I was at a
seminar on mediation organised by the UK IPO and hosted by
Wiggin in London last night for companies and trade
associations in the creative industries
The Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys is holding another
event on Tuesday, which suggests that the topic is on
something of a roll at the moment (it’s also the
subject of Managing IP’s next cover story). So
what’s going on?
The new push to sell the benefits of mediation has trickled
down from the 2009 Jackson report into ways to rein in costs in
civil litigation in the UK. In it,
Lord Justice Jackson recommended there be a "serious
campaign" to ensure judges, lawyers and businesses know about
the benefits of ADR.
Mr Justice Arnold (right) spoke last night, and it was clear
that he is already an enthusiast ("It works so go and do it"
were his closing words).
The speakers also made clear that there was plenty in it for
businesses, particularly for those who want to maintain a
working relationship with the parties with whom they are in
dispute. As mediator Andrew Hildebrand said: "It can be hard to
reassure the other side that you want to do business after
litigation. It certainly isn’t helped by the words
'we have been instructed by’."
But what’s in it for law firms? After all,
there must be pressure in the partners’ dining
room on litigation lawyers to bring in the cash, and the
biggest cheques invariably follow trips to the High Court (and
Wiggin lawyer Simon Baggs referred to that in his
presentation, saying that barristers and solicitors had been
asking him whether a talk advocating mediation
didn’t amount to commercial suicide.
But when one audience member asked why private practice
lawyers would encourage clients to settle through mediation,
Baggs said that it was a matter of economics: it was in his
interest to keep his clients satisfied, he said.
"There’s lots to be said for clients leaving
mediation happy. They tell people and that means we get more
buyers of legal services. Any referral is good."
Although there’s an element of "well he would
say that, wouldn’t he?" in his comments, one of
Baggs’s clients later told me that he was right:
good law firms focus on keeping existing clients happy
– and returning – rather than burning them
with one piece of expensive, but traumatising, litigation,
especially when legal budgets are under pressure.
"We talk," she said. "The word soon gets around."
If you have experience of mediation (good or bad) and want
to share those with us for our forthcoming article, do let us