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The Increasing Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures in UK Civil Law

Mediation and other alternative dispute resolution procedures (ADR) are going to become ever more important within the UK civil justice system going forward. Following government consultations and the success of the use of ‘negotiation dispute resolution’ (NDR) in family, housing and consumer cases, we can expect to see alternative dispute resolution procedures integrated in wider civil and commercial litigation.

This is primarily due to the ongoing backlog of cases being experiences across the UK legal system. It is estimated that the reforms already committed to will free up nearly 5,000 sitting days per year, which will reduce waiting times for more complex cases. But the adoption of ADR procedures is also designed to make mediation and other types of dispute resolution more accessible and to simplify the processes for civil cases, making them quicker and easier to resolve.

Which Cases Will Be Affected

As previously mentioned, in civil cases up to the value of £10,000 alternative dispute resolution procedures will become compulsory with 180,000 parties being referred automatically to free telephone mediation sessions during the first rollout of reform. However, personal injury and unspecified money claims will not initially be included.

These reforms go further than what was recommended by the Civil Justice Council which supported using alternative dispute resolution procedures only for cases up to the value of £500 and will require expanding the Small Claims Mediation Service (SCMC).

The Law Society has expressed reservations about the compulsory nature of the reforms, stating that “While mediation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) should be used wherever appropriate, we do not support the compulsory use of mediation where it may be detrimental to either party, or prevent access to justice.”

Types of ADR

There are several methods of ADR available for resolving cases outside of traditional court proceedings. For civil cases in the UK, the preferred method will be mediation, where a neutral third party helps disputing parties negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution. But there are other methods litigants may want to consider if mediation may be detrimental.

Arbitration involves a neutral arbitrator or panel making a binding decision based on evidence presented by both sides. Another option is adjudication, where an independent adjudicator makes a temporary decision that parties must abide by until a final resolution is reached. Finally, conciliation involves a third-party facilitating communication between parties to reach a settlement.

Alternative Dispute Resolution Skills You Should Be Hiring For

With mediation becoming compulsory for civil cases up to the value of £10,000 in the UK, legal teams are increasingly seeking individuals with specific ADR skills to navigate these changes effectively. Here are key skills and attributes that you should prioritise when hiring new talent:

  • Mediation Training and Certification
    Look for candidates who have completed formal training and certification in mediation or those who can demonstrate a foundational understanding of the mediation process, including communication techniques, negotiation strategies, and conflict resolution principles.
  • Strong Communication Skills
    Effective communication is key in mediation, as it encourages productive dialogue and helps parties articulate their interests and concerns. Seek candidates with exceptional verbal and written communication skills, including active listening, empathy, and the ability to convey complex legal concepts in clear, accessible language.
  • Negotiation Expertise
    Look for candidates with experience in negotiation roles and proven negotiation skills, including the ability to identify common ground, propose creative solutions, and manage conflicting interests diplomatically.
  • Conflict Resolution
    Successful mediators can navigate emotionally charged situations and facilitate constructive dialogue between disputing parties. Look for a track record of resolving conflicts in diverse contexts and the ability to demonstrate patience, impartiality, and resilience in challenging circumstances.
  • Cultural Sensitivity
    Mediation often involves parties from diverse backgrounds and cultures, requiring mediators to navigate cultural differences sensitively. Seek candidates with cultural competence, awareness of diversity issues, and the ability to foster an inclusive environment conducive to productive dialogue and mutual understanding.

By prioritising candidates with these ADR skills, you’ll be better placed to adapt to the mandatory mediation requirement in civil cases and any further dispute resolution reforms.

Clayton Legal has over 25 years’ experience helping clients attract and retain legal talent across practice areas that include Property, Personal Injury, Family, Criminal, and Costs law as well as Legal IT and Civil and Commercial Litigation.

If you are building your legal team, we can help. Call us on 01772 259 121 or email us here.

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Posted By

Lynn Sedgwick

Managing Director