Mediation has a great deal to recommend it.
Byline: STEVE ALLEN
ACCORDING to a recent survey by the Ministry of Justice, the majority of civil claimants (68 per cent) would prefer not to have to go to court to resolve a dispute.
This is despite the fact that 78 per cent of the total respondents were allegedly confident of a win.
However, while court is largely regarded as a last resort, the survey claims that 43 per cent discount formal mediation as an option.
As a commercial litigator, I find this statistic surprising.
Increasingly, I find that clients are keen to avoid the inevitably drawn out and costly court process and open to considering alternative dispute resolution.
Mediation is one of the methods that can be a very effective way to settle differences.
Even if you don't reach a conclusion on the day, differences can be narrowed, increasing the likelihood of a satisfactory outcome.
It may even help to preserve a relationship.
The mediation process is also conducted behind closed doors, rather than in the public glare of the courts.
A confidential settlement can be appealing to commercial partners in particular.
Courts now take a dim view of those eschewing mediation.
Indeed, they have the power to sanction uncooperative parties on costs if they have refused alternative dispute resolution without a valid reason.
Of course, not all disputes settle at mediation stage and it's not always appropriate.
But if nothing else, the process gives you a greater understanding of an opponent's position. Facing an adversary in the intimacy of a meeting room is infinitely better for understanding their position than reading their statement of case.
As Winston Churchill said, jaw-jaw is better than war-war.
Steve Allen is head of the Birmingham office at law firm Mills & Reeve
Increasingly, I find that clients are keen to avoid the inevitably drawn out and costly court process