Introduction

Mediation is now a recognised and important tool in dispute resolution.  Frequently the courts will order mediation in the first instance and this provides parties an excellent opportunity to resolve disputes without expensive litigation.

Increasingly mediation is being held in a neutral venue to the parties so as to provide the greatest chance of achieving a successful outcome.

Critical Success Factors of the Mediation Venue

There is now significant anecdotal evidence from experienced mediators that the choice of the mediation venue plays an important role in determining the success and outcome of that mediation

The critical elements of that success are –

  • Understanding the effect of the physical environment on the overall communication process as a driver of mediation outcomes;
  • Using the environment to influence the non-verbal messages conveyed during the process
  • Avoid images, features and room layout that are normally associated with the adversarial system yet are comfortable and semi-formal
  • Provide privacy and confidentiality whilst at the same time accessibility
  • Provide facilities such as wi-fi, telephones, printers, tea, coffee and chilled water that assist the overall mediation process
  • Enable the continuation of lengthy negotiations by providing flexible opening and closing hours

These factors, when combined with the skill of the mediator, provide him/her greater opportunity to resolve the dispute between the parties.

Linking Venue Characteristics to Mediation Outcomes

By understanding the mediation process and the outcomes it seeks to achieve, we can then provide and link the venue and environment so that it supports and promotes successful outcomes.

 

 

Mediation Process & Outcomes

 

 Venue Features & Characteristics
 

Mediator is Impartial & Independent

 

 

Reinforce that impartiality by setting up rooms that are neutral and non-legalistic

 

Provide flexibility to the mediator to utilise their unique methods

 

 

Outline each Parties Position & Perspective

 

 

Provide a Major Negotiation room where parties can come together, that facilitates and allows broad discussion

 

Conference Room should discourage an adversarial attitude and confrontational atmosphere

 

 

Promote Open & Constructive Discussion Amongst All Parties

 

 

Room configurations should be flexible to accommodate the mediator’s preferences

 

Venue staff must be friendly yet professional and have a deep understanding of the mediation processes

 

Facilities should provide  communication-aides such as whiteboards, flip-charts and audio visual equipment

 

·Provide tea, coffee and refreshment facilities

 

 

Enable Neutrality, Privacy & Confidentiality

 

 

Rooms should provide visual privacy, be soundproofed and accessible to break-out rooms

 

All rooms should ensure an atmosphere that is non-legalistic and facilitate and enhance confidential discussions with representatives

 

 

Allow Private Discussions for Each Party & Mediator

 

 

Provide suitable break-out rooms for each party to the mediation

 

Ensure each room is private and functional

 

Ensure close proximity of all rooms to ensure a smooth flow of the mediation process

 

 

Encourage & Empower Decision-Making & Agreement

 

 

Provide an environment that encourages brainstorming and creative problem-solving

 

Enable the decision makers to be able to have sufficient space and time to arrive at proper agreement

 

 

Enable Mediation Closing

 

 

Provide adequate facilities to type and print agreement documents

 

Have flexibility around opening and closing hours to facilitate complex and elongated negotiations that may lead to agreement

 

 

Conclusion

Mediation is often difficult due to the stress and emotional toll it can take on all parties to a dispute.  As we have articulated the environment is an integral part of the process and if set-up properly can significant add to the chance of a successful outcome.

Having staff that deeply understand the mediation process as well as the impact on the parties and a venue that is specifically established and caters for mediation will enable mediators to concentrate their efforts and skills on the process and outcomes.

By Kevin Timoney (Director)