The mediator is neutral, his skill is in helping parties to reach their own agreement
Mediation is a method of alternative dispute resolution. It allows the parties involved to have greater control and is fully supported by the courts. This allows you to resolve the dispute faster and save massively on legal costs. Importantly, the issues can be resolved in a confidential manner instead of in an open court.
When a mediator is appointed, he is not called upon to make a final decision. A mediator is a neutral person who is brought in from outside to help the parties to reach their own agreement. The process allows for each party (there may be two or more) to have their say and put forward their point of view. The mediator will usually see each of the parties independently for confidential discussions, as well as together in a joint meeting.
The final agreement could be based on a review of the legal situation, but also take into account a range of other matters. It might depend on commercial or personal considerations and may extend far beyond the subject of the original dispute. The important thing is to reach an agreement which is broadly satisfactory to all sides. The mediator need not be a lawyer, but it is often helpful if he can bring a lawyer’s experience to bear on the dispute. He can even advise the parties as to what he thinks a judge would decide, if both parties agree to this in writing.
An enforceable written agreement
Mediation is a confidential process and will result in a written agreement which is enforceable by either party. In general, although you will have to pay some fees to the mediator, engaging in this process will result in a substantial cost saving when compared with proceeding with court action, where legal fees will grow as the months go by. Neither party needs to be represented by a solicitor or barrister, although this is often helpful, but even if they do have a representative present, there is likely to be a substantial saving as against an action in Court, or even an arbitration.
Mediation can take place anytime
Mediation can take place at any time, from the moment when a dispute arises. Even if you have already gone to Court, the judge is likely to be happy to adjourn proceedings so that you can try ADR, in particular mediation. Sometimes after a court decision there is an appeal. If so you can still resolve the outstanding conflict by means of mediation up to the date of the appeal hearing. Either way the parties should first try to settle their differences on their own.
It is when they have discovered that they cannot do so that mediation is most effective. Even when the parties are deeply entrenched in their positions, it is surprising how often mediation succeeds. Experience has shown that the introduction of a qualified neutral person can make all the difference.
The courts support and encourage mediation
Mediation can only take place when all sides agree on this course of action, although the courts strongly encourage mediation. If one side refuses to engage in mediation without good reason and the case goes to court, it could affect any claim he may have for the costs of the action.