Having worked in the law for a number of years, observing up close the effect that litigation in discrimination, equal pay, unfair dismissal, personal injury, contract claims and the rest has on people, even when their cases were ‘successful’, I grow daily more convinced that mediation is the future. Mediation works on a practical, and perhaps as importantly, a human level.

Hear me talking with Joshua Rozenberg about mediation on Law In Action, BBC Radio 4 (starting at 14 mins 50 secs)

Mediation is a process in which a neutral third party facilitates a conversation between parties in dispute, either at a joint meeting or by meeting privately with the individuals, to help them to find a mutually acceptable resolution.

Mediation is:

Confidential

All parties agree to this strict code.  The meetings themselves are confidential and any terms agreed are confidential unless the parties agree otherwise;

Without prejudice

which means the discussions can’t be referred to in any subsequent proceedings;

Voluntary

you can’t be forced into mediation, you can’t be forced to say anything during the mediation, and you can leave the process at any time;

Non-judgemental

the mediator will not adjudicate the case, not decide who’s right or wrong, nor advise on legal merits;

Non-blaming

mediation isn’t interested in why people did this or that; instead it is interested in what the affect of these actions was on the parties themselves and on others;

Non-advisory

if you want to know who has the better story, ask someone on your own side – they’ll tell you what you want to hear. The mediator remains impartial;

Future-focused

the back story is important, but ultimately mediation is less concerned with what happened than what is going to happen next;

Flexible

the parties can mutually agree any outcome, fitting the solution much more closely to their needs and interests than the limited and inflexible options open to a judge or arbitrator;

Non-binding until the point of settlement

don’t be afraid to make suggestions, nothing sticks until you come to the end. A civil and commercial mediation usually results in a binding agreement. Most workplace mediations result in a non-binding statement of intention, though there is no  reason terms cannot be made binding, if the parties choose;

Win-win

or, as I prefer to term it, what you can live with/what you can live with. If one party wins everything, it usually follows that the other party gets less of what they want. No one agrees to anything in a mediation, except voluntarily.