Legal 500 Hall of Fame Interview

Legal 500 Hall of Fame Interview

The Legal 500 Hall of Fame highlights individuals who have received constant praise by their clients for continued excellence.

What has been your greatest achievement, in a professional and personal capability?

The most satisfying aspect of Mediation is playing a part in resolving a dispute in a cost-effective and comparatively stress-free way. Although Mediations may be hard and sometimes pressured work, they are as nothing compared to a lengthy and costly trial with a speculative outcome. Often the sense of relief and delight from parties, that they have been liberated to get on with their lives and business, without the burden of the now settled dispute, is palpable.

What do you do differently from your peers in the industry?

I think it’s important to understand legitimate concerns on both sides, but to stay focussed on the desired outcome, which is a resolution. Most of my Mediations are for a single day, and I don’t work well in the early hours, so I strike a balance between both listening and encouraging creative negotiation. I think my background in property and commercial litigation, and judicial experience, helps us to get to the core issues promptly, and then to work hard on an acceptable accommodation. I worked as a magician in student days, which I’m told is a skill I have carried over into Mediation.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

There are very few cases which will not settle on the day, or soon thereafter. Never lose energy and faith however hopeless it looks. Don’t jump to conclusions after reading the papers, and do treat people with respect and patience. Try really to get to grips with both the commercial and personal realities of the case, and where appropriate, maintain a sense of humour.

Can you give me a practical example of how you helped a client add value to the business?

The essence of Mediation is its confidentiality, so specific examples cannot be disclosed. However, much of my work in commercial and other property disputes involves a necessary continuing working relationship between the parties. Broken relationships cost money, so I try where possible to preserve some civility within the solution, which involves at least a hand-shake at the end, if not exactly a hugging session – although I’ve had that too!

Within your sector, what do you think will be the biggest challenge for clients over the next 12 months?

I see more opportunities than challenges. The uncertainty in the economy makes investment in costly litigation all the more undesirable. The challenge, as always in Mediation, is to help both professional and lay parties to understand that a negotiated settlement is “win-win” – and moreover is what happens in most litigation in any event, but only after too much expense and strain has occurred. It just makes sense in every department to talk first.

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