Brick Court in the Pacific

Brick Court mediator, Geoff Sharp, has been teaching mediation at the University of the South Pacific in the Cook Islands this week courtesy of Cook Islands Law Society, New Zealand Law Society and Massey University.

The course was held at the USP campus on the island of Rarotonga in the Southern Group of 15 tiny islands that make up the Cooks. The resident population of all islands in the group is estimated to be between 11,000 and 12,000, almost all Cook Islands Maori.

By the way, the Cook Islands is one of the few countries in the world to ask a question about coconut consumption as a part of its census – and it was revealed in 2017 that 2,947 households use 28,461 coconuts every week. That’s 10 coconuts per home per week!

In some ways teaching mediation anywhere in the Pacific is taking coals to Newcastle, there being a strong tradition of conflict resolution by mediation within Pacifika social order – in particular in the many villages dotted throughout the islands, often remote from any formal system of justice.

But the modern form, especially for civil disputes – which are mainly land issues – has been eagerly awaited. It won’t be long before mediation is mainstream in the Cooks and it will be very colourful with plenty of food, prayer and maybe even song integrated into the process.

Thanks go to other faculty members, Prof Laurence Boulle, Virginia Goldblatt (co authors of Mediation: Skills and Strategies) and Dick Edwards of NZLS CLE who made it all happen.

Brick Court Mediators In Asia

This week Geoff Sharp was appointed one of a handful of Senior International Mediators to the new Mainland China – Hong Kong Mediation Center.

Being the first joint mediation center in the region set up by two major mediation institutions in Mainland China and Hong Kong, the Center aims to provide an effective platform for resolving cross-border commercial disputes between Mainland China and Hong Kong, in particular with China’s “Belt and Road” initiative.
The Center is a joint venture between the China Chamber of International Commerce and the Hong Kong Mediation Centre, with the vigorous support of the Department of Justice.
The Belt and Road inititive together with the National 13th Five-Year Plan means cross-border trade is set to increase drastically and commercial disputes are expected to follow.


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 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”


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

sandwich-300x222We have recently launched an online survey to find out what our clients think about commercial mediation.

The survey responses are intended to form the basis of a discussion at next month’s Brick Court evening symposium “Mediation? The most expensive sandwiches I’ve ever eaten!”

Our senior mediators Tony Willis, Stephen Ruttle QC, John Sturrock QC and Geoff Sharp will all participate – chaired by Bill Wood QC.

In the meantime, we would be delighted if you would please take a moment to respond to the 9 question survey here

Along with other matters, we are testing our thoughts around;

>Is mediation changing? To what extent is it becoming a more protracted, long-tail process? What more we do to help you as things change?
>Does the commercial world make proper use of mediation now? How much resistance do you still see to the idea of mediation?
>How likely do you think it is that we may reach the point of “peak mediation”? Are we there already? What more do commercial clients need from mediators?

The survey will be available online until 18th April and results will be reported back at this blog in due course.