Barristers at Littleton Chambers are to form a mediation services business in what is thought to be the first ever move by a set of chambers to set up its own limited liability company.
Littleton Dispute Resolution Services Ltd, trading as Littleton Mediation, will be owned and operated by 12 of the chamber's 34 barristers.
Michel Kallipetis QC, Daniel Serota QC and Richard Price OBE QC, will initially act as the three directors.
The new company follows the Panel of Independent Mediators, established in January by a mix of seven independent solicitors and barristers to increase their visibility as mediators.
But PIM member Tony Willis says: “This goes a long way further than we went. It's the first straight-forward commercial competitor for CEDR (the Centre for Dispute Resolution) and the first UK replication of similar mediation companies in the US.”
David Douglas, Littleton Chambers chief executive, says: “With these 12 we have stuck to those who have either trained as mediators and are CEDR accredited or have got a substantial amount of experience, and therefore have credibility.”
Douglas says when Littleton Mediation opens on 1 May, it will offer mostly commercial customers the services of a mediator and rooms where the meetings can be held.
The company will then hire one of the 12 owners to act as mediator. In that way the barrister-owners can remain self-employed.
While they will act solely as mediators when working for their own company, the barristers and other members of chambers will continue as advocates in outside cases.
Charles Dodson, a director of CEDR, the largest body linking customers and mediators, says “we welcome an expanding ADR market and see competition as inevitable. Our only concern is that those coming into the field are properly trained”.
Littleton's prices will be negotiated before a case is started and “over time” they will develop hourly rates for work done, Douglas says.
He says that one of the main attractions of setting up a limited company is that they don't need massive capital to do it.