The Case for Mediation: Why Solicitors are Embracing, not Competing with, Mediation

Redefining the Role of Solicitors in Mediation

The role demanded and expected from a solicitor, arguably, transcends the traditional concept of the ‘going to Court’. It follows that mediation today is the only true alternative to litigation, arbitration and so on. Rather than considering mediation as just another stream of legal work, solicitors are fast realising that as well as being the only true alternative, their clients expect if not demand an alternative to the Courts. After 20 years in the mediation space, I see that today’s solicitors are not only adjusting but also encouraging it.

Efficiency in Modern Legal Practice

The parties want their disputes resolved quickly and cost-effectively, with minimum time and emotional strife. This is exactly what mediation is; it is expedient because it avoids the delays at courts and tribunals. It facilitates constructive dialogue between parties with an experienced independent Mediator who assists their negotiation for a mutually acceptable solution- as promptly as their own needs demand. This speed of turnaround tends to satisfy clients’ hunger for quick resolution. It also makes it possible for solicitors to handle more cases efficiently, minimising the unrecoverable time that exists with lengthy litigation.

Enhancing Cooperation Through Mediation

Mediation further enhances cooperation, a hallmark advantage that provides fertile ground for preserving the relationship between the disputants. This is in stark contrast to the two-dimensional antagonistic setting of courtroom litigation. In litigation practice, the parties in dispute typically engage in positional bargaining, which can pressure tempers and break personal relations permanently.

This contrasts with mediation, which aims at working through underlying needs and interests, as well as issues, in open dialogue and exploring constructive resolution together in a spirit of empathy. For solicitors, this means achieving their own positive outcomes for their clients but also managing goodwill and post-resolution relations—an indicative instance of the growing tendency for holistic applications in legal practice.

The benefits of mediation are experienced not only in terms of effectiveness or relationship-preserving skills but also because it is an empowering party-controlled process. As opposed to adjudication, where answers are imposed by a judge, in mediation the resolving parties are empowered, owning the process of resolution and crafting results that take into account their interests as well as needs. Solicitors play a critical part in empowering their clients in this respect since they provide all the legal advice bearing in mind that most of the time they have to authentically express their concern and preference. By adopting this alternative approach, solicitors place themselves in a position not so much of authority, laying out the outcome, but rather as a trusted advisor who will explain the risks and provide all the guidance and support the disputing parties need to move forward in empowerment and confidence.

Empowerment, Flexibility and Confidentiality

In addition, mediation can provide flexibility and confidentiality totally unattainable within the confines of the more formal legal process. Any discourses held during mediation sessions are purely confidential, and parties in conflict or the informant may lay hands on a hard copy document safeguarded from public access. Mediation is flexible and, therefore, does not force the parties to meet at any specific time when requested by the court session. That is something on which solicitors and barristers unfortunately find to their chagrin. The flexibility often works against them since they in effect are unable to orchestrate the proceedings in a manner that would have suited the individual needs of their clients best.

A Paradigm Shift in Legal Practice

The increasing use of mediation has implications for a more fundamental change in the way in which legal practice is conducted: recognition of the many benefits it offers, not only for the clients but also the practitioners. Solicitors are increasingly seeking to view mediation not as a threat to more traditional legal service areas but as an adjunct to them. If solicitors are able to lead with efficiency, collaboration, empowerment, and flexibility, they need not be followers of change but leaders toward a more client-centered and holistic approach to conflict resolution. The process of mediation offers perhaps a new hope for solutions that promises positive and beneficial results. Justification by mere dialogue, cooperation, and empowerment toward long-term acceptable solutions to most disputes.