Bill Wood: a nightmare returns

paperstackIn common with many other advocates I used to have a recurring nightmare in which I walked into a court and was expected to address the judge while knowing absolutely nothing about the case.[1]

One night last week, after an interval of several years, the nightmare returned. I was apparently instructed to bring a claim against the makers of a well-known luxury car brand.

They for their part, unfairly as it seemed to me, had instructed the legendary Barcelona striker Lionel Messi to represent them. (He had added silk to his numerous other trophies). In the event the hearing went surprisingly well. So well indeed that we seemed to be moving on to quantum issues when I woke up.

But I digress.

The question is: why has the nightmare returned?

The best I can come up with is that it reflects the increasing tendency of parties (or rather their lawyers) to demand from me as the mediator more engagement with and more technical analysis of the legal issues.

Bluntly I’m being put on the spot. Recently two parties amended my mediation agreement to require me (the usual wording merely “permits” me) to express my views on the merits of their respective positions at the end of the mediation day if the case had not otherwise settled.

The case didn’t settle. Frank appraisals took place. As far as I could tell I left the building cordially disliked by both sides. But the following day both parties told me that the assessments had been a good platform for my continued attempts to settle the case.

The process continues. We shall see.Continue Reading

Singapore International Mediation Centre Launched

Singapore 5 November – Brick Court mediators John Sturrock QC and Geoff Sharp participated in the launch of the Singapore International Mediation Centre this week.

With an audience of over 100 government officials, academics, company representatives, legal advisers and mediators from all over South East Asia present, the pair posed a number of provocative questions about the practice of mediation and how practitioners can continue to improve it.Continue Reading

Groupement Européen des Magistrats pour la Médiation


Brick Court Mediator, HH Nicholas Chambers QC, writes: Groupement Européen des Magistrats pour la Médiation (“GEMME”) celebrated its 10th anniversary in early June with a symposium called “Un Chemin de Paix Pour la Justice en Europe”. Over two hundred people took part in a grand occasion held over two days in the courts on l’Ȋsle de la Cité in Paris. Contributions were made by the First President of the Court of Cassation, a distinguished representative of the French Ministry of Justice as well as senior judges and ministers from a number of states including Sir Alan Ward and Sir Gavin Lightman. All this was in addition to more specialist involvement.Continue Reading

Tony Willis introduces one of America’s leading scholars in dispute resolution

Tony-introduces-TomOne of America’s leading scholars in the dispute resolution realm was introduced by Brick Court Mediator, Tony Willis at a series of talks in New Zealand in late September.

Tom Stipanowich is a professor of law at Pepperdine University, where he is the William H. Webster chair in dispute resolution and the executive director of the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution as well as being a noted authority on the art of mediation and Hollywood.

Tom was co-author, with Ian Macneil and Richard Speidel, of the groundbreaking five-volume treatise Federal Arbitration Law: Agreements, Awards & Remedies Under the Federal Arbitration Act. The book has been cited by the Supreme Court and many other federal and state courts, as well as being named Best New Legal Book by the Association of American Publishers.

Speaking at the Victoria University of Wellington and an AMINZ Wellington breakfast meeting before going to Auckland to speak at the Law School and Bankside Chambers Tom and Tony spoke on  “Mediation from the Inside Out: Insights from an International Survey of Experienced Mediators” and “International Mediation and Conflict Management:  Near a Tipping Point?”

BC’s Own John Sturrock in a Master Class with William Ury

On 4 September, Core Solutions sponsored a Master Class with William Ury for Collaborative Scotland’s Day of Dialogue.

Catering for growing demand for dispute resolution services in Asia

The Singapore International Mediation Centre is scheduled to open in November 2014 to provide international commercial mediation services with the support of the government.

The Centre will have an international board and commercial mediators from around the world will be asked to join its panel. Brick Court mediators have already been approached to join the Centre’s international panel.

The Singapore International Commercial Court will be a division of the Singapore High Court and have a number of attractive features such as hearing submissions on any law, rather than just Singapore law and allowing  foreign lawyers to appear.

In addition to the well-established Singapore  International Arbitration Centre, these two institutions will meet the growing demand for neutral venues in which to  resolve cross-border disputes making Singapore a multi door dispute resolution centre for international commercial disputes.

Initiating Litigation Isn’t Refusing Mediation If Other Party Hasn’t Sought It

A mediation provision in a real estate contract required a party who refused to mediate and then lost in litigation to pay the other party’s attorneys’ fees.

A US Federal Appellate Court, however, concluded that there must be a request for mediation before there could be a refusal; simply filing the litigation was not sufficient to prove a refusal to mediate. Accordingly, since the defendant who prevailed in the litigation had not sought to mediate, the plaintiff had not refused and was not responsible for paying defendant’s attorneys’ fees.
Thompson v. Cloud, Nos. 13-1120, 13-1121 (U.S.C.A. 1st Cir., August 20, 2014)

Who’s Who Legal Recognise Brick Court Mediators As Some Of The Most Highly Rated in the World

In August 2014 WHO’s WHO LEGAL recognised 298 of the world’s leading commercial mediators, saying each should be considered to be among the outstanding experts in their jurisdiction.

As part of the list of 298, Who’s Who also selected the 10 most highly regarded commercial mediators in the world and incredibly four Brick Court mediators featured in that top 10 list both 2013 in 2014.

“Several members of the UK Bar stand out for the quality of their mediation practices, and Brick Court Chambers is home to some of the most highly rated practitioners in the world.

Tony Willis is “part of the aristocracy” and a “premier league mediator”. Former managing partner of Clifford Chance, he is a three-time winner of our Mediator of the Year Award and has conducted more than a thousand mediations in relation to areas such as professional negligence, boardroom disputes, construction and insurance for clients such as corporates, individuals, government departments and regulators.

William Wood QC is said to be “at the top of his game, absolutely superb”. Interviewees say he is “always well prepared, and inspires the confidence of solicitors and clients alike.”

Stephen Ruttle QC is “first-rate” and has successfully mediated many hundreds of disputes, some of which involve billions of pounds.

Clients would go to Geoff Sharp “10 times out of 10”. A door tenant at Brick Court, he has conducted over a thousand mediations in New Zealand and worldwide, and is one of the most highly rated individuals on our international research.

John Sturrock QC of Core Solutions Group in Edinburgh was also announced as a Brick Court door tenant in May 2013, and is “internationally recognised as a major player in this area”.”

Civil justice reforms and the balance of power

Almost all mediations are strongly affected by cost considerations. Many are completely dominated by them. Costs are a crucial element in the weighing of risk and reward that parties are being asked to engage in at a mediation and mediation’s big attraction is often that it gives the parties the chance to settle and to “stop the clock”.

So it is unsurprising that the changing machinery for the incurring and recovering of legal costs in our civil procedure system is a matter of enormous interest, indeed concern, to the mediation community.

The Super-claimant

Mediators got used to working in the CFA/ATE universe. It had its problems but we got used to it. It was always difficult to negotiate with the “super-claimant” who had passed all the risks of defeat to a combination of his lawyers and his insurers. “Bill, what incentive do I have to settle for that?” such a Claimant would ask. “There is simply no down-side for me in fighting on.” The obligation to pay the lawyers and the ATE insurers (and often the funders too) might well mean that until a very substantial sum of money indeed had been tabled at a mediation, the super-claimant him- or herself was getting nothing.Continue Reading

It only takes a few moments…

It was just a few moments. “You can’t play on our course without proper golf shoes.” “But we played here two days ago in these shoes.” “My colleague must have made a mistake”. “But it was you who let us play…”. “It’s in our rules.” “Where?” “Here.” “No it’s not. There is nothing about soft spikes. Only shirts with collars…”

Those few moments remain seared on my brain. Out of the window went respect and courtesy. The trigger had been triggered. After a futile exchange, we grudgingly accepted the starter’s offer of golf shoes to wear, free of charge. And then there was the “you must have a bag each” rule. On a hotel 9-hole course? Forgive me but…..

My first drive was OK. Scrambled a par. On the par 3 second hole, my drive was short and the chip long, pumped with adrenalin. My drive at the third fairly bulleted towards the trees, where a passing youngster helpfully picked up my ball and came towards me, offering it to me with a smile.Continue Reading