All Parliamentary Group to change the climate and culture of dispute resolution

Northern Dispute Resolution welcomes the establishment of an All Parliamentary Group with the Civil Mediation Council and others to ‘change the climate and culture of dispute resolution in the UK’.

A recent Ministry of Justice survey of 2.5% to 3% of all claims lodged at court last year reported that 82% were first time litigants who would have preferred to settle their dispute outside of court. However, the data shows that although applicants attended mediation and assessment meetings in 18% of cases, 41% per cent had not (with no information about the remaining 41% provided).

Given that mediation has been around for more than 20 years, the time in which NDR has been established, and a lot of effort has been made to encourage litigants and the legal profession to use mediation, it is a poor showing when around 70% of mediation cases are settled successfully.

The All Parliamentary Group are tasked with an ambitious programme of meetings designed to promote awareness of effective dispute resolution processes, which includes mediation and how they might be integrated more comprehensively into the system of dispute resolution in the UK to ensure it is meeting current and future needs. This includes seeking to influence government policy across all sectors and departments. It will work to ensure that the public is better informed about the value and effectiveness of mediation.

The need is to make available better information to potential litigants at an early stage about the choices available to them for resolving disputes without the need to proceed to trial. Over the last 20 years NDR has aimed to bridge the information gap between practitioners, potential litigants and their professionals. This is All Party Parliamentary Group will play a key role in influencing access to mediation for a greater number of potential litigants in a wide range of cases.

Mediation has been proven to reduce the time it takes to settle disputes between litigants. It has also significantly reduced the costs that litigants face when having the case determined at court and these costs have recently been substantially increased by court fees going up, for example the court fee alone for a £200,000 claim has increased from £1,550 to £10,000. This puts the cost of making a claim out of reach for many small businesses and creates a ‘David and Goliath’ type of circumstance when dealing with larger corporations.

When done well mediation also results in the reinforcement of relationships which are at significant risk of breaking down when litigating.

Finally, mediation reduces the stress of preparing for and attending court, allowing the litigants to get on with the rest of their lives once the case has been successfully settled.

Professional advisors, such as solicitors and in the case of my profession, chartered surveyors who advise clients on claims and litigation should heed well the benefit of mediation. The economic recession has created a recipe for claims. Clients who litigate wish to end the dispute quickly, efficiently and on a value for money basis. By not using mediation or even not recommending mediation brings into question whether the client has been adequately advised. Having a satisfied client who has saved costs in litigation and achieved a settlement that they have agreed to is far more rewarding than having a decision imposed on them by the court at a greater cost. After all even solicitors and surveyors need repeat business and benefit from clients who both hold them in esteem and are prepared to recommend their successful representation to others.

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