The Geneva GPC – Does The Future Lie In Mediation?

On 29 September 2016, various stakeholders from the judicial and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) community – arbitrators, mediators and judges, in-house counsel, external lawyers, policy-makers as well as representatives of arbitral institutions – gathered in sunny Geneva for a lively exchange on “the future of dispute resolution” at the city’s GPC event.

What made the Geneva conference different from previous dispute resolution seminars I have attended was the opportunity for discussion between the heterogeneous stakeholders involved in the various stages of a dispute, from in-house counsel, who are often the first involved when a disagreement arises, to the mediator or arbitrator who eventually helps resolve the dispute.

The interactive format had conference participants working hard in small groups to vote on and answer key questions about different types of dispute resolution processes and their desired outcomes, different stakeholders’ roles in the process and how it all can be improved. The results of the voting were presented separately according to stakeholder category, allowing us to see how our responses differed.

Some surprising results

The most interesting results that are worth considering in our future work as ADR practitioners showed a surprising divide in the attitudes of in-house and external counsel toward dispute resolution..

When asked what is achieved by participating in mediation or conciliation, external lawyers indicated that reduced costs and expenses were the most important result, with improving or restoring relationships coming in a distant fourth. In-house counsel, however, chose improving or restoring relationships as their overwhelming first choice, with reduced costs coming in a distant third.

This points to the fact that approaches to dispute resolution that aim at restoring relationships with a counterparty are more important to in-house counsel and, perhaps, to the company’s management, than external advisers may think. This suggests that we as ADR practitioners should consider using non-adjudicative dispute resolution processes more ofte