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A ‘one size fits all’ approach is impossible in mediation. Some parties turn up with a barrister and solicitor, others are unrepresented. It is down to the mediator to create an environment in which both can have their say, and both have an equal chance to work with the mediator successfully. Treat the mediator as you would a best friend – you open up, but expect to be challenged. A good mediator will help you to test your assumptions, check out what’s good for you and where a compromise with the other side might lie. The mediator may float ideas, but you decide what works for you. If you feel the mediation is not working, you have the option of leaving.
Many mediations take place in an office environment with a round table opening session, followed by individual meetings between each of the parties and the mediator. Private meetings allow parties to express their feelings and frustrations to the mediator – ‘I don’t want this repeated but …’, before moving to the next stage where options for settlement are considered. In due course, concessions may begin to trickle out as barriers to settlement are breached. To help the process, the mediator may set a timetable – ‘I will have a separate chat with each of the parties for around 20 minutes and let’s aim to have your initial settlement proposals by 1 pm to give us something to work with in the afternoon …’
Mediation can seem like a game of snakes and ladders or tackling a rock face for the first time. Each mediation is a new ‘climb’. The mediator must create the path to the top, where resolution lies in wait. So, the mediator may sometimes take the wrong route, pause, need to go backwards, or even start again.
Boundary and rights of way disputes are often better dealt with on site, where the parties can point things out to the mediator and the mediator may better understand what caused the dispute.
When on site it is important to ensure that the parties can provide suitable accommodation for their meeting with the mediator. In one Midlands mediation, the limited attractions offered by a boarded up property propelled the parties and the mediator to an out of town shopping centre, where the mediation was successfully concluded at separate tables in a well known coffee chain.
Where there is a settlement, the parties are strongly encouraged to write down the terms of that settlement. It may be that the mediation only resolves some of the problems. Parties may decide they will try and pick off the remaining issues at a later date, with or without the mediator. If a Court case is being settled, then the settlement agreement must be prepared in a way acceptable to the Court.
Whatever the nature of the dispute, we’ll supply you with detailed guidance on how the process will work on the day, what to expect and how best to prepare.
For help and advice please contact Phil Alden on 03333 231 586 or email us.
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