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In Place of Strife

The Mediation Chambers

Getting the best out of the opening session

One of the joys of judging at the annual ICC Mediation competition in Paris, which took place in early February, is to observe law students, in their roles as client and counsel, engage with their counter party across the table in a way that is sometimes very different to the openings we, as mediators, so often witness in real life. Those are often formulaic presentations that deter rather than promote a dialogue.

By contrast the students are taught to invite dialogue by questioning (always open questions), and by so doing they usually learn about the interests that drive their opponents. There may be a lesson here for hardened mediation advocates: promote your client's interests by all means in the round table meeting, but make sure to ask questions and engage in dialogue. Not only might this unearth some important contextual information that has a bearing on settlement, but it also ensures that the other side feels it has been listened to. At the human level this can work wonders.

When asked what he learned from his experience in the competition, one Eastern European student said* he learned "to highly appreciate the relevance of the questions phase in mediation. One crucial question might become a perfect incentive to overcome an obstacle." Maybe the English is not perfect, but the sentiment is certainly understood.

*As reported by Bill Marsh in his article in Kluwer Mediation Blog, entitled "Hearing Younger Voices"

Mediator: Mark Jackson-Stops

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