Article for Law Society Gazette
The Irish Commercial Mediation Association (ICMA) hosted its 3rd conference in Croke Park on Friday 6th March. There was a tremendous turnout of over 140 Solicitors, Barristers, Mediators and other Business Professionals. The Conference theme was – MEDIATION SAVES – TIME, MONEY AND BUSINESS RELATIONSHIPS. Attendees got an insight into the mediation experience both in Ireland and other jurisdictions and attendees were encouraged to consider mediation as the first choice when advising clients who are in a commercial dispute.
ICMA also announced findings from a survey which issued to the Managing Partners of more than 3,500 Law and Accountancy firms as well as Barristers and other professionals. The respondents said that the key advantage of commercial mediation is cost saving, stating that their clients could save up to 70% compared with litigation. Other key advantages are speed, control of the process, confidentiality and the preservation of business relationships. Respondents ranked mediation as their first preference in dispute resolution putting it before conciliation, arbitration and litigation. Mediation is most widely used in family business, construction, partnerships, property, and termination of business relationships, employment and professional negligence.
Due to growth in awareness and use of mediation, along with the sharp rise in the number of disputes, ICMA predict that the number of disputes that will be settled through commercial mediation will double over the coming year.
Mr Justice Peter Kelly, Head of the Commercial Division of the High Court, chaired a panel discussion with the speakers at the conference. He stated:
“ICMA have to be commended for conducting this survey. It has enabled us all to get a better understanding of the attitudes towards mediation and gather some very relevant figures on actual cases mediated over the last three years. It is very encouraging to find that one in three law firms and one in five accountancy firms now have an accredited mediator. ICMA is doing great work in building awareness of commercial mediation and the benefits that the process can bring to businesses that are in dispute.”
The Law Reform Commission, in its recent consultation paper on alternative dispute resolution, acknowledged the benefits of mediation and recommended that the principles are placed on a statutory footing. It also recommended that a pilot court mediation scheme be established in the District Courts.
Austin Kenny, ICMA spokesperson states:
“Although commercial mediation is still relatively new in Ireland, there has been a significant increase in the number of cases dealt with through mediation in the last year. Mediation can deliver a speedy and cost effective outcome. Cases are typically dealt with in a 3 to 6 week period from commencing the process, which is significantly quicker then going to trial. The parties, through their direct involvement in the process, can often end up with a more creative solution than litigation can provide. The process creates the opportunity for important relationships to be repaired which could otherwise be damaged by litigation. In some cases an apology and/ or explanation, rather than money, is central to disputes being resolved.“
Despite commercial mediation being in its relative infancy in Ireland, statistics available from the Irish Commercial Court indicate that almost 65% of cases referred to mediation last year were successfully settled. ICMA’s survey showed a higher success rate of approximately 70% over the last three years. In other jurisdictions such as the US and UK where commercial mediation is significantly more established, the volume of cases being dealt with through mediation is much higher than in Ireland and the success rate is up to 85%.
To find out more about Commercial Mediation, or to become a member of ICMA – visit www.icma.ie