08 May Mediation: “We only need half a day”
There are many disputes which are suitable for time-limited, or half-day, mediations. These include simple or single-issue disputes and disputes of low value where a time-limited mediation is appropriate on grounds of proportionality alone.
However, I am often asked in more complicated disputes whether a half-day mediation is appropriate, or commonly the solicitors acting for the parties have agreed between themselves that a half-day mediation is appropriate.
It is possible for more complex disputes to be dealt with at a half-day mediation. However, it does require significant commitment from the parties, and their advisors, which often exists in advance of the mediation but, sadly, dissipates once the mediation has started.
Accordingly, if you believe your dispute is suitable for a time-limited mediation you will need to consider the following:-
- A time-limited mediation gives no time for posturing and the making of “low ball” offers which have no realistic prospect of being accepted.
- Prior to the mediation, each party needs to have a very clear picture of how they are going to negotiate and will need to have properly considered and prepared an opening offer.
- The opening joint meeting, if there is to be one, needs to be focused carefully on the issues between the parties and to carefully set the scene for the offer which will follow.
- A time-limited mediation should not be used as an extended “conference with counsel” to advise the client on the merits of their claim. The assessment of merits and realistic settlements must have been carefully prepared in advance.
- Much time at mediation is often wasted in the drafting of the agreement. Make sure you have a draft settlement agreement with you which can easily be amended to record the final settlement.
Unfortunately, many mediations of complex disputes which have been scheduled for a half-day mediation overrun. The principal reason for this is that the parties have not prepared their first offer properly in advance of the mediation. Time-limited mediation does not mean limited time preparation. Preparation remains the key however long the mediation is scheduled to last.