Paul Tapsell, a CMC-accredited civil mediator, extols the virtues of the CMC Fixed Fee Mediation scheme and virtual mediations.
The present pandemic has resulted in a significant increase in the time it takes matters, especially civil claims, to get to court for a final hearing and those delays are only going to get longer so there has never been a better time to consider mediation as a quick, cheap and effective alternative to litigation and the Civil Mediation Council’s Fixed Fee Mediation scheme allows parties to benefit from a very economic tariff for relatively low-value claims (i.e. up to £50,000) using CMC-accredited civil mediators.
Full details are available on the CMC website at https://civilmediation.org/fixed-fee-scheme but in summary mediators who have signed up to the scheme have agreed to undertake mediations at fixed rates related to the value of the claims and the likely duration of the mediation appointment.
For claims of up to £5,000 the fee is £75 + VAT per party for a 1 hour mediation (usually by phone or video) or £125 + VAT per party for a 2-hour appointment; a claim worth between £5,000 and £15,000 costs £320 + VAT per party for a 3-hour mediation and a claim valued between £15,000 and £50,000 attracts a fee of £445 + VAT per party for a 4 hour mediation. Additional time, if needed, is charged at £100 + VAT per hour.
When one considers the inevitable legal and other costs of litigation (e.g. HMCTS’ issue and hearing fees) mediation can be seen to be an attractive alternative to making or defending a claim in Court, particularly where any such litigation costs are unlikely to be awarded (in Small Claims matters), or are substantially restricted (in Fast Track trials) or likely to be assessed down (in Multi-Track cases) and may not be recoverable in any event.
The earlier mediation is attempted the bigger the potential saving to the parties; there’s no reason mediation cannot be considered prior to any claim being issued – a CPR-compliant Letter before Claim and Response should usually provide sufficient information for the parties (and the mediator) to appreciate the issues involved!
While the CMC-Fixed Fee scheme is encouraging mediations that are somewhat shorter than the typical half- or full-day mediations usually offered by most providers (including Becket Mediation), pilot schemes elsewhere, e.g. the Central London County Court scheme operated by CEDR with 3-hour appointments, show that such arrangements can prove very successful at helping parties resolve their disputes and, in fact, shorter appointments can often encourage parties to focus on what’s really most important to them.
As with most mediations, the Fixed Fee Scheme mediator will usually outline the process to the parties or their representatives in advance but then the mechanics of the mediation itself are usually set by the parties, albeit with some guidance from the mediator.
At the moment most mediations are being done virtually and video-conferencing allows the mediator to speak to each party and their representatives separately, or to have everyone together in a “plenary” session, or to set up private, breakout rooms for the parties to meet privately with their representatives or for all the parties’ representatives to speak together (with or without the mediator). It is also possible for participants to share documents on screen or by email and for settlement agreements to be exchanged and signed electronically.
The mediation process is voluntary and confidential and the parties are free to “think outside the box” and will often identify key outcomes or issues which would not be available or relevant to the Court if the matter were being litigated. While mediation usually requires a degree of movement and compromise by both parties it is often possible to achieve a result where both parties have gained from the process. A solution which has come from the participants themselves and which both have contributed to and have invested in (rather than one which has been imposed on them both by the Court) will often provide a suitable starting point for a new, positive, relationship between the parties.
If you would like to find out more about the CMC Fixed Fee Mediation Scheme or the mediation services (family, civil or workplace) offered by Becket Mediation please contact the clerks at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website www.becketmediation.co.uk.