The unusual circumstances in which we currently find ourselves as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak has greatly impacted the way that individuals and businesses perform routine activities, restricting the nation’s ability to congregate in commercial and public forums and necessarily increasing reliance on technology as a means of maintaining a semblance of normality. The justice system is no exception to this, as the pandemic creates unprecedented challenges for the judiciary, legal professionals and, of course, litigants involved in civil and commercial disputes.

The pandemic has seen the temporary closure of more than twenty per cent of the country’s courts and tribunals and necessitated increased use of video and audio conferencing tools, leaving only a network of priority courts open to the public for essential face-to-face hearings. Despite efforts to ensure that the justice system continues to function as efficiently and as safely as possible during these difficult times, disruption and delays to the delivery of court and tribunal services are inevitable.

In the current climate, therefore, businesses are encouraged to consider how mediation can provide a quicker and more cost-effective way to resolve commercial disputes than determination by court or arbitration. Mediation is a flexible, voluntary and confidential form of alternative dispute resolution suitable for cases small and large, in which an impartial third party helps those embroiled in a dispute to work towards a negotiated settlement. In contrast to other dispute resolution mechanisms, such as arbitration, it is not the role of a mediator to pass judgment on the merits of a case or to bind the parties with a decision. The mediator facilitates negotiations and ensures the fairness and efficiency of the process, allowing the parties to gain a better understanding of their respective positions and to work together collaboratively with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable compromise.

Some of the benefits of mediation include the following:

  • there is no requirement for mediations to be carried out in person, which means that they can take place effectively remotely using video conferencing facilities
  • Mediation is suitable for the vast majority of cases, from small claims to high value multi-track disputes and appeals, where problems can be resolved by negotiation
  • It allows for more flexibility, creativity and control over settlement options than the court or arbitration processes
  • Mediation is effective in helping parties to overcome communication problems and work through deadlock situations
  • Important or long-term business relationships can be preserved, improved or restored by mediation
  • The process tends to be less expensive than court litigation and can substantially reduce legal and lost-opportunity costs
  • The process is completely flexible and can be tailored to meet the parties’ needs
  • Mediation provides a quicker resolution than court or arbitration processes and can often be arranged within a few days or weeks.

Thompson Smith and Puxon has accredited mediators who have undergone rigorous training and are able to oversee and represent clients at mediations covering a wide range of issues, including commercial and civil disputes, shareholder disputes, contractual disputes, contentious probate, land and boundary disputes and personal injury claims. If you would like to find out more about our mediation services, including how this can work for you during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, please get in touch by telephone on 01206 574431 or by email at