The time you need: business mediation

Mediation time has to be flexible

Every dispute is unique. The fact is that there are too many “unknown unknowns” to be able accurately to assess how many hours might be needed to bring your conflict to a happy resolution.

Over many years, and internationally, mediation has evolved into a one-day procedure. For many years, that involved the mediator sitting down with the parties with little or no work in advance. The advent of technology, including email, means that, today, we can all work far more efficiently by your providing information in advance to the mediator so that when the mediation day starts, everybody is prepared. That means fewer disputes run into a second day.

Nonetheless, there are many business disputes where two days will be required. This is particularly true where more than two people need to be able to express an opinion.

Sometimes, although a second day is required, it need not be a full day. Furthermore, there are plenty of straightforward disputes where the issues are narrow, which can be covered efficiently in less than a full day.

Where dispute is about money and the sum is comparatively small, the cost of the mediation process itself becomes more relevant. In that case, good preparation in advance may well enable your dispute to be resolved in 3 to 5 hours.

To accommodate these possibilities we offer several alternative time frames. Inevitably, these are structured around a days split between morning, afternoon and evening, or use of email, fully or in part.

In the first place, please book the number of hours you might need using the fees and booking page. You should always overestimate the time that may be required for your mediation. Even then, you should not assume that your mediation meeting will not overrun. It is always a good idea to make provision for an over-run by avoiding commitments that require a “school bell” approach to your next engagement.

The Mediator will not walk out of a long day meeting at the stroke of the church clock, but neither will he always be able to stay substantially longer than the time you have booked.

In making your estimate, consider:

  • the time the Mediator might need to read and take in whatever documents you have sent to us and of course those of your conflict party
  • the time the Mediator has to spend in assessing your case;
  • the time the Mediator will spend in active communication, first with you and then with your conflict party. Just four discussions with each of you will take 3 to 4 hours. This part of the process may take far longer if your dispute is complicated; if new documents are introduced; if new ideas need to be discussed; or if the process has been delayed and has to be brought up to speed later
  • the time of the Mediator in drawing together the online threads with you, or conducting a live meeting
  • the time of the Mediator in helping you to draw up a final memorandum of understanding in terms acceptable to both parties.

We have prepared a number of example mediations which may give you some idea about the time and process.

Time assessing your case and documents

All of life today involves keeping records. We call any record a “document”. That applies in hard copy, soft copy and with any sort of file – forms, reports, financial accounts, images. If you want to be able to present your case credibly to your conflict party, here is some advice about what documents you might need and how best to present them to the Mediator and to your conflict party.

It’s also very important for the Mediator to be able to see exactly what has happened in the past and what key documents each side will be relying on. That is why the mediation starts when the Mediator sits down quietly in the piece of his own office to assess your documents and the strength of the case of each side.

Up front time spent by the mediator

On average up to 35% of the of the Mediator’s time is spent on that work, including discussions about documentation and exploring what each side wants from the mediation. Whether the Mediator has a load of documents to work through or needs to research technical stuff, he just does it. It’s just part of our service.

An example:  in a case involving land, the Mediator may have to assess not only Land Registry title documents but also reports and valuations and photographs. Of course much the same applies to technical issues in any contract. (Note: If you need access to Land Registry title deeds and plans, we can help).

However we do implore you not to worry about the time. We will always do our utmost to conclude a mediation as efficiently as possible. That means both the Mediator and the parties must be prepared to continue to talk as long as a settlement is on the horizon.

Other considerations about time

Best estimates

When the Mediator assesses your documents and replies to your Request to Mediate, he will tell you if he thinks your time estimate is wildly out. However, the final decision as to the number of hours you need, is for you and your conflict party.

Meetings over multiple days

It is very important that enough time is allocated, to enable you to resolve your dispute. If an adjournment is necessary, progress made tends to be lost. A new agreed date may not be close. A party’s representative may not be able to attend on the adjourned date.

Nevertheless, if you need a second day, the Mediator will move mountains to accommodate at the earliest possible opportunity. The additional time will be charged at the same rate as shown in our fee estimate. If you have booked a second full day and it is not required, we will rebate the entire time cost for that day.

A compact time frame for online mediation

A compact time frame is most efficient because it provides continuity. Both the Mediator and the parties can remember “where we are at” and the parties are more likely to continue to be of a mind to settle and will be less distracted by other issues which are bound to arise sooner or later. You can keep your mediation process compact by both sides responding fast to new communication.

The Mediator’s response time

However you contact the Mediator, you should not expect a reply on the same day. As you will understand, it is in the nature of the profession that a mediator will be engaged on most days. Other staff are likely to be available by email –

Time to draw a memorandum of understanding (“MoU”)

In managing the mediation, the Mediator will take account of time which may be needed to tie up loose ends after broad agreement has been reached. Time will be spent in agreeing detail and usually in writing an MoU or heads of terms, so that the parties have an agreed version of the outcome. The shorter the time frame, the more difficult it will be to fit this in. See "Memorandum of Understanding" for details of what we do.

Stretch your legs

Prices charged assume that in any meeting there will be a 15 minute break every 90 minutes.

How to book your mediation

First, we need to know who you are, who is your conflict party and all about your dispute. You can give us this information to our Request to Mediate.

We shall respond to what you have told us so that you have an opportunity to choose the hours you need and book in a date (if you want a face-to-face hearing). All else will follow.

You are now well on the way to getting this dispute settled.

By the way, a mediation event does not have to finish with an actual meeting – live or online. It’s just more likely that both sides will stick to it if the details have been thrashed out in a meeting of some sort.