Well, that's settled!
The alternative dispute resolution method of mediation is becoming increasingly prevalent in pre-court proceedings. So much so, that advocates are pushing for the word “alternative” to be cropped from the phrase! Throw into the mix an agreed EU directive and mediation is likely to become less of a process du jour and more a permanent fixture of the legal system in settling conflict.
Therefore, last month I felt extremely lucky to gain some invaluable experience in mediation after being chosen to represent QUB’s Institute of Professional Legal Studies (IPLS), alongside my fellow trainees Nicholas Nolan and Suzanne Keenan, in the United Kingdom Mediation Competition. The event was hosted by John Moore’s University, Liverpool and took place in Jury’s Hotel in Liverpool’s Albert Dock area. We were participating against a number of law schools from around the UK including College of Law, London, University of Manchester and Reading University for the prestigious prize of top UK student mediators.
This was the first time a team from the IPLS had entered the competition, so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Each individual competitor was required to participate in three mediation sessions, the first two of which involved co-mediating with a team mate. The third required us to indulge in a little theatrics, by posing as a client in another session with one of the other competing teams. Nick in particular took to this with some gusto; he was told afterwards that he could have won an Oscar for his performance!
In the week preceding the competition we received some intensive training from Anne Fenton and David Gaston, and some advice from US mediation guru Case Ellis. We made our way over to Liverpool on the red-eye flight, and shortly after arriving at the venue Suzanne and I were thrown into our first mediation session. Afterwards we received feedback from the judges and quickly became aware that mediation is rather a subjective science. Differences in approaches to issues such as pushing for a settlement and even room layout were rife amongst the judges.
On our second day we had two further sessions. We were starting to feel like we were getting the hang of this mediation lark, and we received some very positive comments from the judges in the final rounds. However, at the award ceremony we were all very surprised and delighted to hear our name called as runners up, having come “a very close second” to the winning team, the College of Law, London. We were especially delighted to hear Nick Nolan named as top Client Mediator.
Overall, we were very proud of our achievements in this, the IPLS’s first entry in the competition. As we placed so highly, we have been invited to participate in the international round of the competition, where we will be competing against teams from the USA, Canada and India.
Last year this prestigious competition was held in Chicago, and this year its glamorous international setting is… London. Oh well, at least we won’t have to contend with the jet lag impairing our mediation skills. To quote mediator extraordinaire Case Ellis, “Aren’t we the optimists”?
Simon Kelly, IPLS Solicitor Trainee