We often see clients here at the general legal advice clinic who are at the beginning of their legal journey, and are considering how best to progress their matter. One of the most common pieces of advice that we give is to try mediation, but what is it?
Mediation is a voluntary process that parties with a dispute can use to resolve their issues, without the need to go to court. A mediator is an independent and neutral individual whose aim is to help the parties reach a mutually agreeable solution to a dispute. Mediators are well equipped to deal with disputes because they avoid: taking sides; making judgement or giving guidance. The role of a mediator is to ensure that both parties communicate in a fluid and non-hostile manner.
While the costs of mediation can vary and legal aid may be available, the biggest benefit of mediation is how much cheaper it is than court. According to National Audit Office statistics, in 2012 the average cost per client for mediation was £675 compared to £2,823 for cases going to court. This is quite a difference! The affordability of mediation alone makes it well worth consideration if you are in dispute with someone.
Not only can mediation save you money, but it may also save you a lot of time. According to the National Audit Office, mediated cases take on average 110 days to resolve, while non-mediated cases take on average 435 days to resolve.
When can mediation be used?
Mediation can be used in a variety of situations. These include where disputes relate to family matters, contractual matters, housing matters and employment matters, among others.
How will it work?
The specific process of the mediation may vary depending on who is your mediator, and the nature of the dispute, however, in general; first, there will be an introduction, with the mediator giving an overview of the process. Each party will then have the opportunity to put forward their issue. The mediator will then gather further information, including asking for more facts, and identifying any common areas between the parties. Negotiation will then take place with the aim of coming to an agreement and/or compromise on the issue.
Where to go for mediation services
Many councils offer mediation services, and it is worth contacting them in the first instance. If you are currently involved in a small claim in the county court, cases are often seen for a mediation appointment with a District Judge prior to a final hearing. Alternatively a number of organisations specialise in providing mediation services. These include;
What happens after mediation?
After mediation, it may be that a dispute has been successfully resolved. However if mediation has been unsuccessful, you may wish consider other options such as arbitration or court. If this is the route you decide to proceed with the dispute will be resolved with a legally enforceable decision.