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More Questions for Mediators

This week, I have had the genuine privilege of contributing one of the key note addresses at the Annual Conference of the Arbitrators and Mediators Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ) in Wellington. It has been a terrific conference, superbly organized by the indefatigable Deborah Hart. The standard of the many and diverse sessions has been very high, indeed outstandingly so. There is some terrific work being done in New Zealand.

In the context of the conference theme of New Horizons, I posed a number of questions in my key note address. I hope to pull together the whole piece for publication, but here are the questions.

• What if the way in which we have sought to resolve difficult dispute [...]

Lawyers of the future on mediation: threat or a promise?

We have just reached the end of the annual marking season (grading for North Americans). The verbal joust of examinations is almost over. Students get their blows in first; teachers’ strike back with marks and comments. It’s a familiar ritual with its own rhythm and reasoning. It can be viewed as arduous by both sides but markers get a certain satisfaction from novel insights and perspectives; and a salutary reminder of what people actually remember.

For a mediator teaching in a law school there is an additional challenge. Students are being inducted into the great tradition of legal reasoning which sifts ‘irrelevant’ from ‘relevant’ matters in the march towards court. Ideas [...]

Mediation Games

John Nash died this week, in a tragic car accident. John Nash was the Nobel-prize winning mathematician whose theory of non-cooperative games published in 1950 has been described as one of the top ten ideas in economics in the 20th century.

His theory introduced and explored the concept of what is known as Nash equilibrium. According to the New York Times obituary, Nash equilibrium provides a conceptually simple but powerful mathematical tool for analysing a wide range of competitive situations, from corporate rivalries to legislative decision-making. It builds on the notion that, in most real world interactions, there is potential for more than a zero-sum game. Players’ interests are not [...]

The 2016 Global Pound Conference Series!

Global-Pound_mid_-resolution_finalIn April 1976, an event now known as the Pound Conference ignited modern ADR in the USA, launching discussion of what may have become the “greatest reform in the history of the country’s judicial system”.1 Forty years later, all stakeholders in the dispute prevention and resolution fields around the world are being invited to participate in a series of unique thought leadership events around the globe under the auspices of a Global Pound Conference (“GPC”) series.

The GPC has a remarkable goal: to shape the future of dispute resolution and access to justice in the 21st Century.

An invitation to shape the future of dispute resolution

The bold program, which will generate debate an [...]

“Justice” Report for England and Wales: A Missed Opportunity for Radical Change


‘Justice’, an “all-party law reform and human rights organisation working to strengthen the justice system” launched a new report on April 23rd entitled ‘DELIVERING JUSTICE IN AN AGE OF AUSTERITY’. The report could be described as a plan to deliver justice despite the cuts. It proposes a transformation of the court system in England and Wales, supplementing its venerable adversarial system with a more inquisitorial approach. Unfortunately the proposal, while altering both personnel and process, leaves untouched the mindset and philosophy of the justice system.

The report opens with a critique that it is “increasingly difficult for ordinary people to navigate an adversarial justice syst [...]

Reading for Mediators…..

It’s funny how one thing leads to another. Regular Kluwer blogger Ian Macduff posted a great blog earlier this week on the importance of asking questions. That reminded me that I had intended to get hold of a book by Edgar Schein entitled “Humble Inquiry: The Gentle Art of Asking Instead of Telling”. So, I downloaded it last night and found that I could skim read it fairly quickly (These days I find that, if I read the introduction, the references at the back and then from the back of the book to the front, I can get through the significant parts more quickly – and the highlighter on the Kindle function is ideal for emphasising key points). Schein’s is a well-written book. For man [...]

Reflections on the Current Climate – A Role for Third Siders?

This follows my blog last month about mediation and sustainability. In the run up to the vital COP meeting in Paris in December, what role for mediators and other third siders?

What should we say?

I started this piece a few weeks ago with these words: “From my balcony at nearly 2,000 metres, I can see seven vapour trails above, and as I look to the west, several more. The sky is a patchwork of misty white lines on clear blue. Below, the mountains are also a patchwork, this time a mottled white and grey. Even at this altitude in January, the snowfall is irregular and quite a few slopes are exposed. The main ski runs are open though, and that is a relief. We’ve paid a little extra to come [...]

Where Have All The Idealists Gone? Long Time Passing

A commentary on the future of mediation, with special thanks to Pete Seeger for inspiration

A recent discussion among a seasoned group of neutrals about the struggles of the professional mediator caught my attention. Some complained that the trend in litigated cases was to reduce the value of the mediator to a commodity, due to the constraints put on them by the litigants who were not process oriented. Others put the responsibility of keeping the process dynamic and interesting on the mediator, the traditional guardian of the process. Whatever the reason, there was a consensus that there is a trend to marginalize the process and the neutral. This quote from an unnamed source summarizes what [...]

“The Past Need Not Dictate the Future”: What Mediators Know (or Can’t Help Noticing) About Ourselves


(This is the final part of a keynote address to the YMCA Conference “From Reactions to Relations” in Burton on Trent on 20 November 2014.)

Having considered what we can’t help noticing about our clients and about conflict I now turn to the tricky business of self-knowledge: what has our unique perspective at the heart of other people’s conflict taught us about ourselves?

Once again there are three headings:

1. We ask more questions: not (only) because it’s nice but because it brings more data into the room

2. We resist the “gullibility of cynicism”

3. Most of us are conflict avoiders but some of us like it

1) We ask more questions

Mediators tend to ask a lot of questions. Th [...]

What colour is this dress? – a mediator’s perspective

What colour is this dress?

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you may have seen this recent meme in late February that got the internet buzzing with debate. A badly lit photo of a dress spread like wildfire with some people seeing it as white and gold, while others as black and blue. If you haven’t seen it, here is an article explaining the craze and the science behind it. My initial reaction, like many others, was disbelief that so many people could be concerned with something so trivial when we have so many more important problems to discuss. However, I’ve now found a silver lining in this dress that I’d like to share.

One of the typical aspects of a dispute is that disputants often have very different perspe [...]