This post riffs on Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny Bout Peace, Love and Understanding?” to probe the usefulness of the words “trust” and “respect” in mediation. Invitation Mediators the world over are taught to invite their clients to speak. We’re not there to tell people what to do; rather to ask them what they want…

(This is a ‘letter to self’ about court ADR research sent from the American Bar Association Dispute Resolution Conference, San Francisco, April 2017.) Do Litigants Know Their Options? It’s always fascinating to come to a country where mediation is business as usual. There are some downsides to this, but the upside that immediately strikes a…

Have you ever wondered who mediators are helping? The parties, obviously! Well, not so obvious to our critics. In this blog I consider worries about mediation’s approach to manifest injustice before making the case for understanding the mediator as co-creator, with the parties, of outcomes. I argue that co-creation enhances the prospects for justice. Stories…

Students demonstrating cooperation

Morton Deutsch, the great social psychologist of common sense, explained the difference between competition and cooperation thus: “if you’re positively linked with another, then you sink or swim together; with negative linkage, if the other sinks, you swim, and if the other swims, you sink.”1)Cooperation and Competition. In M. Deutsch, P. T. Coleman, & E….

Sometimes we have to ask probing questions. Does mediation do any good? Does it make the world a better place? Is there more or less peace in our societies because of our work? This sort of research question exercises scholars and academics, but practitioners too want to believe their work makes a difference. A related…

A few months ago I painted a not-terribly-flattering picture of Scottish justice as experienced by small claimants – (Oiling the Wheels of the Justice System). Seen through the eyes of a mediator (and ex-lawyer) the language, practices and architecture seem calculated to confuse those most in need of assistance and clarity like unrepresented parties and…

Despite some scepticism about the value of “roleplay” most mediation training involves asking people to run a pretend mediation session. I’ve tried various euphemisms to ease trainees’ anxiety – “skills practice”, “simulation”, “sitting with conflict” – but none seems to make it any less daunting. You can read about this activity, watch others do it,…

[A talk given at the recent “100 cases” event in Glasgow to celebrate two years of small claims mediation provided by Strathclyde Mediation Clinic. Judges in Scotland are known as “sheriffs”.] I’ve been rather enjoying my belated return to the small claims court. Like a kind of slow theatre, each Friday afternoon unfolds with impeccable…

“You cannot direct a living system; you can only disturb it”1 When mediators join a conflict, they enter a living system. Realise it or not, that system is instantly changed by their arrival. Change may be for the better, and we hope our influence is benign, but nothing is the same again. It therefore makes…

“Patients don’t expect doctors to be perfect. They do expect them to strive for perfection by opening up their work to scrutiny” Atul Gawande, Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, 6/12/15. A bit of a treat for me last week, when four of my favourite academics came to Edinburgh. They were keynotes at Mediate Scotland…