By Brent Norling, Alice Rolph and Wendy Alexander

At Norling Law, we are passionate about providing our clients with a problem-solving approach to solving legal issues.

This article discusses skills required by mediators from Dr Grant Morris and Annabel Shaw’s commentary (A to Z of New Zealand Law — Alternative Dispute Resolution — Mediation (online ed, Thomson Reuters)).

Mediator skills
Mediators should have sound knowledge of the relevant law and specific subject matter. Mediators also require skills including communication skills, ability to deal with conflict, sound knowledge about the context and procedure, and negotiation and decision-making skills.

Some skills such as effectively displaying empathy are inherent.

Being able to deal and work with conflict is one of the most important skills. The ability to manage the process, facilitate parties’ communication and negotiations, and problem-solving are important skill sets.

These skills are used by the mediator throughout the mediation process.

Process management
Whether the mediation process is productive will depend on the mediator’s ability to build and maintain trust with the parties. This is because parties will need to share sensitive information so that the mediator can identify the issues and needs of the parties.

Mediators also need to build rapport, be empathetic and impartial throughout the mediation process. They also need to be able to adopt a process that is appropriate to the relevant dispute. This requires practical skills such as the ability to analyse and use information.

Another essential skill is the ability to manage the mediation process well. It is important not to own or control the process, but to manage it.

Communication facilitation
Mediators will need to manage the parties’ communications and interactions by conveying their understanding to the parties. This will happen more often in the joint session and negotiation phases. The mediators will encourage the parties to share information and clearly identify their interests. Mediators will also assist the parties understand where the other side is coming from.

Parties may show hostility because of stress or other reasons. For this reason, mediators need to be able to communicate clearly to the parties.  Managing effective communication requires skills in dealing with emotion and unexpected behaviour. Active listening is another important communication skill.

Written communication skills such as writing and drafting skills are crucial as well. This is because mediators need to be able to effectively manage written communications. Mediators could also be involved in drafting agreements.

Mediators need to ask the right questions and reframe them accordingly. They may also coach the parties on how they can constructively communicate with each other. For example, mediators could encourage the parties to reframe their language. Mediators also need to be fair when they provide coaching to make sure they always appear impartial.

Mediators may sometimes choose to remain silent. This will encourage the parties to communicate with each other and discuss possible resolutions.

Problem-solving and facilitating negotiations
Another important skill is to facilitate the parties’ negotiations and help them reach an agreement. The mediator will help the parties identify possible options for resolutions. Mediators can guide negotiations by encouraging parties to have realistic expectations.

Mediators may also help the parties conclude the mediation process if an agreement cannot be reached. It is important to manage the conclusion of the mediation appropriately.

Some mediator skills are inherent, others can be learnt. Emotional competency skills distinguish great mediators from good mediators.

Having a skilful mediator manage the mediation process is crucial. Our mediator, Wendy Alexander, has extensive experience in facilitating settlements through mediation. Wendy often receives feedback from the mediation parties that they felt relaxed and in safe hands with the management of the dispute and that Wendy truly understood where they were coming from.

How can you find out more?
At Norling Law, we are passionate about solving commercial disputes and legal issues.

We offer professional, independent, and impartial mediation services to users in a dispute. Norling Law supports mediation as an efficient way of solving legal issues. Especially if the parties to the dispute want a negotiated outcome that remains private and confidential and puts a prompt end to the costs of having the dispute ongoing.

As mediators and representatives, we assist the users to a mediation achieve their priorities throughout the mediation process and enable them to make informed decisions regarding the resolution of the disputes they are involved in.

At Norling Law, we receive a large number of commercial disputes. Commercial disputes can be extremely stressful and can often be suitable for mediation. The parties may have been negotiating directly to reach a solution that would meet the interests of both parties. However, the parties often find it difficult to reach agreement.

Using mediation is an option that could potentially resolve commercial problems quickly and efficiently. Mediation is a low-cost option to consider before deciding on whether to litigate. Traditional mediation is usually a more expensive process as it involves the users meeting physically and there are resulting costs involved with travel and booking a neutral meeting room (or rooms). Sometimes traditional mediation might not be available at all for urgent matters.

Wendy can effectively assist users of mediation with her extensive experience as a commercial mediator. Wendy completed training at Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, USA and the AMINZ. Wendy is also an Associate Member of AMINZ. This training complements the skills she already has in negotiation and dispute resolution.

If Wendy’s expertise can be of assistance, the first step is to send us the details of your dispute here.

Brent is the Director of Norling Law. He has a wealth of experience in the District Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court. Brent is passionate about negotiating favourable outcomes for his clients and able to implement this in his daily negotiations.

Alice is a senior solicitor at Norling Law . Alice has regularly appeared before the Tenancy Tribunal, District Court and High Court of New Zealand.
Alice is fluent in English, Farsi and Azeri.

Wendy has over 20 years’ experience in civil litigation in New Zealand with a main focus on construction, insolvency and debt recovery and security enforcement.