Mediate Don’t Litigate

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Litigation is defined as: “the process of taking a case to a court of law so that a judgment can be made.” One of the first lessons I learned growing up was not to judge or form an opinion without hearing both sides of a story.

Ironic, that I ended up qualifying as a solicitor, a profession in which I acted for one side only, intending to prove my client the outright winner and the other side the overall loser.  In litigation, the nominal winner is sometimes the real loser in fees, expenses and waste of time. This lesson came back to me while working on one side of a particular case, which started out as a dispute around a single net issue. As I responded to letters back and forth on behalf of my client, the net issue became lost in the milieu of the correspondence battle. It became clear that each letter was only serving to protract the conflict, with the letters being a conduit to express feelings of hurt, anger and blame.

My practical and logical mind brought me to question how the antagonism of litigation could be beneficial to the parties– there has to be a better way. Litigation is costly and time consuming while providing no certainty or control over the outcome. Therefore, rather than preparing cases for a judge to decide my client’s fate, why not engage in a process that allows the parties determine an equitable outcome. The process: Mediation. While a high proportion of disputes can definitely be resolved through mediation, some may not. Nevertheless, streamlining the issues between the parties at mediation has proven to be a positive step in ultimately settling disputes.

The Mediation Bill 2017 awaiting final approval by the Dail, puts mediation on a statutory footing, a clear recognition by the lawmakers that alternatives to legal proceedings must be explored first. For example, couples seeking to legally separate will have to attend a mediation information session before issuing proceedings.

Mediating is a skill, which I have acquired and perfected through the art of listening, assessing and guiding. All too often we listen to respond rather than listening to hear and that is what I perceive to be the fundamental difference between being a solicitor and being a mediator. My professional qualifications and experience to date have certainly equipped me with transferrable skills that are uniquely beneficial and can be leveraged in the mediation field.  The services that Trinity Mediation provides are structured on background understanding, option development and reality testing ultimately leading to agreement on mutually acceptable terms.  Trinity Mediation Services offers a practical and common sense approach to conflict which saves the parties costs and time whilst allowing them control the outcome thereby preserving a level of civility that is often not achieved through litigation.

As Abraham Lincoln once said “A good settlement is better than a good lawsuit.”

(Sarah Berkery Solicitor, BA, LLM, Dip Fam. Dip Emp. Principal of Trinity Mediation Services www.trinitymediationservices.ie 0863611022 )

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