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The number of commercial mediations referred to the Centre for Dispute Resolution (CEDR) rose for the fourth consecutive year in 2004.
CEDR's commercial mediation provider, CEDR Solve, had a caseload of 692 cases last year, up 9 per cent from 2003's total of 631 cases. Since 1998 the caseload has nearly tripled. However, the number of cases settling under the scheme has dropped in the same period, from 85 per cent in 1998 to 75 per cent in 2004.
Over the past two years, the proportion of mediated cases valued at £1m or more has remained static at 18 per cent.
Most mediations are dealt with in London, although 51 per cent of parties came from outside the capital. Last year, 11 per cent of cases involved international parties.
A record 502 law firms used CEDR Solve for mediation last year, highlighting its increase in popularity as alternative dispute resolution continues to be a popular way of avoiding messy public litigation.
Although cases are spread over a range of practice areas, disputes over the supply of goods and services accounted for the most referrals to CEDR, at 22 per cent of cases. However, the property and employment sectors have always been popular for referral and in 2004 accounted for nearly a third of all cases.
The growth in popularity of mediation has prompted several chambers to increase their expertise in the field. Brick Court Chambers recently hired former head of Clifford Chance Tony Willis to add to its existing pair of specialist mediators, William Wood QC and Stephen Ruttle QC (The Lawyer, 27 September 2004).