Article contributed by: Lim Tat
Managing Partner, Aequitas Law LLP
In this short piece, I write briefly about two mediation cases.
The first case happened several years ago. I represented a client involved in a dispute with a Chinese company. A meeting was held at the Chinese company lawyer’s office. The meeting was attended by both sets of clients, and their lawyers.
At the outset, the Chinese company lawyer lectured my client and I on the strengths of his client’s case and deriding my client’s position. My client’s representative and I expressed our disagreement with the lawyer’s analysis and invited the lawyer and his client to consider mediation. Although that lawyer is listed in the mediation panel of a Singapore mediation institution, he rejected mediation outright and insisted that mediation was unsuitable for this case.
The obvious differences in our respective handling of the situation resulted in the Chinese company owner taking the unusual step of agreeing with my client to conduct future meetings with my client without his lawyer’s representation. After two further meetings, the matter was settled without the need to file proceedings in arbitration.
The second case happened recently when I was mediating a case. One of the parties (Party A) decided to attend the mediation without his lawyers. His mediation strategy involved hurling abuse when the other party (Party B) was speaking.
Shortly after the mediation started, Party A informed Party B that he wanted his claim to be paid in full. When Party B responded with a counteroffer, Party A quickly responded with his counteroffer (which was only a small fraction below his original claim) and said that that counteroffer was his last and final offer. Although Party B was prepared to continue negotiating, Party A insisted that that was his final “take it or leave it” offer and refused to further negotiate with Party B. Consequently, the mediation concluded just past lunchtime.
What do you think you would have done if you were my client in the first case and the mediator or Party B in the second case? These two cases are not uncommon occurrences. The first case involved a party represented by a lawyer who is antagonistic and mediation averse. The second case involved an unrepresented party at mediation. In both cases, the protagonists were obstructive and wasted precious opportunities to make a positive difference through the mediation process.
If you have encountered similar situations and wish to discuss further and make contact with me, please feel free to write to the Singapore Construction Mediation Centre Pte Ltd (SCMC).