Published: 15 March 2013

The Mediation Project

The School of Law has introduced its first Mediation Project for family law students. The purpose of the Project is to give students an understanding of the aims of mediation and how the process works, as well as how it fits into the family justice system.

At the opening event, the School of Law welcomed onto campus guest speaker, facilitator and mediation expert Lynn Henderson from Hendersons Family Law in Godalming. Lynn read law at Exeter University and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge before training in the City of London with Lovells. She was previously Head of Family Law at a firm in Cambridge. Having trained in collaborative law in March 2005, Lynn now specialises in all aspects of private family law, with particular emphasis on the financial consequences of relationship breakdown including cases where there are substantial assets, trusts, pensions and family businesses.

At the initial workshop, students were given two introductory sessions exploring the basis of mediation and invited to watch a role play conducted by a team of local mediators. In future sessions students will be divided into teams of mediators, clients and observers and try their hand at mediating some of the common problems that arise in practice, relating to children and financial issues on relationship breakdown.

Lynn picks up the story: “This is an exciting new project as part of the clinical legal education programme offered to law students. Mediation is becoming increasingly viewed as the first port of call in resolving disputes before parties resort to litigation, particularly in family law cases where parties now have to demonstrate that they have considered mediation before they are permitted to start court proceedings. Mediation is also being increasingly used in civil and commercial disputes, including employment disputes.”

Through the training process, which continues with more sessions this semester, students will be given an opportunity not readily available to many family lawyers in practice - to learn about mediation and observe professional mediators at work. By training future legal practitioners in mediation skills, Lynn hopes to move the emphasis away from resolving disputes in a court of law: “I’d like to think they will be sent out into practice as part of an enlightened generation of new lawyers, who can see that there is a better way of resolving disputes than litigating.”

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