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Mediation Users Make their Mark

by Ute A. Joas Quinn
October 2016 Ute A. Joas  Quinn
The International Mediation Institute (IMI) has just released its 2016 International Mediation and ADR Survey. The results, which were generated by 815 individuals representing 67 countries and varied stakeholders (users, advisors, mediators, educators, students, providers, governments), are seriously thought provoking.

The few (to date) corporate Users who publicly advocate increased use of Alternative Dispute Resolution/Conflict Management Tools appear to have finally found more of a collective voice. That voice, it appears, differs in dramatic respects from other stakeholders in every corner of the globe.

The Survey revealed divergent views in terms of corporate business and their external advisors. Essentially, users felt that advisors were not recommending mediation regularly enough (though advisors disagreed), and felt that advisors were not familiar enough with either mediation or conflict management (to which advisors agreed). Three years earlier, almost 50% of users felt that external counsel might even be an impediment to the mediation process []

Certainly, where a mediator’s qualifications and experience was the most important criteria for users (75%), the search to find mediators of the requisite caliber did not appear to be reflected in the tools used by advisors. Advisors’ reliance on peers and their own network to find qualified mediators (53%) rather than asking local ADR institutions (23%) or consulting transparent, dedicated mediator search engines (4%) appears to be: (1) a disservice to users, (2) a missed opportunity to gain knowledge/awareness of the many resources available to find the right match for each user’s needs, and (3) perpetuates overuse of a few “name” mediators while neglecting up-and-coming talent who might do just as well and at a more reasonable rate.

Case in point – only 10% of the mediator population surveyed earned over USD 200,000 a year solely performing mediations. The majority (55%) of mediators globally, earned USD 50,000 or less, equating to the average yearly wage in OECD countries. With such statistics, it is a small wonder that 70% of mediator respondents stated that they engaged in some other profession in addition to performing mediation services. The field of regularly recommended mediators appears to simply be too small.

In relation to mediator and user views, although 71% of mediators responding stated that what users think about mediation is extremely important, only 45% of mediators (the lowest of all stakeholders surveyed) stated that how a mediation can be enforced (an important point for users) was similarly important. The length of a mediation was also of least concern to mediators and of higher concern to users (amongst the stakeholder pool).

Though user opinions should not necessarily be considered the “Holy Grail” of how mediations should work, users are an irrefutable component (and indeed the essence) of mediation. Once we do more to encourage their voices to be heard, other stakeholders would do well to liberally collaborate with users to inspire more mediations through increased use of a wide range of professionally competent mediators. The infection (and ultimate rapid de-escalation of business conflicts) would be welcome


Qualified as a U.S. attorney and trained as a mediator, Ute has a wide range of experience in conflict management, including (among other things) ADR and community grievance mechanisms.

In her current role as Associate General Counsel at Hess Corporation, she leads legal upstream operations in Europe, Middle East, and North Africa. Ute is based in Houston, Texas USA.

Prior to working at Hess, Ute was Associate General Counsel at Shell for Upstream International (UI) Functions in The Netherlands, leading global UI focal points advising on conflict prevention as related to sustainable development (including human rights) and social performance aspects, as well as managing legal advice to non-technical UI functions such as HSE, external affairs, compliance and human resources.

Ute was Chair (2011-2013) of the IMI Board of Directors.

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