ADR Group Conference, Thessaloniki, Greece

I attended the first international conference held by the ADR Group in June 2014. The keynote speaker was Professor Robert Mnookin, of Harvard Law School, addressing the conference on issues relating to mediation and dispute resolution.

The event was attended by a number of UK mediators as well as over 200 delegates from Greece, including judges and senior lawyers including the Secretary General of the Ministry of Justice. The conference provided an interesting comparison between a country being a recent convert to mediation, and the UK where its use is well established (but with further work required to be truly embedded).

Greece recently adopted the Greek Law on Mediation in relation to civil and commercial disputes to adapt Greek legislation to the EU Mediation Directive. ADR Group has been an important player in training Greek lawyers mediation skills and establishing strong links in Greece to ensure long term support to the mediation initiative.

The law in Greece now enables the Court to invite the parties to use mediation to solve their dispute. Like the UK, the benefit to parties is the saving of time and cost in resolving a dispute, with benefit to the State in terms of saving of resource.

In his address to the conference Nikolas Kanellopolous, Secretary General, welcomed the first international mediation conference to Greece and confirmed that the State would promote all kinds of ADR and that he was personally committed to the process. Other speakers referred to the importance of lawyers trying to convince parties and other lawyers to use the process. Professor Kotsiris, an eminent Greek academic, stressed the importance of judges needing to promote mediation and said that he would go so far to say that “Mediation is good for mankind.”

In his address, Professor Mnookin, author of “Bargaining with the Devil”, “Beyond Winning” and an experienced mediator in his own right, outlined that in his view lawyers can create value in society by helping people to resolve conflict peacefully. Undergoing mediation training can in itself make people better lawyers.

He defined mediation as being: “Can we together find a resolution that better serves your interests and the interests of the other side, better than your respective alternatives away from the table?”

He rightly underlined the flexibility of mediation and the possibility of parties being able to put things on the table that weren”t part of the original dispute, in an effort to “expand the pie”. He also stressed

that mediation is a forward looking process as opposed to litigation, adjudication or arbitration being backward looking at what has happened in the past.

In addressing the subject of establishing mediation as a dispute resolution process, he indicated that he was of the view that mandatory mediation (the Court process requiring that parties enter into mediation before their case can proceed in litigation) would create an instant impact and greatly assist in changing the culture of dispute resolution. He referred to research that established that many disputes in the US are resolved at mediation by parties who are mandated to enter into the process.

The UK has not adopted compulsory mediation – and the debate on that issue persists. The Greek lawyers I met at the conference were without exception enthused and committed to the process, though to date few mediations have taken place in the country. It is to be hoped that mediation soon establishes itself within Greece.

The conference was also addressed by experienced mediators and trainers from the UK and US.