The Berlin Global Pound Conference, held on 24 March 2017 at the International Chamber of Commerce in the heart of the capital, was the first I had attended in the series of 39 worldwide events. The conference brought together an effective representation of Germany’s dispute resolution community, with handpicked in-house and external lawyers, institutional representatives, ADR specialists, academics and others, all stakeholders were well represented.
As the only event to take place in Germany, the main focus was on ADR at a national level, with a number of specific questions related to German legislation and regulations added to the GPC’s usual core questions. However, the discussion very much related to Germany’s position in the wider international context.
Participants were seated on round tables, giving the event a very congenial feel and encouraging different stakeholders to interact with one another throughout. The limited number of attendees also allowed for a very approachable atmosphere among all stakeholders, with many participating actively by taking the floor and providing feedback through the app – when answering the core questions.
After being introduced by the organisers, Dr. Ulrich Hagel, Head of Claim Governance, Litigation & Procurement Support at Bombardier Transportation GmbH and Dr. Felix Wendenburg, Institute for Conflict Management at the European University Viadrina, and following a number of amusing childhood analogies, the conference came off to a suitably punctual start.
Each session began with the votes on the core questions, and was followed by a panel discussion. These discussions opened up a number of important points, offering crucial insights from a wide range of stakeholders and facilitating an open dialogue from the audience. One of the only constraints on these very active discussions, which included considerable audience participation from the floor – was time.
Nevertheless, a number of themes emerged throughout the day, especially regarding transparency, the choice and general awareness of dispute resolution options available to parties, the role played by external lawyers and judges in this regard, as well as specific questions relating to relevant German legislation and business to consumer (B2C) conciliation programmes.
In his article on the event, Mediator Greg Bond, noted a number of interesting differences among stakeholders in the results. For example, one of the local (and not globally standardised) questions at the Berlin conference stated: “Which procedure do the participants trust?” This question was aimed at all participants rather than parties specifically. Bond noted that this “was one of a number of cases of just a little cognitive bias in the results”.
Negotiation was primarily favoured as a method for resolving commercial disputes by users of dispute resolution procedures (parties) with 76% ranking it top, with litigation coming in second at 48%. While providers of consensual resolution services (mediators) saw both negotiation and litigation at 50%, returning the highest score for mediation at 33%. Most advisors (external lawyers) largely preferred litigation (70%), much like the majority of judges and adjudicators (72%). Mediation achieved a lower score among these groups, with only 26%, 20%, and 32% respectively. These results may be reflected in the general trends in GPC results, which strongly indicate that the disparity among the different stakeholder groups must be addressed.
Further questions specific to the Berlin GPC, focused on greater awareness of ADR options, as well as the incentives for lawyers to recommend or use ADR in a jurisdiction like Germany – where the courts are generally seen to be efficient and widely accessible. Participants saw fee incentives as essential both in raising awareness of the different mechanisms available and in providing incentives for lawyers to recommend ADR.
Another key factor in promoting ADR options among participants was the greater availability of ADR courses in university education, to train and educate young lawyers on the use of ADR from the outset – allowing them to incorporate these valuable tools into their general practice.
Growing mediation culture
The relevance of the conference to the interests and wider discussion within the ADR profession in Germany is no coincidence. As some German courts begin to look at alternative ways of resolving disputes both in and out of court, there appears to be a increasing openness to new methods.
The growing culture of ADR in the country has been accelerated by associations such as the Round Table Mediation and Conflict Management of the German Economy (RTMKM) which brings together companies who wish to explore both internal and external conflict management processes and systems. Founded in 2008, this association now has approximately 60 members, including a number of large players in the economy.
More to come?
The day was very well managed and despite the time constraints, there was room for active audience participation and plenty of good conversations between stakeholders. Many of those who I spoke to noted how interactive the event was and how rare it is to be face to face with such a wide range of different members of the dispute resolution community.
However, this could be an indication that there is a room to continue this discussion further, that perhaps these core questions are only scratching the surface of a much wider discussion and potential for increased communication among stakeholders.
Written by Natasha Mellersh.