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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Imbalance of power - mediation

With the limited access to courts and lawyers mediation is even more so now than ever the best choice to find a resolution for your dispute. Get your dispute resolved now while you can’t go anywhere you can really concentrate on what’s important and what deserves your time and energy.

Northwest Mediation continues to use Zoom, Skype and FaceTime as well as the phone and emails to resolve disputes so please do not feel that you cannot contact us as there are limits on physical meetings.

It’s hard to write with my usual levity against the background of what’s happening in Ukraine, I will do my usual blog on mediation but, and it’s hard to ignore, some people you just can’t get to mediation.

“Violence is what people do when they run out of good ideas” – Anna Volovodov Abaddon’s Gate, James S A Corey.

I’m fortunate to only very rarely have had to deal with violence or the threat of it having only been mugged at knife point once and threatened with an axe during work on another occasion.

Although Mediation does have it’s risk it’s not something that happens often in the sphere’s I practice, I tend to refuse to work if there is a risk of danger to myself or another party and as a standard practice violence of any kind (even just language) will end a mediation as far as I’m concerned.

But avoiding conflict is what is at the core of mediation practice not conflict in the physical sense that Ukranians are facing but conflict in the sense of disputes either existing and continuing or escalating.

Often in those disputes (and you can draw your own parallel with Ukraine and it’s aggressor) there’s an imbalance of power when the parties arrive or first contact me, as Ann D Carey says in this article it’s the job of the mediator to help rebalance the scales.

As Ann says sometimes it’s a financial imbalance, often one party will trot up with counsel and solicitors and the other comes by themselves, in those circumstances it is helpful to remind the legally qualified parties of their duties to all concerned not merely their client, and often that’s enough to set the right light for the rest of the mediation.

In employment mediation there’s the ongoing risk that no matter what the employee strives for they will feel (rightly or wrongly) that their future prospects are damaged by the dispute and in those circumstances it’s vital to get the parties talking either via the mediator or preferably direct. All HR are human (I know) and rarely does anyone set out to “get” anyone else but it takes time and effort to make sure the parties recognise the feelings, understand where they come from and both identify and vocalise what they can do and will do to rebuild trust.

I love Ann’s description of the legal “gladiatorial games” played by lawyers who are known to represent one side or the other, I much prefer lawyers who’ve worked both sides, poacher and game keeper (like me) in the room as they can see and help their client’s see both sides, but if there’s no lawyer there then that is part of my job as well. I’ll discuss your case, where is it strong where might you have points that aren’t so great and most importantly what will allow you to move forward and away form this dispute.

If there are potential imbalances of power I always offer shuttle mediation, it is my preferred method and remains most successful, it’s not always useful in family matters but in many it is, parties feel more confident being heard alone but do sometimes miss seeing the reaction of the other party, so the process remains flexible but never at the detriment of a party who feels at a disadvantage.

This article rings a bit too true for me. Like Katie Bennett I was a hard line litigator, using every rule there was in the CPR to get advantage, score points, and increase the other side’s costs. It was fun for a while but ultimately it is more to the glory of the lawyer than the client. That’s why I became a mediator.

Katie describes herself as a reformed divorce attorney, interesting that her turning point was when she had kids and realised the impact on children that divorce has. Her expertise in social work degree helped her identify that divorce is often an emotional issue not a legal one (and with the upcoming no fault divorce hopefully the English and Welsh courts can take another element of emotion out of the cauldron).

Identifying the key skill of listening and the key misconception that the mediator is not a therapist, and also not there to argue your case for you but help you better understand your case and the other party(ies) and in divorce sometimes help you appreciate your children’s views.

Katie comments she better understands how kids work and react having had her own and whilst it’s not a prerequisite for family mediation I have found that empathy for parents comes from having kids, recognising the value of bath, book and bedtime and that during a school day there is very little time with your kids that isn’t pre-scheduled once homework is done, tea (dinner for you in the south) is eaten and thence to bed and tidy up.

Her final point is that self care is important for all mediators, it is emotionally draining (whether it’s a family or civil mediation) and often I need time after to process what has been said and to “unpack” the day’s burdens, supportive friends and family are great as is getting out and running (or LARP - my personal preference for unpacking).

Finally a return to the Ukraine, where, if anywhere, will a mediator be found to assist? Putin has rejected offers from Israel but there are rumblings that perhaps China might be willing to step in as mediator, certainly trusted by Putin, but the imbalance is not helped where the mediator is favoured by one party. One could argue that China’s recent abstentions to votes in Russia’s favour in the UN security council suggests it wants to strike a more even handed approach and not automatically lean towards Moscow’s world view but these are countries playing a long game, much more so than our short self-aggrandising government and its leader can imagine so tread carefully but at this time any move towards peace should be grasped, though not in the blinkered way that Neville Chamberlain did in ’38.

War doesn’t create character, war reveals character and thus far the character of the west has been to duck and cover and hope that a leader of a failing nation will come to the table if we annoy his friends and hide their wealth rather than face him down or have the foresight to acknowledge that if the bully cannot get his way through conventional weapons he will deploy the others irrespective of the west’s refusal to directly engage. It's time to come up with more good ideas, better ideas, ideas that resolve rather then amplify.

The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary, it’s confidential, the mediator is independent, by using those pillars to support your work the parties keep control, save costs, save time and energy and reduce stress.

In person or via electronic media as we’ve said before choose to mediate early and resolve your issues effectively, timeously, and with less stress and costs than going to your solicitor so you can get out choose a different path, not quite the road less travelled but perhaps the path less adversarial. You have an interest in the outcome the sooner you get round the mediation table the quicker you can move forward and avoid the grilling a cross examination in court would put you through.

By having a deep and meaningful discussions with parties the mediator elicits what the true “red-lines” are and where there is the potential for compromise, it is with this structured period of reflection that the parties are then able to reach an accord.

The flexible nature of mediation and the possible outcomes make it an ideal way to resolve disputes in an ever-changing world and 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 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, civil mediation or inheritance, wills and probate arguments 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 wills probate mediation; property mediator; civil mediator; civil litigation; fast track mediation; injury mediation

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