The world is split when it comes to how well mediation is accepted and embraced by lawyers as a form of helping their clients resolve disputes. Unless you live in the US, UK or Australia, you too might have had a feeling in the last few years that mediation wasn’t going to become popular with lawyers anytime soon. It’s “just not making money”. Billable hours do. Sounds like a simple conclusion for many. But it’s not that simple anymore.
Are big law firms ready to embrace negotiation and mediation skills to solve disputes?
Last year, Negotiation Academy sponsored and helped assess Lex Infinitum, the Mediation and Negotiation Competition in Goa, India. At the inaugural dinner on the first night, we met Cyril and Vandana Shroff, who I had been in touch with for a while for negotiation training at their firm Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas (CAM) in Mumbai.
Cyril Shroff delivered the keynote speech, and it was truly memorable. Not only did he powerfully convey the great significance alternative dispute resolution holds for the future of India (and its future lawyers!), he also shared some inspiring insights into how his own firm, one of the leading firms in the country, is climbing the ranks spectacularly by embracing these new ways of resolving disputes with leading rigor.
“If it wasn’t for mediation, I probably wouldn’t be here today”, were his opening words, capturing the attention of over 250 people from around the world in the audience. Cyril started by sharing the story of how a major leading law firm like theirs used mediation to successfully separate a century-old family business.
For any good practitioner, litigation should be the last resort
In the inspiring speech that followed, just right to meet the next generation of lawyers and support and encouraging them in their believe in alternative dispute resolution, Cyril made it very clear that “for any good practitioner, litigation should be the last resort i.e. when nothing else works“. Throughout his speech, he emphasized upon the enormous time, nerve-wracking effort and inevitable unpredictability that will always be involved in any litigation, no matter how “clear cut” the case looks. “Litigation should be the least preferred course of action”, he repeatedly said, and “any good counsel should always try to find an amicable solution before pushing parties down on a contentious path”. “Sure, litigation is good for your accounts, but probably not for your clients”, he added with a wink in a refreshing and forthcoming account on what the state of matters still is in the heads of many lawyers and firms.
An interesting anecdote that he shared was about a big arbitration with a two-month gap period between two consecutive hearings. His firm used this time to resolve the matter by mediation in order to avoid the second round of arbitration altogether. “We didn’t think of this as ‘less income’ but of ‘what is the right thing to do’ – if you follow this, THAT client will always come back!“, he concluded his firm’s leading philosophy on resolving disputes.
I had a great laugh when he ended on a Mexican proverb for wishing someone bad that loosely translates to “may your life be full of lawyers“. It felt like just the right tone for our niche of lawyers who have dedicated their skills to saving people from exactly our kind.
We need more such leaders
I share this memory with you because I believe that for young ADR enthusiasts to be able to fully believe in the value and future of their training, we need more people and firms like Cyril and CAM who lead the way into this change by example and who do not hesitate to share their progressive approach to dispute resolution with the world.
Factors like the perpetual increase in the number and complexity of international disputes along with multiplying cost and time pressure have made litigation and even arbitration an outdated vehicle too inconvenient to handle what’s most important to our businesses today: speed, agility, relationships, globalization.
Mediation and negotiation skills are and will always be an indispensable tool in a smart lawyer’s life. The leading firms are getting ready for it. Are you?
PS: Can you miss to learn the same skills we teach at firms like Cyril Amarchand and Mangaldas and other leading firms? Check out our free Introduction to Negotiation course and sign up for the next Master Negotiator Course on www.necademy.com.