Mediation is the intervention of a third party to a dispute. It has been at the epicentre of many different legal systems, such as those of the ancient Greeks, Romans, Confucians and Buddhists.
In the United Kingdom, mediation has risen to prominence more recently as a result of our more adversarial and litigious legal framework. It is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) which generally seeks to find a mechanism for the resolution of disputes without court adjudication.
A reliable definition of mediation can be found within the ADR Handbook as involving ‘the use of a neutral third party who seeks to facilitate what is essentially a negotiation process to resolve a dispute’.
It is important to emphasise that the mediation process that relies upon the consent of all parties. If any party refuse to take part, then mediation cannot work.
Practical Advantages of Mediation
Mediation is generally considered to be quicker and more cost efficient than litigation. The slow and overloaded UK court system means that those wanting to bring a claim to court may wait months, or even years, to resolve their dispute. If both parties are open to trying mediation as a form of ADR, parties can potentially resolve the problem in a matter of weeks. Add to this the avoidance of expensive court fees, as well as solicitor and barrister fees, and mediation becomes an attractive alternative.
Interpersonal Advantages of Mediation
It is also important to stress the interpersonal advantages of mediation, particularly the potential to heal or preserve on-going relationships, where future communication could be needed between disputants. If a dispute reaches court adjudication, there will be a winner and a loser. However in reality, if the underlying relationship is the root cause of the problem, both parties will lose. Court proceedings are not conciliatory and will not help where parties are required to communicate in the future.
The input and involvement of all parties involved in the dispute, can lead to a positive outcome for all. Something that cannot be achieved through court proceedings, where unfavourable decisions impacting both parties may be delivered. By allowing the parties to choose their own mediation process, it provides the opportunity to recognise mutual interests and avoid the risk of an unhelpful court judgement.
Additionally, mediation offers the aggrieved party the opportunity to receive an apology. Something said to be impossible to get from ‘the mouth of a judge’.