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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

Past, Present, Future...dealing with ghosts in mediation

With the continued backlog of cases 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 should we add we also do live in person mediation too! So please do not feel that you cannot contact us if you would like to mediate but wish to do so remotely.

First of all as this is the last one before the holiday season I wish all/both my readers a peaceful Christmas and a prosperous new year. I missed last week’s blog due to work commitments, I know good news all round this week is a little delays as with the “other hat on” conveyancing went bonkers. It’s almost as if people are shocked to find it’s Christmas once a year, every year. If people did keep Christmas in their hearts all year, dear old Scrooge, I fear they would continue to do nothing until the last moment.

In mediation terms we often have to help people who are constantly revisiting their metaphorical ghosts of Christmas past to help them see how those experiences brought them to their Christmas presents and help them move forward and look to their Christmas futures, never have I been accused of under-straining a metaphor.

Anyway back to the last of the year’s “google crawlers please read this it’s all about mediation” news reports…

First off a discussion about average mediation settlements in civil mediation Bruce Edwards quite rightly addresses the none sensical question by pointing out that not only are mediations not necessarily about “numbers” but they can involve extra-judicial settlement points, like an apology or a change of attitude.

Of those involving “pure” numbers he says generally parties start high far apart and over the course of the mediation work towards each other and find some middle ground, I would add it’s rarely simply cutting the Gordian knot straight down the middle of the figures as an exploration of pressure points and strengths is necessary in any good civil mediation.

I remember in some of the very high value (million pound and above) cases I’ve dealt with that the figures become a background against which settlement is achieved by understanding the parties and reaching a point where a handshake or an apology can be worth as much as another hundred thousand in settlement.

Never forget parties come to mediation often having been schooled in litigation by their lawyers who deal in numbers, as a mediator you’re not so limited you can and must search outside the usual constraints and fine novel and intuitive solutions. By way of examples, in addition to handshakes and apologies I’ve dealt with cases where access to a holiday home has been in the mix, where free lessons (riding and music in two instances) have been solutions as well as what you would think of as injunctive relief type solutions either to build or not to build or to move a structure.

A colleague just got back from a fact finding mission in Belize, as I understand it they don’t have a particularly well developed mediation profession or practices but it still exists as this report shows.

Belize Sugar Industries Ltd (BSI) and the Belize Sugar Cane Farmers’ Association remain in mediation to try and reach agreement on new terms and conditions for the farmer and their employees. The Prime Minister John Briceno was encouraged no doubt to see an extension of the mediation discussions to the weekend and beyond.

The previous agreement expired in January but the PM said that if the parties were unable to reach agreement he would hope that “we can have BSI roll over that agreement so that they could continue in the old agreement once the mediation/ negotiation go through”.

Clearly (and I say this knowing the many numbers of strikes ongoing in this country) mediation is a better solution than rolling over previous terms whose retention has led to the dispute.

The PM added “The problem with intervening is that, if we were to rule in favour of the farmers, BSI will take us to court. If we rule, or do something in favour of BSI, the farmers are going to take us to court, so the government has to be very careful,”

Last year saw a blockade of one of the country's most profitable crops which comments some have taken to suggest he would not be above calling in the police to ensure the crops could be exported. If he were the UK government he would definitely be suggesting calling in the army to get the crops in as that seems our current PM’s go to response for any problem be it ambulance driving, nursing or fire brigade.

So as the new year rolls in and you take a new year’s resolution to sort out your dispute (personal, company, family, inheritance) remember the advantages of mediation. Shorter timescales, cheaper fees, less stress and the ability to have your voice and point heard without having to go to court to do it, where no one but the lawyers come out on top.

This article runs through the usual steps in mediation, from your opening statement (something not well used or liked in family mediation but a crucial element in a civil dispute) to the first private session (caucus or shuttle) where you get to explain in detail your point of view so that the mediator can explain and expand upon the opposing party’s understanding and so that in return you can hear from the other side and ask the questions you need answers to in order to be able to make a decision.

We used say to the kids (and sometimes still say to parties in mediation) “two ears, one mouth, less of the one more of the two for a reason”. Hearing and being heard are so crucial we as mediators spend days practicing active listening, it’s not a skill many are used to using these days where too often people are listening in order to respond and not listening to understand.

In the words of Hamilton “I’ll see you on the other side”. Ed

The three pillars of mediation remain it’s voluntary (except apparently when it won’t be anymore), 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. Finally this one is mediation, mediator jointly appointed, areas of discussion agreed and intention to be bound by the outcome.

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 my favourite topic inheritance, wills and probate arguments contact me at Northwest Mediation on 0161 667 4418 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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