Highlight: Facilitating conversation can lead to positive outcomes

2021 Most Influential Lawyer awardee Paul Sills broke down misconceptions about mediation

Highlight: Facilitating conversation can lead to positive outcomes

As a long-time mediator and arbitrator, barrister Paul Sills has come to appreciate what he described as “the power of getting the parties together around a table or on the screen.”

New Zealand sees many contractual disputes-related arbitrations, especially in construction. However, there are still some misconceptions surrounding the mediation process.

“[What] we need to educate the market on is that when you add that third person, that facilitator, the head of the table or on the screen, [that person helps] the parties have the conversation [and facilitates] listening and interpreting, asking questions and helping guide the conversation,” he told NZ Lawyer.

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“That’s very different from two parties sitting around the table trying to negotiate, or two CEOs on the phone trying to negotiate together the parties, lump them all into the same area, and think, ‘well, we had a discussion about this, we couldn’t make any headway’. A facilitated conversation is much different from a direct conversation a lot of the time.”

Sills lauded the way the justice system has nudged people towards alternative dispute resolution or mediation, which the government has made “either a compulsory or a key part of dispute resolution” in many aspects of life through legislation.

 While the concept of online mediation was initially met a concern that the process would come off as artificial, its implementation has been a successful one.

Nonetheless, due to New Zealand’s shorter lockdowns compared to other countries, he believed that the New Zealand legal profession has not been able to thoroughly explore going digital.

Paul Sills was listed among NZ Lawyer’s Most Influential Lawyers for 2021.

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