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In Place of Strife

The Mediation Chambers

The Opening Joint Meeting - to have or not to have?

Many legal representatives (and perhaps some mediators) arrive at mediation and simply ‘want to get on with it’. There is a great temptation to dispense with the round table meeting at the start of the mediation in the name of ‘momentum’ or avoiding unpleasant exchanges. However, it pays to consider the pros and cons of each case carefully and to seek the advice of the mediator. Perhaps ask these questions:

Have you got anything to add to what the other side already knows?

Do you need to reiterate what is already known in order to give greater emphasis?

Can you influence the other side to think differently about their case?

Is there a useful concession to make as part of your negotiation strategy?

Would it help your team to meet the other side? Will you and your client benefit from seeing the principal on the other side and speaking directly to him/her rather than through the filter of their legal team?

Are relationships between the parties so fractured that meeting the other side will set the process back by raising the temperature too high?

In most cases the benefits of meeting in a plenary session are obvious, if only as a way of saying "here we are, ready to listen and willing to try to find common ground". In a few cases the potential pitfalls can be significant. However if there is doubt, go for the default position – go for the opening joint meeting. It usually pays.

Mediator: Mark Jackson-Stops

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