Bloomsbury Professional catch up with barrister and mediation specialist, Helen Curtis, in time for Mediation Awareness Week (MAW).
Why is mediation so important?
It offers an opportunity to end a dispute; it provides a forum for direct communication between the parties and the chance to influence the future; it allows more outcomes than are available at court to be considered and obtained.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a mediator?
Time. Parties often underestimate the length of time the mediation process, once engaged with, can take. Fixed expectations. At times the stress and impact of the dispute gets in the way of one or both parties being open to allowing their expectations to shift.
What is the purpose of Mediation Awareness Week?
To have a concentration of time, which this year coincides with Ireland’s MAW, during which people who may not have heard of mediation or are wary of finding out more, have the opportunity to see it, hear about it and ask questions at different types of events.
What are the main events taking place during Mediation Awareness Week?
Main events suggests some are more ‘important’ than others. And I can’t answer that. The strength of MAW is that the events cover the spectrum of areas of dispute in which mediation demonstrably provides satisfaction to parties in a dispute.
How do you see mediation developing in the future?
Technology. It will continue to develop and while it won’t replace the desire of some mediators to bring the parties together physically, geographical and other challenges will be eased as the online software improves. This, I believe, will tie-in with the digitisation of the court system and make mediation part of the mainstream of civil litigation.
The approach of business. There are more ‘well-being’ aspects to working life now with an increase in people prepared to express their needs in the workplace. Disputes have a negative impact on working life, productivity and staff retention. Mediation can reduce conflict, promote efficiency and energise a workplace.
Better information. Mediation can still be mis-read as meditation. The more people understand what mediation means and the better mediators are at demonstrating how effective it is, the future is more likely to be mediation rich.