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  • Writer's pictureEd Johnson

"What If..." in a mediation context

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.

Reality checking is something we talk a lot about in mediation (we may not use it as a phrase to clients but it happens...a lot). Another way of phrasing the reality check is "What if..." and putting positions or possibilities to clients to help them consider the alternatives to resolving their dispute in mediation.

And yes, it is an excuse to watch lots of Marvel Trailers when I'm supposed to be blogging.

Good old BBC Radio 4 this week had a discussion about the secret of happy marriages, in which the pre-marriage mediation was posited as one way to avoid problems later in the relationship.

Jeannie Suk Gersen (Harvard Law School) talked about the lessons that can be learnt from knowing the divorce process and law and the way mediation and court’s deal with divorce can inform parties before they get married.

The old argument that no one goes into a marriage on the basis of wanting a divorce (a pre-nuptial agreement is about as romantic as route canal work after all) comes up but Jeannie feels that realistic assessment of relationships should include the examination of (as Marvel Comics might put it) “What If”.

I’m not necessarily a believer that pre-marriage mediation is the way to go, being realistic about what marriage means (in Jeannie’s words the “sacrifices” you will make) is however not a bad place to start when contemplating a long term marriage, however I tend to think people who are prepared to think about the realistic impact on their life of sharing it (and possible future mini-iterations of themselves) with another are less likely to need future assistance. So don’t be offended if your future partner asks to attend pre-long term relationship mediation they may just be checking you’re realistically going to be able to put up with their “adorable” habits 10 years down the line!

Meanwhile in mediation after the dispute has occurred news, the Northern Michigan University faculty, the board of trustees and the administration have begun talks to resolve contract differences.

The staff and faculty had taken a pay it during the pandemic and as the beginning of the end of the lockdowns approached it was proposed that terms were restored to pre-pandemic levels, but as with many education establishments, going back to where they started pre-pandemic is not really what the staff wanted. They were underfunded before (they say) so what if restoring the status quo is not acceptable.

Lesley Putman chief negotiator for the NMU-AAUP said “We feel restoration of these items to pre-pandemic levels should have been the starting point for post-pandemic negotiations, not the ending point.”

Both sides are hopeful of fining a solution to the remaining areas of debate.

The thrust of the Civil Justice Council’s report on making ADR compulsory is good news, the Civil Mediation Council has now publicised its own comments on the report. My favourite comment from this article is the quote from Norris J in Bradley v Heslin which the authors say could apply to any dispute not just boundary disputes

‘I think it is no longer enough to leave the parties the opportunity to mediate and to warn of costs consequences if the opportunity is not taken. In boundary and neighbour disputes the opportunities are not being taken and the warnings are not being heeded, and those embroiled in them need saving from themselves.’

Although the conclusions regarding ensuring that ADR costs are kept low whilst suggesting more regulation and professional standardization conflict with each other, a professional mediator (like me at Northwest Mediation) has to undergo significant amounts of and ongoing training, insurance and related overheads to actually do the job.

ADR cannot be free at the point of delivery, legal aid even if it were available in civil cases would not be sufficient to establish and maintain a business model, so whilst we welcome the encouragement of parties into mediation we can only do so if fees are paid. It’s a while since I did the comparison of costs you’ll find on the various pages of the website but even if a day of mediation costs £1200 (£600 each) that’s less than 3 hour’s of a solicitors fee and in the vast majority of cases it gets you to a settlement. And as I say every week it’s not just the financial cost, it’s stress and time that you are no longer spending.

What if mediation becomes compulsory? Well we will be busier and our fees will stay vastly cheaper than court battles.

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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