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  • Ed

Mediation on the increase

I had a week in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland last week and have come back refreshed by the fresh air, the fantastic food and the odd drop of whisky and from the amount of new contacts that have come in while I was away it looks like I’ll need to be refreshed.

Others noting the increase in mediation work this week include top lawyers at a conference in Manhattan. Speakers included luminaries Judge Barbara S. Jones, Ken Feinberg, and Theo Cheng, the topic under discussion increasing popularity and utility of voluntary non-binding mediation.

Charing the conference was Judge Richard M. Berman who, along with Judge Jones explained how their approaches differ when sitting as judges and acting as mediators, not least the use of first names rather than honorific titles.

It’s the other way round for me although I’m rarely Mr Johnson to clients in either legal practice and certainly not in mediation but in mediation I insist on a first name terms basis for everyone (whether they bring counsel or parents along everyone is first names to level the playing field).

Ken Feinberg went on to explain the need for full discussions by the mediators with both sides so that they invest in the process, he, like me, likes to spend a good few hours with both sides in quiet discussions about their position to help understand their own view and explain the opposing party’s opinion.

It’s all part of the reason for the upsurge in mediation, the process gives both parties an involvement they don’t have in a legal case and allows them to keep an element of control, and most importantly to get a resolution which works for everyone.

They’ll be and increase in tenant eviction cases heading to mediation following the decision of San Rafael City council in California following a recent vote. (I know that's a picture of LA I don't have one of San Rafael).

Supporting the move Councilwoman Kate Colin said “Often renters are more likely to be people of colour, who are older, people who have disabilities, people who have lower incomes.

So it’s important that we put these renter protections in place to support everybody in our community who might not have the power or the platform to advocate for themselves.”

The fact that 48% of residents of San Rafael are tenants (and therefore presumably 48% of the voting pubic) may have had some influence on the decision.

The requirement for mediation will apply if rent goes up by more than 5% in a 12 month period.

All sides agree there is a shortage of hosing but the move to ensure tenants are given a fair chance to put their case at mediation means that people are not sacrificing other expenses (health care and food most notably) in favour of unfair rent increases.

The next story to discuss the increase of mediation could come from our own courts in the northwest of England who are under increasingly difficult pressures to deliver, however it comes form a former supreme court judge in India.

Retired Justice Kurian Joseph speaking at a conference organised by the District Legal Services Authority under the aegis of the State Legal Services Authority on the topic of ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanism, Referrals and mediation techniques’ said the use of mediation and mediation techniques needed to be encouraged and magistrates trained in the use of early mediation.

Agreeing acting Chief Justice of High Court Justice Dharam Chand Chaudhary described the various processes available for alternative dispute resolution methods, including mediation, Lok Adalats (where cases pending hearings are given an opportunity to settle) and said that these processes resolve hundreds of cases every day – imagine that Manchester County Court?

In Lakewood, New Jersey mediators have also been busy trying to work out what the issues for residents are and what solutions are needed for what has been described as “discord” by the town council.

Whilst the report produced for the Lakewood Neighbors group (founded initially to promote positive news on the town) provided four recommendations they were hampered by some of the municipal and religious authorities refusing to take part.

Identifying the thee key issues as:-

“Bias: against Orthodox Jews is present, and to a lesser degree within the Orthodox community. Misinformation, misunderstanding and misconceptions create a lack of trust among residents.

Impact of change: Population and density changes have caused negative impacts, and prompted sometimes "hostile reception" toward Orthodox Jews moving into neighborhoods.

Land use: "The problems of traffic were mentioned by almost all interviewees," the report says. While concerns are ongoing in Lakewood, most interviewees said neighboring towns were a key place to focus.”

The suggested ways forward were:-

“Refine Lakewood Neighbors with a clear purpose and structure; expand representation to members of neighboring towns and additional faith and community leaders; and increase transparency of the group.

Promote relationship-building groups that already exist, and identify and target segments of the community not already being served by those programs.

Develop a shared "community coexistence action plan," voluntary agreements for citizens dedicated to "neighborly coexistence, as opposed to seeking changes to township rules or regulations."

Take a regional approach to land use, infrastructure, transportation, zoning, housing and schools by convening officials and community leaders.”

Not all mediation work involves just two sides and the work by these four mediators has a long way to go but recognition by those involved that mediation “thinking” is the best approach can only help find a long lasting resolution to the “disharmony and discord” experience in the city.

And in yet more news of work for mediators comes the possibility that Sydney’s approach to nuisance neighbours the “Good Neighbour” initiative has been so successful it may no be rolled out across the whole of New South Wales.

Anyone with a complaint has to attend mediation with the neighbour, for a cup of coffee (overseen by an impartial Ranger just in case).

“90% of the time, I believe these issues can be received just through conversation, through mitigation.” Inner West mayor Darcy Byrne. Speaking about the amount of money spent by councils on dealing with complaints against businesses as well as individuals Byrne added “For far too long now it’s been a case that governments and politicians have been throwing resources behind legal action based on sometimes just a single complaint and persecuting hotels, clubs and small bars…It’s not an ideological thing, it’s about forcing people to talk through solutions rather than be legalistic.”

The open nature of discussions in mediation whilst remaining confidential allows all sides to engage fully in the process and understand the needs of all involved allowing parties to reach a conclusion which both sides can live with and move on.

There are so many situations which could have been resolved by early intervention of mediation it continues to surprise me the lengths the public (and some lawyers) will go to avoid referral.

Whether you need a mediator to help out with a construction matter in the Northwest, or council’s plans in Cheshire, a civil mediator in London, a commercial mediator in Manchester, a dispute resolution for your family in Liverpool, a neighbourhood mediation in Stockport, then our mediators at Northwest Mediation can help.

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, wills and probate contact Northwest Mediation on 07931318347 or via email at

neighbour mediation; commercial dispute resolution; civil mediation; commercial dispute; corporate dispute; commercial mediator; family mediation; inheritance mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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