Accessibility Links

General counsel 'favour commercial mediators'

Posted by: Laurence Simons 06/06/13

Lawyers are notoriously territorial. A 2004 David Attenborough documentary revealed that, when left to their own devices in the wild, they prefer to have whole fields to themselves and do not enjoy hunting in packs. Exceptions can occur when two legal professionals decide to mate, but generally speaking the lawyer is a solitary, proud animal.

While tamed legal experts set to work in offices renounce many of their former habits, becoming sufficiently social to collaborate with colleagues and occasionally enjoy a swift half after work, a recent report has indicated that some vestiges of their time in the wild remain.

Almost half of the in-house counsel in North American and Europe surveyed by the International Mediation Institute felt that external lawyers were often an impediment to the mediation process.

Indeed, many favoured commercial mediators who made up for their lack of direct legal experience with an awareness and expertise of the industry in which the dispute is taking place.

Tony Dempsey, director at WISDOMdr, told Lawyers Weekly: "There are some litigators who fail to take off their adversarial hat, and put on their collaborative hat, when they come to mediation, and that’s why I think general counsel sometimes find them to be an impediment." However, it is as yet uncertain what manner of headwear Mr Dempsey was wearing when making these comments.

A proactive mediator who not only facilitates but also generates and proposes solutions and settlement options was highly favoured by 77 per cent, showing that the counsel are not opposed to 'interfering' but simply to the addition of unnecessary legal expertise.

Mediation is becoming crucial when it comes to solving commercial disputes on a global basis, placing general counsel in an important role for modern businesses. Only eight per cent of survey respondents had no experience in this kind of situation.