The 2015 edition of the Civil Mediation Council Annual Conference was headlined by the day’s topic of “Mediation: Meeting Participants’ Expectations?” Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury started the day by reminding everyone that in spite of mediation’s relatively recent rising in popularity, this method of dispute resolution has, in fact, been around since the Middle Ages, and was so popular at the time that days in which disputes were solved were called “love days”. During his keynote speech, the Lord Neuberger presented a more critical view of mediation: there are perhaps several aspects which prevent mediation from taking place of litigation, including the right to go to court to defend a civil wrong and the continuing development of law practice (such as cases that set precedents), in addition to the right of a client to want their day in court. However, rather than suggesting that these reason would justify the demise of mediation, he suggested that these might be elements to keep in mind as the development of mediation as a practice continues, in order to cater to the specific needs of the client. He continued to say that the vast majority of mediations prove successful, and that the future of mediation perhaps lies not in contrast to litigation, but alongside it as its complement.

The rest of the day’s sessions featured speakers from a large number of experts in mediation in sessions such as “Talking to the Sceptics” (led by Heather Allen), a mediator session called “Who’s Running the Show?”, and a mediation-user discussion “Mediation Meeting Participants’ Expectations?” (moderated by Alex Oddy of Herbert Smith Freehills and including panellists Colin Masson of Beazley and Katie Bradford of Linklaters). Whereas many events catering to mediation examine the perspective of the practitioner, dealing about how to better facilitate disputes, the CMC’s talks presented the nuanced viewpoint of those directly involved in the dispute: the clients. A number of suggestions were made throughout the day, such as keeping clients informed about the entire process continuing the use of contract clauses to make sure that mediation continues to progress. Other talks dealt with mediating in niche contexts, such as in the workplace and online.

As the day came to a close, the overwhelming sentiment was that by developing as a joint effort between practitioners and clients, the art of mediation can continue to develop its ever-important role in the fields of law and justice.

Along with any other professional field, and perhaps even to a higher degree, mediators are expected to keep the desires of their clients in mind, whilst working toward the professional goal of resolving the dispute at hand. At first this seems redundant – surely anyone who hires a mediator wants to solve a dispute, right? But visible to the client are a myriad of subjective factors that prevent them from taking on the objective perspective of the mediator – and thus make it more difficult to come to a resolution.

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By Leah Oppenheimer