Diversification is key—Interview with John Sturrock

I had the privilege of speaking with IMI Certified Mediator John Sturrock QC about his mediation career. John is a very successful mediator based in Scotland, and has enjoyed being a full time mediator for the past 20 years. He mediates a wide range of differences and disputes, from commercial to workplace to political to large public sector and more! All his activities are built around helping people find cooperative ways to deal with difficult situations. In the following interview, John shares how he started his ADR career and offers great advice to mediation start-ups.

How did you start your mediation career? 

“By doing pro bono work in small claims!”

You have a strong legal background John, has this knowledge facilitated you as a mediator?

“Undoubtedly. Understanding where lawyers are coming from, how they might be thinking and the nuances of the law and practice, all can help me to help them and their clients to make progress. And I have enough recollection of the law to ask pertinent questions and to raise an eyebrow or two when the occasion requires it!”

How did you decide to leave the legal field and create Core Solutions Group in 2002? 

“I wanted to make a difference and to do something worthwhile and different. There was very little mediation in the commercial world in Scotland nor was there much by way of training for senior people in interest-based negotiation. I wanted to do something to change that. And I wanted to do it well, so leaving legal practice was the obvious thing to do. I have had a great journey in the past 17 years!”

How would you describe the biggest challenge of being a mediator?

“The biggest challenge was (and still remains) encouraging people to look at things differently, to accept that there may be other ways of doing things. So, employing an independent third party to help work out solutions to problems, in the role of a mediator, is not easy for some people and I had to deal with that as I sought to establish myself in my new role – and sometimes still do. I wrote about this recently, using the metaphor of e-bikes!”

You are a full trim mediator and and esteemed ADR teacher. How important do you rate diversification in our profession?

“Diversification is really important. By that I mean respecting the fact that we are all different – and unique – and that different situations may require different approaches and different people to play a role.

Your advice to professionals young in the ADR professionals: if, how and when to start their own mediation practice?

There is never a “right” time or a “right” way.

“Undoubtedly, in the work I do, there is value in having experience and knowledge gained in a variety of situations over the years. So, it may depend on the kind of mediation work you wish to pursue. Much depends on your passion and commitment too: nobody owes you a job as a mediator! Only do it if you are really prepared to work at it. How? There are many ways: join with some others and share resources, or set up your own boutique business, or become a part of an established organisation or service – part time or full time, specialist or generalist? And so on. There is no one way. Explore all the possibilities and work through your options – just as mediators invite parties to do in a mediation!”

Thank you John for taking the time to share your expertise. I really enjoyed our exchange and I am confident that the members of the Young Mediators’ Initiative will appreciate your insights too.

If you are, like John, willing to share your story to support #NextGen mediators, please contact me via ymimediation@imimediation.org. I look forward to speaking with you.

Article originally published 31 August 2019 on Angela’s LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/diversification-key-interview-john-sturrock-herberholz-mciarb/.

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