needed.

The fastest way to resolve a dispute involves negotiating directly with the business or individual with whom you are in dispute. But it is often the case that the dispute will have soured relations to such an extent that it has become difficult to negotiate directly. In those circumstances, a neutral third party mediator can help to bridge the gap.

Mediators have been trained to help businesses who are in dispute with each other to reach an out-of-court settlement. The mediator will spend time with each party separately, getting to understand their side of the matter, their settlement parameters, and any other relevant factors that will influence their willingness to compromise the dispute. The mediator will not reveal what they have learned to anyone else unless they are expressly authorised to do so. But, armed with information they have been told in confidence by both sides, the mediator is in a unique position to carefully and gently steer the negotiations towards fertile settlement ground.

If emotions are running high, the mediator may choose to keep the parties in separate rooms throughout the mediation or at least until a stage has been reached where a viable settlement proposal is being discussed and only the finer points need further agreement. In other cases, the mediator may encourage people to speak to each other directly and ‘clear the air’. The mediator’s experience and training will direct them to the right approach.

A mediation may take only a few hours, a full day, or it may require a series of meetings over a longer period of time.The process takes as long as is needed but getting to mediation quickly instead of waiting for court dates means that time is not lost.Most mediations last a day.

It is helpful if the parties to the mediation have their own legal advisers present.It’s not the job of the mediator to point out the flaws in a party’s case to the other side and it is important to be able to weigh up your options when considering any settlement offer.Having a solicitor who you trust available to discuss the alternatives with you and the consequences of any decision, and to assist with drawing up a formal settlement agreement if one is needed, will assist you enormously in the mediation process.

There are lots of really good mediators out there. Your solicitor can help you find one. Why not consider this option the next time you are faced with a dispute?

For more information please contact John Wiblin, an accredited civil and commercial mediator and Head of our Dispute Resolution team.

Please note the contents of this blog are given for information only and must not be relied upon. Legal advice should always be sought in relation to specific circumstances.