Hands up everyone who knows what mediation is and what it can achieve. Oh, come on, it can’t be that difficult! But mediators (who tend to talk of little else) are often surprised how little is known about mediation – not only among the general public, but also within the professions from which most mediators are drawn.
When I was a partner in a firm of solicitors I was always surprised when a colleague, knowing that I had trained as a mediator, would kindly enquire ‘How’s the arbitration going, Hugh’? And I would reply ‘Mediation, actually’. ‘Same thing, isn’t it?’ my colleague would respond; and I would then embark on an explanation of the differences between those two forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution, emphasising how a mediator can help those involved in a dispute negotiate a settlement themselves, rather than having a solution imposed on them by an arbitrator or judge. And that’s just the start of the differences.
In some respects, it’s not surprising that people know little about mediation. After all it’s confidential – that’s one of the main points. There are no photographs of mediating parties entering or leaving the mediation venue; no grandstanding by the ‘successful’ party on the steps of a court in front of the cameras speaking of vindication after years of struggle or legal advisers, with one eye on the ensuing publicity, reading out a prepared statement, while the loser slinks away muttering about how they will be vindicated on appeal.
So last year the UK adopted from Ireland, where it all started, the concept of Mediation Awareness Week, which this year runs from Saturday 14 October to Friday 20 October 2017. http://www.mediationawarenessweek.uk/. Similar events are taking place in Australia, India, Ireland, USA and Vietnam (Asia Pacific Mediation Forum).
The objective of the week, as might be expected, is to:
• explain how mediation is used to resolve disputes and conflict of all kinds;
• demonstrate how mediation provides a quicker, cheaper and more effective alternative to litigation; and
• show how use of mediation benefits businesses, communities and individuals.
What’s happening in Mediation Awareness Week?
• There are events at venues in Chichester, Beckenham, London, Solihull, Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow;
• covering a wide range of disputes including Art, Artefacts, Brexit, Construction, Consumer, Contracts, Education, Employment, Faith and culture, Forgery, Fraud, Intra-family, Harassment, Intellectual property, Inter-generational, Management dysfunction, Medical, Neighbourhood, Politics, Professional negligence, Property, Separation and divorce, Tort, Vulnerable people and Working relationships;
• in the following mediation sectors: Civil and commercial, Workplace, Family, On-line, Community and Restorative Justice.
In other words, there something for everyone who is interested in resolving disputes in this way. And mediation really does work.
So what is mediation and how does it work? For one explanation, try looking at these pages of my website:
Mediation can be used to resolve all sorts of disagreements, not only legal disputes that are heading towards court. It was used by the Church of England to help resolve the issue of women bishops. The Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont has suggested mediation on the issue of the region’s independence from Spain; and what appears to be the current impasse on the Brexit negotiations seems eminently suitable for mediation.
The hope of the organisers of Mediation Awareness Week is that, by the end of the week, there will be a better understanding of how mediation can help resolve difficult situations. Most people and businesses will at some point find themselves in a situation in which mediation can help. It’s worth spending a few minutes finding out how and Mediation Awareness Week provides a good opportunity.