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In Place of Strife

The Mediation Chambers

Authority to settle

Charles Middleton-Smith has become a mediator of real distinction, after a career as a partner at Hammonds. Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession rank him as a leader in mediation. Amongst other things they say he is “suited to sophisticated clients and not afraid to challenge them" and he "coaxes parties into settlement with guileless ease".

He has the following tip:

“Be careful to establish the true position on authority to settle and who will be the decision-maker on the day. Where there is a sense of any limit on the authority to settle, it is helpful to ensure the availability of communication, and to make the mediator fully aware of this prior to the mediation day. If in doubt, and if at all possible, strongly encourage the presence of a fully authorised client representative, as the absence of such a person on the day can adversely affect the dynamics and in some cases, derail a settlement which otherwise would have occurred.”

In an ideal world, all parties attend mediation with unfettered authority to settle. In the real world, large companies cannot always send their Managing Director and insurers cannot always provide a senior claims director. Where there is a missing individual who may need to be consulted if settlement cannot be agreed within pre-authorised limits, it is wise to warn the mediator in advance. I usually ask if I may add his or her name to the Attendance List, with “by telephone” alongside it. This can often be reassuring to other parties and pre-empt difficult questions about authority during the day.

Mediator: Charles Middleton-Smith

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