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As family practitioners are aware it is now compulsory for the majority of clients to attempt to mediate prior to issuing a court application. Most practitioners will encourage clients away from the court system and will suggest that the clients mediate, use the collaborative law process, follow the more traditional solicitor negotiation route, or potentially use a hybrid of these three processes.
Given this mediators and lawyers should be working closely together more than ever in order to provide clients with the best possible outcomes for them. In both discussions with lawyers, and in a recent poll I did on a live webinar, I have been struck by how little communication there can be between lawyers and mediators. If a client is to get the best from the mediation process, it is essential that they are equipped for it: a lawyer must therefore be familiar with the mediator's process and a close relationship between the lawyer and the mediator can ensure that a client gets the best outcome from the mediation/legal process. This also benefits the lawyer and the mediator, as a shared discussion of their differing approaches can help both to improve their practice. I am Pod liaison officer of a multi-disciplinary Pod that includes lawyers, mediators, counsellors and family consultants. We all agree that the perspectives of the different practitioners greatly enrich the discussions that we have.
Practices and approaches will vary between lawyers and mediators, so it's important to get to know how the lawyers and mediators you refer to work, but here are some of my tips for lawyers for preparing clients for mediation:
Being in the same room
This can be a huge concern for some clients and it's a discussion that the lawyer should have at an early stage. The mediator should be made aware of the concerns so that they can discuss these with the client in the initial meeting (which should take place separately). In all cases mediators will assess whether mediation is suitable, or whether there are concerns about the physical safety, emotional well-being, or decision making capacity, of either or both clients. Sometimes it may be possible to mediate with safeguards such as using shuttle mediation, or allowing the vulnerable party to leave mediation first. Lawyers can also be present at mediation meetings.
What happens in the mediation room?
Mediators use a whole variety of techniques to help encourage discussion. One of the key things a
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