Mediation Frequently Asked Questions

In this section you’ll get answers to the questions Chris is usually asked regarding his mediation services. Of course, it is a difficult time for all parties involved, so the aim is to be as transparent as possible.

What Is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (“ADR”). It is a way to resolve disputes by alternative means; that is, an alternative to going to court. Other means include:

  • Negotiation (which you or your solicitor may already have tried).
  • Early Neutral Evaluation (where an expert such as Chris listens to the arguments, and says what his decision would be if he had been asked to make one; the parties then agree to accept that decision, or follow some other form of ADR such as mediation, or have their case heard at court.

The common feature is the non­binding nature of these processes. The parties are in control throughout and can abort the process at any time. They contrast with processes where the parties surrender decision-making to a third party, and then do their best to persuade that party of the merits of their case. Such processes include arbitration, expert determination and, of course, “going to court”.

Mediation is by far the most popular form of ADR. One should think of it as facilitated negotiation since the mediator is a neutral third party whose sole function is to assist the parties to find common ground and reach a solution they can live with. The mediator has no powers, does not make any judgments, does not give advice, but gently explores the nature of the dispute, and gradually draws the parties together to reach an agreement, which is binding on them only if they agree that it is binding.

And if the process fails, everything said at the mediation was in confidence and without prejudice. The mediator will never play a part in any ongoing process, and the parties can go to court and have a trial if that is the only way of resolving their dispute.

How Successful Is Mediation? How Often Does Mediation Result In A Settlement?

The success rate is surprisingly high, even taking into account judicial pressure on unwilling parties, and those who mediate with no intention of settling; it still runs at 65% to 75%.

Chris’s settlement rate to date is about 80%.

Is It Worth Going To Mediation

Business mediation can be very worthwhile. It’s often faster and cheaper than litigation, and can preserve relationships. But it’s not for every situation. Consider the severity of the dispute and if both parties are willing to compromise.

How Does Mediation Work?

The mediator explains the mediation process to everyone, and then each party or their solicitor explains the dispute, uninterrupted, from their point of view. Each side then goes into separate rooms, and the mediator moves from one to the other, learning in confidence the parties’ true feelings about the dispute, what aspects they may be prepared to compromise, and so on.

The mediator shares such thoughts with the other side only with express permission, and only at a time when any such information would be most helpful to a settlement. The mediator may suggest imaginative solutions.

When an agreement is reached, a joint meeting is held to ratify it. All parties concerned then sign the agreement. It may take the form of a Tomlin order, Settlement Agreement, or some other legally binding document.

If any party reneges on the agreement, the signed agreement is a document on which legal action may be pursued. If litigation is underway, one party (usually the claimant’s solicitor) informs the court that an agreement has been reached and that a trial is no longer needed. Everyone can then get on with their lives; there are no other formalities.

What To Expect From A Mediation Meeting?

Expect a business mediation to be confidential, with separate meetings for each party followed by joint discussions. The mediator guides you towards understanding each other’s concerns and finding a mutually agreeable solution. You can find out more information about the process of mediation here.

Do I Need A Solicitor Before Mediation?

No, you don’t necessarily need a solicitor before business mediation.  However, it can be helpful to get legal advice at some point during the process, especially when reviewing any settlement agreements.

How Do I Choose A Good Mediator?

Choose a mediator with experience in your dispute type (e.g. business) and a neutral approach. Ask about their qualifications, experience, and >fees. Do they have a high settlement rate?

So What Is The Fundamental Strength Of Mediation?

The parties are in charge throughout. The mediator has no powers, other than those given to him by the parties. Everything is in confidence and without prejudice, and no legal rights are affected in any way. If the process fails, the parties can still go to court, and nothing said at the mediation can be referred to.

Because the parties are in charge, they can abort the process at any time; but with the high success rate, and the disadvantages of the alternatives, they may be foolish to do so!

What Else Is Different About Mediation?

With a trial, arbitration or an expert determination, the parties must surrender to someone else both the way in which the dispute is considered and the eventual decision. And with rare exceptions, the only outcome is a monetary one: X must pay £Y to Z (and usually their costs as well). So there is inevitably a winner and a loser.

With mediation, the decision can be anything the parties agree: a payment; an apology; a promise to do something differently in future – anything the parties agree. And if the parties don’t agree, then the mediation fails.

Parties will agree to something only if they can live with it, which is why mediation is often called a win-win process; an agreement is reached when both parties feel they are better off than if they continue the fight.

How Much Does Mediation Cost?

It depends, but with Chris the answer can easily be found. Look at the page on Fees & Facilities. The parties pay the mediator’s fees equally.

In addition, there may be the cost of meeting rooms, and of course, professional advisers to each party will charge their own fees. They may be recovered in part from other parties as part of the agreement, but that is rare; why should one party pay the costs of another, when a win: win agreement has been reached?

Who Pays For Mediation?

Initially, both sides pay equally. It may be part of the mediated agreement that one party will pay the other side’s costs including the mediation fee, but that is something to be agreed upon during the process.

Can I Take Someone With Me To The Mediation?

Yes, you can take your legal advisers, a friend, or someone connected with the dispute – say, a key employee. You may also find it helpful to be able to “phone a friend”; it all depends on the nature of the dispute, and what help you think you might need on the day.

Bear in mind, though, that this is not a court of law. Long speeches from legal advisers are seldom helpful, and it is not normally necessary to bring experts. Mediations work best when all concerned can get to the facts and contentions as speedily as possible, and then make progress with reaching an acceptable solution.

It is essential that the decision maker attends, or at least is contactable – an insurance claims manager, for example. The mediator will ask you to declare at the outset that you have authority to settle the case, so any variation to unlimited authority must be settled beforehand.

When Should I Try Mediation?

Do it as early as possible before legal costs and expenses are incurred; just as soon as both sides know what the dispute is about and where the other party is coming from.

It is a sign of maturity, not of weakness, to invite the other party to mediate.  And if they refuse, they could well face cost penalties.

Is It Too Late To Mediate If The Claim Has Gone To Court?

Certainly not!  It is never too late to mediate; it can even occur during a trial. The court will recommend it anyway, and for claims below £10,000, you may access the free court mediation service. But this is limited to one-hour telephone mediation.

How Long Does Mediation Take?

Mediation can be arranged promptly; usually within two or three weeks, depending on the parties’ other commitments, but sometimes within hours.

The mediation itself seldom takes more than a day, and it is said that if mediation is booked for three days, the serious talking starts only on the last afternoon.

All of Chris’s mediations so far – but one – have settled in a day (although they can go into the evening, and the latest settled at 5 minutes to midnight!). You are strongly advised not to have any evening commitments on the day, since if progress is being made, it could be unwise to adjourn.

What If the Other Party Refuses To Mediate?

The process is consensual, so both parties must agree to meet. Chris would be willing to explain the process (though never the rights and wrongs of the dispute) to the other side and attempt to persuade them to mediate; but if they still refuse, the mediation cannot take place.

Are Mediators Specialists?

They are, but only as mediators. Mediation training is lengthy and arduous, but it consists almost entirely of learning to listen and empathize with the parties’ problems.

A legal mind is seldom essential and, although many advisers think that a lawyer is required for a dispute with complex legal arguments, they often mislead themselves, since mediation is about seeking a solution, not about winning legal arguments.

If the parties can live with the solution they reach, that must be the right solution, whatever a judge or eminent counsel might think.

Chris has often been asked to mediate a dispute because he is a Chartered Accountant and it concerns money; but it is surprising how often the parties just need someone to talk to without being judgemental, someone who just understands their situation.

Is Mediation Suitable For All Subjects Of Dispute?

Almost. Disputes between parties even of unequal bargaining power can be better suited to mediation than litigation. Everyday contract cases, financial disputes, personal injury and negligence, clinical negligence disputes, professional negligence, pensions, construction, shipping… and so on. Invalid reasons for refusing to mediate include that a party believes they have a watertight case, or that a full and detailed refutation of the other party’s case has already been supplied. Invalid reasons do not include the fact that heavy costs have already been incurred; in fact, it is surprising how often the parties have already incurred heavy costs before the mediation started, and mediation often provides a welcome solution in avoidance of further heavy costs.


Can A Mediator Give Advice?

No, a mediator typically won’t give advice. Their role is to facilitate communication and help you reach your own agreement.

They will listen to both sides, provide practical steps and facilitate an atmosphere where the disputing parties can make progress towards an agreement that both sides are happy with.

And although a mediator won’t typically provide legal advice, they may provide the parties with information on common legal practices, or basic- general legal principles.

What Is the Best Time To Mediate A Dispute?

It depends. Consider this:

“The trick in many cases is to identify the happy medium: the point when the detail of the claim and the response is known to both sides, but before the costs that have been incurred in reaching that stage are so great that a settlement is no longer possible.”
Nigel Witham Ltd –v­ Smith & Isaacs [2008] EWHC 12 (TCC)

So, the earlier the better, as soon as the issues are known.

Mediation is an informal, low-cost way of resolving disputes. It works best before substantial legal costs have been incurred, and before the parties’ attitudes have hardened, and there is no bar to mediating before proceedings have been issued.

Indeed, the Pre­Action Protocols urge the parties to do precisely that. But it is foolish to mediate too early before the parties’ positions have been clarified.

So in practice, lawyers and their clients must keep mediation in mind throughout the litigation process, and should seriously consider it as soon as the issues become clear.

With Pre­Action Protocols, that is usually when the Letter before the Claim is issued and the Letter of Response is returned.

Having said that, mediation can be arranged at any time, even immediately before trial or in an adjournment during a trial. And in that situation, the trial judge is likely to be pleased when he is told that the parties have reached a settlement, and that the trial may be terminated.

Do You Zoom?

It is not necessary for all concerned to meet physically. Various virtual programs are available (Zoom, Teams, Google Meet) but Zoom is preferred because of the ease by which parties, advisers and others involved can be put into breakout rooms. In one such mediation, Chris managed with 16 participants all in different locations – the parties, a barrister, solicitors, experts, and other advisers – and none of them ever met!

What If An Agreement Is Reached And Subsequently Broken?

A concluded mediation should result in a Tomlin Order drawn up by the parties’ legal advisors if they have them, to be submitted to the Court to advise that a trial is no longer needed.   If legal proceedings have not started, a Settlement Agreement can be concluded.  Either may be enforced as a contract.

What If No Agreement Is Reached?

The parties can have another attempt at mediation on another day if they wish. Alternatively, they may resort to their lawyers and ultimately the Court, or walk away from the dispute.  But with a failed mediation, the parties emerge with their legal rights and obligations intact; nothing discussed on the day may be repeated in court.

Do Both People Need To Agree To Mediation?

Yes, both parties must agree to mediation. It’s a voluntary process where everyone needs to be willing to work towards a solution.

If I Refuse To Mediate Will It Go Against Me In Court?

Should your case go to court, which is the natural route if mediation fails, then when costs come to be considered by the costs judge, you will be asked to explain why you declined mediation. Unless you have a very good reason you are likely to be called upon to pay the legal costs of BOTH parties, whether you won or lost your case.

There is a checklist of acceptable excuses in Halsey -v- Milton Keynes General NHS Trust [2004] EWCA Civ 576, but it’s very short.

If There Is No Agreement, Can Any Of The Information Disclosed Be Used Against Me In Court?

No, because the mediation process is conducted on a “without prejudice” basis, so anything said remains private between the parties and the mediator and cannot be used in any other forum, including the Court (save in exceptional circumstances defined by case law – and they are very narrow).

Still have a question? Ask Chris.

Any Further Questions About Mediation?

Chris would be pleased to reply to any further questions by email

Contact Chris