The Courts system in Ireland is set up so that most cases settle. The proper functioning of the system requires is dependent on cases settling. If a case runs, it usually clogs up the system and causes delays for the many other cases listed behind it, as a result of which those cases do not get reached and settled that day.
The upshot of this is that certain types of cases, which experience shows are hard to settle – such as family disputes, bullying and harassment cases, land disputes, probate disputes and some complex commercial cases – get separated into different lists so as not to interrupt the smooth running of the more efficient cases. These “hard settlers” are then in long waiting lists behind other similar cases and as a result waiting lists are long and hearing dates far away. Parties who feel it is necessary to run cases, and cases that are necessary to run, end up with very significant delays and legal bills. The extremely high cost of running cases is another cause of concern with the Courts system. All disputes can be expensive, but the hard settlers more so.
So in some respects, the Courts system is broken. The benefit of mediation is that parties with legitimate disputes that need to be aired get the opportunity to prepare for their “hearing day” and to get across the reasons for their grievance. As a result of this interaction the parties can find it much easier to reach a compromise. A legal dictum is audi alteram partem, or “hear the other side”. The practice is that once a person has been heard and their grievance aired and listened to, they are often more open to then looking at the problem and discussing how best to reach a compromise.
Preparing for a mediation is very much like preparing for a Court hearing. You make sure you have all the reports and documents that would be needed for Court and prepare your statement of facts setting out your case. This does not have to take years as it does in a Court process. Instead it can be achieved in days. The time and effort saved by front loading the mediation process is enormous. Mediation often happens either at the start of the litigation process or near to the end. Obviously, engaging at the start is more cost efficient and saves a huge amount of frustration and resentment. It should also be significantly cheaper than litigation in nearly every case.
It is to be hoped that those advising Defendants will come to realise that mediation works and is an excellent solution for those cases where the Courts system will only serve to add to the animosity between the parties and cause delay and expense before finally having a day in Court.
Should you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the writer Thomas Dowling, Mediator by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 061 501100.