Resolve dispute over mediation

The research into mediation at the Central London County Court is more interesting than your headline "Research finds solicitors hostile to mediation scheme" (The Lawyer, 4 August 1998) would indicate.

You reported that many solicitors "preferred to depend on known litigation strategies rather than experimenting". Obviously – solicitors are not a bunch of mad scientists gleefully experimenting on the unwary.

Given the other findings in the report – that there are varying standards of quality and ethics among mediators; that mediators used contrasting styles; that settlements reached in mediation may be lower than those from litigation; and finally, that there is no evidence that any real savings are made – it is not surprising that solicitors are "generally unenthusiastic".

Despite this, the Law Society has supported mediation for many years. In spite of the lack of legal aid funding for mediation in civil disputes, the Law Society is embarking on an extensive awareness-raising campaign, not only to ensure that solicitors are able to advise clients on the most appropriate method of resolving a dispute, but also to ensure that they have the skills to participate fully in the mediation process.

I hope that the Law Society will be able to work with the Government on addressing the issues highlighted in Professor Genn's research, so that mediation can take its rightful place in the dispute resolution arena.

I also hope that we will see more adequately researched pilot schemes, so that there will be proper quality control over the process and real benefits for our clients.

Derek Sands, chairman of Law Society's ADR Working Party and the Courts & Legal Services Committee.