As a trainee solicitor I have heard the word ‘mediation’ thrown around throughout my studies so opted to study ADR as a module at degree level. Until becoming a trainee in my firm’s Civil Litigation Department I had never experienced being part of a ‘real life’ mediation.
During the course of my studies it was drummed into us that failing to mediate with no reasonable explanation can adversely affect your client’s costs position. We all know the importance of mediation but do we really appreciate the benefits? If we are not fully convinced ourselves, how do we educate and persuade our clients?
I am quite happy to put my hand up to say I was a non-believer. The first case I came across that was going to mediation I thought “what a waste of everyone's time” and not only that, a waste of the client’s money having to pay out for the mediation and our time of attending with them. I could clearly see from the file that the main point in dispute was a legal matter which required a Judge to say who was right and who was wrong. The client also felt this way and couldn’t see how any agreement would be able to be made at mediation unless the other party admitted they were at fault.
We started the mediation with a site visit which the mediator attended and discussed both parties’ concerns separately before heading back to the office where both parties were in separate rooms. I was still adamant that this was a pointless exercise, however there began to be some movement when both parties put forward some potential resolutions that would be acceptable to them. Some hours later our client had signed a settlement agreement and was going home happy that the matter had at last been brought to a conclusion, no longer having to worry about an ongoing legal battle and with an agreement that a court would not have been able to order.
Whilst lawyers and clients alike all enjoy a day in court a successful mediation is just, if not more, satisfying. This is especially true for our clients who are able to get deals that would not have been possible in court not to mention saving on costs and the stress that goes with it. Now I have been converted into a believer I will always encourage mediation, even if the case looks initially like it could not possibly settle at mediation – because who knows what will happen!
By Sarah Randall, Trainee Solicitor