A recent property dispute revealed to me the immense stress, time and money that we waste in legal costs. After months of defending a claim worth £40,000, the legal costs incurred by both sides had amounted to well over the value of the claim. Not only that, but the company directors had diverted time and attention away from their businesses, personal lives and had felt the intense stress and anxiety that court proceedings cause.
Business owners have one objective in mind. To ensure that their creative efforts serve others in such a way that they generate a profit. This is prevented by conflict and the time and resources that are poured into preparing for a court hearing.
We can’t avoid conflict but we can change the way we resolve it. The parties to any dispute are obliged legally, to settle claims before they get to a trial, but the reality is, many claims settle late in their development after considerable costs have been incurred. Mediation is often not considered early on as both parties seek to pressurise each other into settling when they are in a stronger position, usually after they must comply with the requirement to disclose their evidence. That needs to change if you want to protect your business from financial devastation and your mental well-being from harm.
Here are five ways you can use mediation to benefit your business.
- Take control. A judge imposes a limited solution on the parties, meaning that one will win and the other will lose. It’s never certain how a judge will rule. A mediation is about supporting constructive dialogue and coaching the parties to come to solutions that they agree with and that satisfy their mutual interests. The mediator does not adjudicate, it’s up to the parties to decide the outcome.
- Save money. Mediation can cost as little £600 for a seven-hour mediation[. The cost of issuing a court claim worth between £10,000 to £100,000, is 5% of the claim. That’s a staggering amount of money to save, especially for claims that fall within this value and higher. Factor in on top of that, the hourly rate of a solicitor which on average is between £201 to £409 depending on their level of experience.
- Confidentiality is key. A court judgement will be available to the public which can damage a business’ reputation, it can expose trade secrets and can be used by others as a precedent to attack you further. Mediation, however, is a totally confidential process which means settlements are kept out of the public domain. Mediators only disclose what you permit them to, leaving your business protected and safe from exposure.
- Mediation maintains good relations. Even if you believe there is no point to saving a relationship, would you really want a disgruntled employee to walk away and vocalise their complaint on social media? If you do want to maintain a long-term relationship, you can guarantee that court proceedings will destroy trust and goodwill entirely. This is particularly relevant in a family or inheritance context. Mediation seeks to build on trust and communication so that you don’t have to worry about losing key clients, employees or other people that you still want or need to have a relationship with.
- Save Time. If you mediate early on in a conflict, you can save the time it takes to prepare of a court hearing. You can also resolve a long-standing dispute in a day, providing all parties are willing to do so. This, in turn, saves more legal fees.
I am fed up of seeing business and individuals suffer the fall out of destructive conflict. Court proceedings may vindicate legal principles and give you a win/lose solution but the costs of achieving that, the time it takes to reach that point and the stress it causes only lead to more difficulties. Mediation is not guaranteed to result in settlement but even if it does not, many of the barriers that prevent conflict resolution, will have shifted to a more open, more approachable way of creating something valuable out of a tricky situation.
Need any advice? Let me know!