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Mediation is a private and voluntary process for resolving disputes of all kinds. It's used to resolve commercial, family and workplace disputes and has a high success rate.
The confidential nature of mediation means that everything discussed in the mediation remains confidential including any agreement reached, and even the fact that the mediation took place.
If you've ever had a dispute or disagreement with someone and have been unable to resolve it directly then mediation is a process that can often help bring an end to the dispute quickly and cost efficiently.
A mediator is hired to conduct the mediation and manage the entire process. Usually both parties in the dispute agree on the choice of mediator.
The mediator is an independent and impartial third party who is professionally trained in conflict resolution, negotiation and other key skills.
With the assistance of a mediator, parties in the dispute will get the opportunity to discuss with each other their concerns and the matters in dispute in a constructive and often productive way.
The aim of mediation is reaching an agreement or settlement through an assisted negotiation.
Unlike going to court where a judge will ultimately decide your fate, in mediation you are in charge of the outcome. The mediator will guide you through the different stages of the mediation process and help you to communicate productively with the other side.
Think of mediation like a meeting with a structure and a chairperson who is in charge of managing that meeting and making sure everyone is working together to try and reach an outcome.
The mediator will help you prioritise your issues, they'll encourage you to try to see the dispute from all angles and they'll also assist in problem solving and exploring options that might help resolve your dispute.
If you are able to come up with solutions that address your problems and you want to develop these options into some form of an agreement between you and the other side then the mediator will help you every step of the way.
One of the key differences between a formal process like court and mediation is the voluntary nature of mediation. At any stage in the mediation process, if it's not working for you then you can leave.
As a party in the mediation you get to decide on the outcome and no one else.
Mediation has an excellent success rate, statistics show 85% of disputes get settled in mediation. It's popularity for resolving legal disputes of all kinds is growing rapidly largely due to its benefits of cost and time efficiency.
Courts the world over are log-jammed with disputes and are looking for ways to reduce the backlog of cases building up. Mediation is an ideal solution for many of these disputes.
Mediation laws and conventions are being introduced to encourage parties to resolve disputes early, quickly and cheaply and mediation is fast becoming the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process of choice in many jurisdictions.
This mediation guide will help you:
👉🏼 better understand the benefits of mediation,
👉🏼 the key features of the mediation process and,
👉🏼 the skills, qualities and knowledge required to become a mediator.
You'll also learn about new developments in the field and the career opportunities emerging for professionals and graduates who want to work in the field of dispute resolution.
So whether you want to mediate workplace disputes, commercial disputes, become a family mediator or work in an international setting, this guide will cover it all.
Before we begin there are some concepts that we think will be helpful to explain at the outset.
Throughout this guide you'll encounter many different terms and we've done our best to cover them all in the glossary but the two terms we commonly use interchangeably are conflict and dispute.
So let's clear this up first.
A conflict and a dispute are somewhat related concepts, but they have distinct meanings.
You can be in conflict and not be in dispute. In this scenario conflict can arise from factors other than a specific disagreement or difference of opinion. It could stem from a clash of interests, competing goals, or incompatible values between individuals, groups, or entities.
The conflict may be rooted in broader systemic issues, historical grievances, or power struggles.
The parties involved may not necessarily be engaged in a direct dispute over a particular issue, but they still find themselves in a state of opposition or hostility.
Where you find yourself in conflict and in dispute, here, the conflict might originate from a specific disagreement or dispute between parties. The dispute could revolve around different interpretations, conflicting claims, or divergent viewpoints on a particular matter.
The parties involved hold differing opinions or have incompatible interests related to the disputed issue, which contributes to the conflict.
The presence of a dispute adds a more concrete and identifiable focal point to the conflict, distinguishing it from conflicts that lack a specific dispute.
So while a dispute involves a specific disagreement or difference of opinion, a conflict can occur with or without a dispute.
Conflicts without disputes often stem from broader issues, interests, or values, while conflicts involving disputes have a more defined focus and revolve around a specific matter of contention.
We've got a short video you can watch from our YouTube channel playlist where Professor Nadja Alexander, one of the leading academics in the field of mediation and conflict resolution, explains the difference between a conflict and a dispute, far more eloquently than we've done here!
As you can see, the body of knowledge on mediation is vast but if you want to get a solid foundation in the key aspects of mediation then you can work your way through this introductory guide where we'll cover the following topics:
If you want to dig even deeper into the field of mediation you have a range of options from short online mediation courses to online degree programmes with top universities.
You can also complete a professional mediation training programme and either start on a new career path or use the skills, knowledge and qualifications to aim for promotion.
You can learn more about our mediation courses in the mediation career section.
We'll spend time on each of these areas throughout this guide, but we wanted to introduce it here because it offers a look at how we structured the guide as a whole.
Explore the chapters:
This sets the scene so you can see where mediation fits into the wider set of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is an umbrella term to describe all the different ways you can resolve your dispute other than going to court. In this section you will learn about all the different ways you can resolve a dispute and see where mediation fits into the framework of ADR.
Mediation is unique process that is flexible and can be tailored to the needs of the parties in dispute.
There are many aspects of the mediation process that are worth knowing about especially if you intend to undertake training of some kind. If, on the other hand, you are representing a party in a dispute or are thinking about mediation as an option to resolve your own dispute this is an important chapter to study because the better you understand the process the better your chances of getting the outcome you want from mediation.
The type of mediation service you need will depend on the type of dispute you have.
Since the pandemic, some mediators have adapted their service to work online to provide flexibility for clients who might not wish to travel great distances to attend a mediation. Learn about the different services mediators provide and how you can select the right mediator for the job. In this section you'll also learn about the particular features of different services which will be important if you're looking to undertake any training in this area.
Mediation law is a growing body of knowledge and understanding how mediation fits in with the law is important if you are a lawyer advising clients in mediation.
It's also crucial as a professional mediator to know and understand your legal obligations, especially in the commercial sector where things can become complex. In this section you'll also learn about domestic and international mediation law and the mechanisms that trigger mediation across different jurisdictions.
Mediation is known for being a fast and cost efficient way of resolving disputes of all kinds.
There are many more hidden benefits to mediation and we'll be uncovering those in this section. However, mediation isn't the panacea for all disputes. There are certain types of cases that shouldn't be mediated at all, and there are some disadvantages to mediation that not many mediators talk about. You'll learn about the advantages and disadvantages of mediation in this section.
The main principles of mediation are also what makes it a different option from going to court. Everyone involved in mediation needs to understand these principles and what they mean in practice. You’ll learn about what these principles are, why they are so important and how they make mediation such a successful process in this section.
You’ll also learn about the risks of not sticking to these principles and what to watch out for.
Anyone choosing mediation usually won't know or care about which style they choose. If you're a lawyer advising a client however it's important you know the difference because it will have implications on how the mediation is run and how the mediator behaves.
You'll also benefit from understanding the different styles if you intend to undertake any mediation training because some styles are less popular than others and therefore you might not get a lot of business if you choose a certain type of style to align your practice with. Learn about the full spectrum of mediation styles in this section.
A mediator draws upon a number of different skills to help parties through the mediation process.
These skills are different to those used in other types of work, but are useful for every type of work, even outside of mediation.
In this section, you’ll learn what the most important skills are that every mediator should have, and how they work. You’ll also learn about what skills lawyers need in mediation, and how to prepare for a mediation if you are the client.
Some specific strategies are used in mediation, especially in the negotiation phase of the process, that will help the mediator help the parties to work out what is really important to them and what different options for resolution might look like.
In this section you’ll learn how these strategies are used and how they can help unlock even the most tricky disputes and entrenched conflicts.
You’ll also learn how to use these in your own day-to-day life.
In this section you’ll find out about what mediation costs and who pays for these costs in different circumstances. There can be costs in addition to mediation fees, and you’ll learn about what these are and what you have to plan for as a mediator or as a lawyers or client.
You will also find out about how to minimise the costs of mediation as a lawyer or client, and how you might be able to access free or subsidised mediation services.
To be successful as a mediator you need to be certified and accredited by a mediation organisation. There are different options available at national and international level, so this section will walk you through these different options, and you’ll learn about what you need to do to train as a mediator and get your certification.
You’ll also learn about what certified mediators need to do after they get their mediation qualification, and how you can set up your mediation practice.
Mediation can also resolve disputes between countries, tribes, regions or political parties.
Many of the most enduring peace agreements have come about as a result of diplomatic mediation. This type of mediation is different, so in this section you’ll learn about how political mediation works, who mediates political disputes and what an international conflict mediation looks like.