A new company offering silks as mediators for premium clients will transform the litigation landscape in five years, according to its creator.
Anthony Crean QC launched QC Mediation last night in a bid to elevate mediation from being the “poor cousin” of litigation to the top of the legal process.
Mr Crean came up with the concept after attending a London School of Mediation training course. He found it “interesting and full of potential”, but thought mediation was “stuck in the bargain basement” of legal services provision in comparison to high-grade legal conflicts being litigated in the courts.
Mr Crean, who practises planning and environmental law from Kings Chambers, said: “We think there is a growing market for mediation, partly generated by the rise of the internet, but also because of the inadequacies of the traditional legal structure. [This] is expensive, slow, arduous and makes private dealings public. It entrenches hostility and aggression and reduces the control litigants have on the outcome.
“Mediation resolves all of those problems; and in particular it transfers the power to resolve the dispute to the litigants, rather than court.”
Mr Crean said his research ahead of creating QC Mediation showed there was a “growing appetite” for alternative conflict resolution because litigants were “fed up” with the adverse consequences and were keen to find another way forward.
QC Mediation launches with 22 member silks from England and Ireland who pay a fee to cover the first three years of administration and any training in mediation they might need.
Members do not need to already be trained mediators as the company has created its own bespoke “short and intensive” course which all silks must pass.
Included in the administration – which is being run through the London School of Mediation to reduce the burden on individual silks – is placement on a list which will be distributed internationally.
Mr Crean said QC Mediation makes no apologies for pitching itself at the high end of the market.
He said: “The magic of QC Mediation is that it involves silks in the process which elevates it from the bottom of the legal process to the top. The QCs are of proven excellence in their fields of law and guarantee a minimum standard of excellence. That is an attractive combination for the market and one which any other organisation out there cannot offer.”
The standard accepted international charge out rate for a silk is $10,000 a day and that is what QC Mediation members will charge.
That cost is “modest” said Mr Crean, compared to the costs involved if people are inclined to go down the litigation route.
He said: “There are other providers of mediation, but they do not offer that same guarantee of excellence. The real power of QC Mediation is its capacity for attracting a global market by reference to the QC brand. That is universally recognised as a badge of excellence.
“People who are worried about that scale of cost are probably not suitable clients for us. We are an ostentatiously elitist organisation aimed at the high end of the market.”
Mr Brean said QC Mediation clients will include high net-worth individuals, but also large corporate outfits and regional and national governments. Its aim is to operate in the global market, rather than just the domestic market.
His ambition is to “invert” the traditional mediation-litigation relationship. He explained: “Once we get going with 200 high-grade silks on the books and projecting them all over the globe for premium mediations, this will invert the traditional process of law first, mediation second.”
Although the company is “well capitalised”, Mr Crean declined to reveal funding sources.
Following its launch, QC Mediation will close its membership list when it reaches 35 to concentrate on “stimulating a soft market”.
He doesn’t anticipate too much negative reaction from the Bar, despite unveiling a model which could reduce the number of money-spinning international claims reaching the UK’s courts.
But he accepted: “It is a new service competing for an existing pool of clients with an existing pool of problems. It is inevitable it will rub people up the wrong way or put people out, but we’re just going to have to be big enough and strong enough to withstand any criticism.
“The bottom line is we are trying to make law operate as efficiently as possible.”
Mr Crean added: “I hope that when we stimulate the market we are able to help resolve violent conflict around the world by bringing parties to London to rectify disputes.
“The facility to act as a mediator does not depend on knowledge of the law in different jurisdictions. We are trained lawyers, but we are not acting as lawyers. Mediation is an understanding of human beings, what frightens them and what interests them. It is not just about the legal framework.”
Mr Brean said bringing international disputes to the City would further confirm London’s reputation as the global centre for conflict resolution. He added: “We think mediation can go as far as your imagination can take it.”
Silk members will be expected to spend a few days a year outside of their traditional practice – with Mr Brean’s eventual forecast that 200 mediators will each do 12 days a year around the world.