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  • Ed

It's good to talk

You remember last blog I said that mediators get called all sorts of names, one of which is talking therapist – it says so on some mediators’ insurance policies so it must be right.

I was reminded this week of the power of speech from the following which took place at the local crematorium.

The deceased had served in WWII and his regiment and the Royal British Legion wanted to honour him at his funeral, nether the family of the deceased nor the crematorium had received any contact from the forces representatives so it was a bit of a shock to all when a troop of retired and active service personnel turned up to carry the coffin.

It could have been a disaster but because the parties all spoke to each other, identified the shared central goal which was to honour and celebrate the life of the deceased a plan was formed and enacted and the funeral proceeded without a hitch.

The celebrant was heard to comment that “we can sort all problems so long as we talk”.

Talking isn’t easy when you’ve become embittered in a family dispute or in commercial litigation but with the help of Northwest Mediation you can learn to communicate with the other side, identify your central goal and find a way forward.

Getting two sides talking isn’t easy and sometimes it takes an order of the court to force it to happen, despite it being recognized by studies that mediation works, is cheaper and quicker than litigation.

So as in the case of the claims against the National Hockey League it has taken the intervention of the court to get the sides talking via a mediator.

Over 100 former players of the game are pursuing the NHL for failing to warn players of the dangers of head injuries which regularly occur during matches and training, 5000 potential claimants were denied permission to join as a class action last year but the same judge, Susan Richard Nelson, has now ordered that a mediation take place between the parties.

Gary Bettman, NHL Commissioner has acknowledged the order but not the validity of any of the claims “The judge asked us to go into mediation and so we’re complying with the judge’s request…We also think the lawsuit doesn’t have merit.”

Counsel for some of the claimants Stuart Davidson replied “While we obviously disagree with the Commissioner’s views on the merits of these important cases, and continue to work very hard to obtain justice for our clients, the commissioner is correct that Judge Nelson requested that the parties try to work out their differences with a mediator, if they are able.”

But once they start communicating with a skilled mediator they will undoubtedly begin to recognise what can be done to settle their differences. The mediation might not necessarily result in payments to the claimants for instance the agreement could be to change the rules of the governing body to prevent future injury or for an apology or rehabilitation as mediation is not confined to the awards a court can give but only by communicating in the confidential atmosphere of a mediation can the parties identify their objectives.

£50,000 is a lot to spend on a mediation, even if, as the judge in this case said, both sides have enough money to spend on as many hours of mediation and all the lawyers they could ask for.

But despite the high headline sum mentioned which covers around 100 hours of mediator’s time Mr Justice Baker at the High Court in London still told the couple they were lucky and should think about the effect the ongoing dispute is having on their children.

I’m grateful never to have had a mediation last more than a couple of days but even in this case you can see from the hours and money spent on mediation that every dispute can be addressed in mediation, you can only guess form the amounts the couple were willing to spend in mediating an agreement how much they were spending in addition on lawyers fees and how much they could have avoided spending if they had gone to mediation earlier in the process.

When you start talking is as important as what you initially have to say, and the sooner you begin the better, the later the bitter.

Speaking out sooner could have brought to the fore the horrific institutionalized sex abuse in the catholic church, had those clergy who had suspicions or knowledge of the abuse spoken out sooner many fewer victims would now be having to re-live the horrors they suffered at the hands of priests throughout the world.

Now in Guam mediation has started in relation to two hundred sex abuse cases against priests and other members of the church, lawyers from Guam and the US Mainland who represent both sides will be involved in a mediation which is expected to last at least five days, in attendance will also be representatives from the greater sea of the Catholic Church.

Antonio Piazza will be conducting the mediation, as with all mediations the discussions are confidential and whilst normally the outcomes will also be private I suspect that the terms of some of the settlements may include public acknowledgment of the wrongs done including any cover ups.

And how can you ensure that when you do talk that what you say within a mediation remains confidential? At Northwest Mediation we destroy our notes at the end of the session which takes care of most of the issue, but in California an amendment for the code to which lawyers adhere is to be brought in.

From 1 January next year lawyers will have to explain to their clients in writing that all discussions leading up to and following on from mediations are confidential, they must have their clients sign to acknowledge they understand the importance of that confidentiality. Failure to comply won’t affect any agreement reached but it is a further enforcement that what happens in mediation (unless agreed otherwise) stays in mediation.

Mediation is cheaper, quicker and less stressful than running any case to court, it can help with any dispute whether it's an employment issue or the sale at an under value of a property, a fight with a neighbour, family issues, commercial disputes or inheritance arguments contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance mediation; property mediator;

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