Looking back; Looking Forward: CEDR starts its 25 year birthday celebrations

Last week CEDR launched its 25 Years Anniversary celebrations with an event at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP on ‘How Mediation and ADR has moved forward in the last 25 years’ for our CEDR Exchange members followed by a reception for all current and former CEDR employees.

The evening compered by CEDR Director Graham Massie, brought together a wide range of CEDR mediators telling personal stories and reflections about how the industry has developed over the last 25 years and what the future holds. Below is a summary of the lively discussion:

Joanna Cavell from CEDR talked about her experience in mediations and how every mediator need to be able to feel comfortable in ‘winging it’, or adapting to the individual characteristics of a particular mediation. Although preparation is key, being able to think on one’s feet and improvise is also key when it comes to running a mediation and with the more experience one gains, the more able one is to do this.

Andreia Aguiar, Client adviser at CEDR talked about the role of the Dispute Resolution Adviser in the mediation process and how this role is becoming more and more involved during the pre-mediation stage in working with the parties. Often the Adviser can have to mediate with the parties and their advisers/ legal representatives so the mediations can actually take place.
Additionally, Andreia mentioned how what we, as mediators, do can impact and make other people’s lives so much better often bringing people together after years of disagreement. She gave the example of a case in which two parties who were related to each other had been in dispute for more than 12 years and refused to meet or talk to each other, except through lawyers. At the end of the mediation the parties’ relationship had improved so much that they even had a cup of tea together.

Susanne Schuler, Assistant Director of Training, talked about training and how the skills that are imparted in CEDR’s courses are useful not only for mediators professionally but also in our daily lives, as managers and leaders. She also shared her most positive experience on a training course where two people who could not stand each other at the beginning of the course, ended up getting married a few years later.

David Richbell, former Director of Training, shared his thoughts on how parties are being represented by clients with much more sophisticated negotiation skills, and how this has had an impact on the level of complexity of the cases that end up going to mediation.

Charles Middleton Smith gave an overview of how things have evolved from when he was asked by a Partner at the law firm in which he used to work back in 1997 to go and ‘check out’ what this whole new thing about mediation is about and then come back and tell us all about it. He emphasised how the experience has changed the way he thought about working through disputes and the difference in atmosphere that he encountered in the mediation world. One of the points that he raised was the sense of nerves and then achievement he felt before and after mediating his first case in 1999.

Other mediators shared their experiences of particular mediations. David Daly shared his experience of a mediation about a dowry dispute, in which he managed to give Islamic parties equal opportunities to divorce each other by each one saying in intervals, 3 times each, ‘I divorce you’, creating a truly equal opportunities mediation. John Burgess talked about how mediation has taken him to a whole different level he would have never imagined – and how becoming a mediator and using those skills everyday makes him a better person.

From there we moved onto the future with Andy Rogers, Director of Communications, talking about where CEDR is today and the challenges the mediation community faces going forward, for example the need to find younger mediators to be the next generation. In a particularly insightful section, Jane Player and Eve Pienaar followed with where do we see CEDR in the future in relation to in-house counsels and the perspective of the lawyer in mediation and how informed lawyers have become more supportive and helpful in mediation.

Finally at the reception that followed the event, CEDR’s Chief Executive, Dr Karl Mackie CBE, made a speech thanking those alumni for coming and for their role in developing the organisation, as a people organisation, the importance of CEDR’s staff in driving this forward cannot be underestimated. Lady Elizabeth Vallance, CEDR’s Chair of the Board, then closed the evening’s speeches by summing up what had been discussed and how there needs to be increased advocacy of the power and advantages of mediation with the Government.

All in all, the evening was both an apt tribute to CEDR’s contribution to the field over the last 25 years and an exciting prospect for the future.

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