Leading UK Sets and Individuals Recognised

Twenty-five UK barristers’ chambers are recognised for exceptional performances in the latest research by Who’s Who Legal across 26 practice areas, including mediation.

Brick Court Chambers is a large and prestigious commercial, competition and public law set with outstanding strength and depth, earning recognition in half the practice area chapters in this edition… Brick Court stands out in particular for its undeniably top-tier competition law practice, as well as its commercial expertise in the banking and finance, insurance and reinsurance, and energy sectors.

The set is also a leader in alternative dispute resolution, earning multiple high-status listings in our arbitration and mediation chapters.

Of the top four mediator silks recognised by Who’s Who as “most highly regarded” two of those four are from Brick Court;

Brick Court Chambers boast an impressive bench of commercial mediators with extensive experience in high-profile disputes worldwide. Three prominent silks are recognised.

Door tenant John Sturrock QC is considered a “thought leader” in the area. Sources cite his keen intellect”, “preparation to get at core issues” and “massive wealth of experience in difficult negotiation situations”. Another respondent maintains, “John is the best mediator I have met and has brought about a settlement in two cases which I thought resolution was impossible.”

William Wood QC is also regarded as a “thought leader”, earning widespread praise from peers who regard him as a “stellar performer” and “one of the world’s top mediators”. Wood regularly mediates on a wide variety of complex and high-profile disputes internationally, including a high number of competition, insurance and telecoms matters.

The “extremely popular and successful” Stephen Ruttle QC is a leading mediator in the international commercial sphere praised as an “innovator” and “extraordinary performer”.

Tony Willis of Brick Court Chambers is an eminent mediator with an excellent reputation in the field. He often handles cases across Europe and the Middle East.

A Doggerel by Richard Lord QC

xxxxThey say that a good mediator

For all types of dispute can cater

But industry know how

Will certainly show how

To crack it and sooner not later

This doggerel illustrates a divide in opinion amongst mediators. The “purist” tendency is of the view that the mediator’s skill lies solely in just that, being a mediator. On this approach the mediator will, regardless of professional background, be equally able to resolve family disputes, disputes within the local rugby club or Conservative party, shareholder actions, professional negligence claims and charterparty issues.

The alternative and perhaps more conventional view is that knowledge of the sector in which the dispute arises is a big plus, if not essential. On this approach you appoint an underwriter, broker or insurance lawyer as mediator for an insurance dispute or a social worker for a family dispute.

The relevance of this factor will depend on the type of dispute involved. The paradigm situation is a dispute involving issues and disagreements over the (historic) facts and applicable law. But not all disputes do – in some mediations the parties know what the facts and the law are but cannot arrive at a solution.

Industry knowledge has a number of obvious and related advantages. The first is that an understanding of the relevant subject and the issues thrown up facilitates the building of mediator credibility, and trust between the mediator and the parties. Secondly, a familiarity with the subject and the associated law (which usually go together) enables much more effective “reality testing”. This may include the appropriate introduction of points that neither the party the mediator is talking to nor their opponents may have thought of. “Reality testing”, done properly, is one of the most vital tools in lowering expectations.

The counter from the purists is that too much specialist knowledge is a distraction to the mediator. It may lead to a focus on what he or she think is the “right” answer, as opposed to picking up signals and nuanced messages from the parties and their conduct.

On balance I believe that industry knowledge is a definite plus. It cannot replace good mediation technique, but it can certainly enhance it.

Richard Lord Q.C.








Brick Court home to “some of the most highly regarded” mediators in the world

The sixth edition of Who’s Who Legal: Mediation Analysis published this week features over 300 mediators across 52 countries selected as leaders in the field.

The UK Bar continues to be well represented, most notably by Brick Court Chambers whose “fantastic” mediation offering includes two of our most highly regarded individuals. Our research also highlights a number of stand-out individual practitioners.

Home to some of the most highly regarded individuals in our research, Brick Court Chambers continues to demonstrate the depth and breadth of its mediation expertise and its leading position at the UK Bar. The “absolutely charming and totally brilliant” William Wood QC is described by many as “one of the best mediators in England”. He has experience mediating in Dubai, Hong Kong, New York, Johannesburg, UK and Nairobi making his practice “truly international”. Considered “an elder statesman of the mediation field”, Tony Willis is recognised for his “distinctive ability to adapt to any given conflict”. For many respondents, Stephen Ruttle QC is “a truly sensational mediator” and is admired for his “instinctive and intuitive nature” when dealing with disputes in both the public and private sector. Geoff Sharp is a door tenant at the chambers and is “one of New Zealand’s pre-eminent mediators”. He possesses “vast experience mediating in Asia and the Middle East”. Also a door tenant at chambers is Core Solutions Group’s founder and chief executive, John Sturrock QC. He is regarded as “a seasoned expert in the field”, and is recognised for “the great ease with which he facilitates high-level disputes”.

Geoff Sharp Back @ Brick Court

Geoff-resized2We are delighted that Brick Court door tenant Geoff Sharp is back in Chambers for September/October.

Geoff is usually based in New Zealand and primarily works in the Asia Pacific region but, as he did last year, is returning to London for an extended period. He has already been mediating since arriving in mid September and is keen to fill October.

Geoff’s bio here.

If you’d like to get in touch with Geoff, please contact him at geoff.sharp@brickcourt.co.uk or through our mediation clerk Kate Trott on +44 (0) 20 7520 9813

Mediation? The most expensive sandwiches I’ve ever eaten! #2

On the 12th May the sandwiches were well eaten at the Brick Court Mediation Symposium held at Holborn Bars, London.

Watch the video for some wonderfully sophisticated takes on mediation and be sure to read the take away booklet given to guests containing the results of the online survey completed prior to attending.

This was an evening where mediation users had centre stage and Brick Court mediators listened, intending to incorporate those views into our mediation practice.

Questions like these gave rise to a range of user views;

1. Is mediation being used as often as it should? Or used too often? Have we reached peak mediation? If there is resistance how should the Courts or the mediation community respond? What are the sticking points?

“Still cases not being mediated that should be. My sense is the top end stuff gets well looked after and will be mediated if appropriate but the bulk of mid-range litigation is not being optimized”

“[A senior GC] says 19 out of 20 requests he makes for mediation are refused by the other side. This is often because mediation is non-binding and there are issues with enforceability. When the backdrop is the UK Courts, the level seems about right, with certain areas – PI, clinical negligence abstaining. Likewise its use in international arbitration is negligible

2. Are parties generally prepared to negotiate or are there still cases in which they are box-ticking or pursuing other agendas? Do they routinely attend with inadequate authority?


3. Preparation, preliminary meetings, telephone calls , questionnaires,? How do we set the mediation day(s) up best?

“Following the mediator receiving the position papers and documents, they should read them early on (bring the deadline forward a week) and then have further conversations or distribute points which need further thought or will be a particular focus on the day. The mediator needs to play a much more active role in the run up to a mediation to ensure that the day can be as useful and speedy as possible”

4. Joint sessions: do you like them, can we improve them, should we abandon them? With all the talk about the retreat of joint sessions in the USA, and to some extent the UK, look at these results with 75% of respondents voting them as useful.


5. What in general are the most effective forms of assistance the mediator can give the parties during mediation?

“Give me strategy advice. Not merit based but based on the dynamics to that point. Rehearse me through the next offer and beyond and give me whatever signals they can about how she thinks my offer will land. I can learn a lot from that”

6. After-care: the long-tail mediation – is this the way things are going?

The sense we at BC have had for some time is that many commercial mediations are no longer settling after a one or 2 day event but rather are seen as part of an active process and settle at some point after the face-to-face phase, with the mediator being an integral part of that extended after-care. While the online survey below is limited to 15% plus settling after mediation day – we think the plus might be up to 30%.

“Perseverance by the mediator was the key. His timing was a little off so it was slow work but then eventually the stars aligned. Just knowing the mediator was still on the job, willing to assist gave the parties the motivation to get it done”

“Holding parties to the framework for settlement agreed in the face to face part, dissuading against moving the goal posts”