Tag Archives: Civil Mediation Council

How things end is even more important than how they began

We all remember significant moments in our lives. The moment we first met our future partner, or made a commitment to them. The moment we held our new-born child in our arms for the first time, left them at nursery or school the first time, or took them to university and waved goodbye. We remember making friends, seeing special places, films, music. We flash back to when we read our first long book, to an insight we had into something profound. A cherry tree in full blossom, a rose, our first champagne, a wedding, a funeral, Christmases or other festivals.   The list is long.

We must add to it those things which were endings. Things done for the last time. The final good bye to someone we love who died, or the sudden failure to re-appear, when they died without warning, with no leave-taking. Leaving places, especially homes, schools, places we have been happy or sad or both. Moving on, departures from people we were close to, shared time with, perhaps flats or homes. Then there is the ending of relationships as couples. The ones that we thought were forever, that fail or turn sour. The divorces, partnerships, especially those where we had children, as in a material sense those relationships never end. The children are always there to link you.

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Those un-couplings are so important and need even more careful management than the weddings that started them. There may be a powerful instinct to fight, a fear of losing out that motivates conflict over resources. The usual ritual is to appoint a lawyer each to try and get you the biggest share, in case you lose out. That adversarial process often damages what is left of the relationship, destroying direct communication and preventing the establishment of new friendly non couple boundaries with that person you are detaching from, but with whom you have spent a significant part of your life.

Often the costs of the legal ritual can cost more than the value of what you are arguing about if it is finances. When you look back, you will remember all this. How it ended. The sweet and the sour. It doesn’t have to be a bitter contest. Mediation helps couples detach kindly, to create the new understandings and boundaries they need as separated parents. If you are splitting up, you will remember always what it was like, who did and said what to whom, how it was done. Don’t make the mistake of fighting. Mediate a good end, something you can remember that you did as well as was possible, with kindness and dignity.

Today’s Challenge: Describe the Benefits of Mediation and What it Does in Two Sentences?

On 22nd May about 150 mediators, judges of various flavours, policy makers and politicians, assembled at The Met in Leeds for the annual Civil Mediation Council (CMC) conference. (We will get to the challenge in a minute). The glitterati of the mediation profession were there, along with those members of the judiciary sympathetic to mediation as a means to resolve disputes. The message from On High was clear, the courts need more cases to settle and avoid trial, as the present demand for adjudication cannot be met, there are not enough courts or judges and there’s certainly not enough money.

Mediation is the most probable alternative to court. It saves time, money and stress, so why don’t people try to mediate before issuing court proceedings? There were many theories, but the most persuasive was that many people want to go to court because they believe the judge will agree with them, they will be vindicated, the ‘other side’ will lose, suffer and be humiliated. They will get what they want. Of course, they probably won’t get what they want, both sides feel the same and can’t both be right.  Also, the costs frequently exceed the value of the dispute by a considerable margin, so it ends up as a poor investment.  Though it’s questionable if applying to court can ever be regarded as an investment; an expensive gamble might be a more accurate description.

Most people wish they’d never started court proceedings long before they end, when everyone is just desperate for it to be over. By then if not before, mediation is usually the best way out and of course, we all know that very few cases go to full trial, so the revenge/ vindication sought is a satisfaction rarely achieved.

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We heard from Lord Faulks the government is committed to mediation and wishes to extend its use in the resolution of disputes.  Lord Justice Briggs said the same thing. Then we established that the Jackson reforms last year have not, in fact, increased the take up of mediation as much as expected, despite government policy and reform and the unarguable fact that many cases at court are simply in the wrong forum for sorting them out. People need help with resolution not help with fighting, however angry they feel – it is counter-intuitive. There were workshops examining online mediation, compulsory mediation, mediation in schools, mediation in the political process and ACAS. The constellation of experts assembled was inspiring.

Joshua Rosenberg (BBC legal commentator and expert) helpfully described what mediators should do to increase public awareness of mediation. He had done the training, saw what it could achieve and was all for it – but people don’t know what it can do for them or how it works. He thinks we need a two sentence description of the benefits of mediation and what it can do. Then people may better understand and try mediation, instead of litigating first and regretting it later. So – the challenge is to find two sentences describing mediation in such a way that ordinary people will know what it means. There follow some examples:-

  • Mediation reaches the parts of the dispute that court doesn’t and gives people more choices about their way forward that the Law. Mediation is fast, affordable and starts where you are to sort out disputes in ways acceptable to both of you, so you can move on
  • If you are in dispute resist the temptation to invest your time and money arguing why you are right and fighting, as in the end most people do a deal and the sooner the better.  By mediating first you can save the most time, money and stress. So start by seeing what you can agree in mediation rather than start with an expensive legal ritual that drives you poles apart.
  • When in dispute, think carefully about what you want to achieve. Grind your opponent into the ground? Hurt them like they hurt you? Or sort it out and move on with your life? Mediation lets you end it swiftly and cost effectively. The price of justice is an uncertain outcome at vast expense and with huge delays, the benefits of mediation are fast, affordable certainty and it’s over.  No brainer.

The problem is, these definitions come from a mediator – we thought it would be better if a non mediator writes  the 2 sentences. So, here’s the challenge – £100 voucher for the shop of your choice to the person who comes up with the best two sentence description of mediation. Closing date – 31st August 2014.

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