Demystifying Mediation

Posted on: March 13th, 2023

Mediation providers have proliferated in the last 20 years or so, and there are now dozens more organisations in the field than when UK Mediation began way back in 1999.

Back in the early noughties in the UK, there was something of a tidal wave of legal professionals who wanted to be part of the trend for using mediation to keep cases out of the courts, and many started to offer services in Alternative Dispute Resolution, or ADR. Established professional mediation providers like us witnessed a rather more confused tone from enquirers: depending on who they had already spoken to, they couldn’t be sure if they were being offered mediation, legal advice, or a hybrid of the two.

So, around the mid-2000s, we sat down and decided to talk about mediation as belonging to one of three broad varieties: commercial, family, and interpersonal.

Commercial mediation

Commercial mediation, also referred to as civil mediation, is for disputes where the intended outcome is that a payment is made, some goods are replaced or re-supplied, or a refund is given. These days, if lawyers make the referral to mediators, they usually prefer other lawyers to do the job. Disappointingly, it tends to become a legally-informed evaluation of people’s claims and defences.

Family mediation

Family mediation, has become a quasi-legal discipline as well, in which an expert in family law will help a couple who are separating or divorcing to come up with arrangements for their property, finances, and children. These agreements then form the basis of a consent order that would be acceptable to the court.

Interpersonal mediation

Interpersonal mediation is the term we coined some years ago to describe any mediation in which the aim is to repair a relationship between people. You could think of it as humanistic mediation, as opposed to settlement-focussed mediation. It applies to workplace disputes, neighbourhood conflict, complaints scenarios, mediating with families who want to stay together, medical disputes, and any setting where the aim is to build dialogue and collaboration.

Which mediation is right for you?

Putting that together, if you and an adversary want a legal assessment about what would probably happen if you went to court, and a process whereby you come to a compromise arrangement, get a lawyer to run a ‘civil’ mediation (the quotes are because, in our eyes, this is not mediation at all!) If you are divorcing and want to combine legal input with a negotiation process, choose family mediation, mostly administered by a family lawyer.

However, if you want a professional mediator to support you in resolving or heading off a dispute, without giving legal opinion, coercing, guiding, or advising you into settling your dispute in a particular way, what you need is interpersonal mediation. This could indeed be to do with settling a commercial/financial dispute where you might seek legal advice outside the mediation, or it could be to help you and your soon-to-be-ex to discuss things more constructively. But just keep in mind that as soon as the practitioner offers legal advice, evaluation, or ‘if I were you…’ comment, it ceases to be mediation at all.

Contact us

If you require any mediation services, whether it be for your family, your neighbourhood, or anything else, please contact our team today.