Grania Langdon-Down’s article about the emergence of civil and commercial mediation raised an issue to which all practitioners are likely to become increasingly exposed. Judicial encouragement for mediation in cases such as Halsey also recognises the wider range of outcomes achievable by mediation, which can more directly address the parties’ real needs and provide a ‘win-win’ outcome.
As the article acknowledges, there is growing recognition of the corresponding importance of integrating mediation-related training into the vocational stage of training for solicitors. We at London Metropolitan University, for example, have introduced mediation/dispute resolution as an elective subject on our Legal Practice Course. However, such training is not yet compulsory; whereas it is so on the Bar Professional Training Course for barristers.
From day one in practice, a solicitor is increasingly likely to need to know when and how to use mediation in the client’s best interests and to represent a client effectively in mediation. As solicitors, we also have the skills and competencies to play a leading role as mediators in civil and commercial disputes (as has proved to be the case in the US, where lawyer-mediators predominate).
There are, however, presently only 27 members of the Law Society’s civil and commercial mediation accreditation scheme – other organisations have established themselves as the main sources of mediation training, accreditation and provision. Unless the Society actively pursues initiatives to encourage and enable solicitor-mediators to play an instrumental role in the growing field of mediation (the universal nature of which even offers the potential for the brand of solicitor to become ‘transportable’ into other fields such as diplomacy and international relations), then the practice, governance and regulation of mediation is likely to end up in the hands of – and for the benefit of – others.
It will be a missed opportunity for the future scope of our profession if we do not ensure that we play a key role in this growing and internationally important area.
William R McKay, solicitor-mediator and senior lecturer, London Metropolitan University, Surbiton