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08th January 2016

Cathedrals to have a new role in aiding commercial mediations

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Mediation - assisted negotiation - is now an accepted alternative to Litigation and in a new initiative, England’s Cathedrals are getting behind this process for resolving business conflicts. 

Having a suitable neutral venue for mediation can be vital to its prospects of success and, according to a specialist commercial litigator at Hewitsons solicitors, buildings in Cathedral precincts can provide ideal neutral, cost effective and convenient mediation venues for organisations in conflict with each other.

Dominic Hopkins, partner and head of dispute resolution and litigation at Hewitsons and a Trustee at Peterborough Cathedral, has been instrumental in the development of a new scheme (Mediation at the Cathedral) that will provide neutral Cathedral building venues to those arranging mediations in commercial cases. The first ‘Mediation at the Cathedral’ venue is the Almoner’s Hall at Peterborough Cathedral. With the Hall now taking bookings, and with the support of the Association of English Cathedrals, plans are also afoot for the establishment of a national network of similar mediation venues up and down the country.

Hopkins comments: “Recent changes in Civil Justice procedures and rules on litigation costs are designed to encourage parties towards mediation or one of the other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures at an early stage of a case.  Whilst mediation won’t be appropriate for every dispute, it often is, and can save substantial costs and time and achieve a very positive outcome in many cases. Mediation is a tried and tested tool in the toolbox of the commercial litigator, but finding somewhere suitable for the occasion, and acceptable to both parties, can be a frustratingly time consuming process. There are many ‘must haves’ to consider, such as convenience of location, price, accessibility, adequate technology and flexibility.”

As a Trustee of the Peterborough Cathedral Development and Preservation Trust, Dominic has recently been working with the Cathedral to bring the restored and historic Almoner’s Hall into use as a commercial mediation venue and this prompted him to conceive the idea of a network of venues with an online presence. This has met with enthusiastic support from some of the UK’s leading mediators as well as interest from other Cathedrals. The Association of English Cathedrals is also now on board to support the development of a nationwide scheme and a conference will take place at Peterborough next year for the Cathedrals involved.

Continuing, Hopkins says: “I am delighted the Almoner’s Hall is now available for use for mediations. The Dean and the Cathedral are right behind the concept and it gives this fantastic building a new lease of life. Finding neutral territory is extremely important when setting up mediations and the Cathedral setting is not only peaceful and conducive to putting all parties at ease, but it also has stress free access, good parking and well supported services. When booking this or one of the other ‘Mediation at the Cathedral’ venues that come online, parties will also be supporting a charity and contributing to the preservation of one of the UK’s most important historic heritage sites.”

Hewitsons’ team of 24 strong litigators  is one of the largest across the East Midlands and Eastern regions, covering a range of disciplines, including Commercial Litigation, Property Litigation, Construction, IPR, Contentious Trusts and Probate, Insolvency and Professional Negligence, advising clients in both the private and public sectors.

Hopkins concludes: “We had a really busy 2015 and the team has grown to reflect the excellent opportunities we have been seeing in the sectors we serve. Our merger with London firm, Moorhead James last July has added four more litigators to our number and has increased our capabilities in the process.

“Our disputes lawyers are strong advocates for the advantages of mediation and the addition of experienced Mediator Christine Bowyer-Jones to our ranks in the last few months is another illustration of the value we place on ADR procedures generally and mediation in particular in the resolution of business conflicts.”

The Almoner’s Hall can be booked by contacting Peterborough Cathedral’s Events Coordinator on 01733 355315 or by email at jackie.newman@peterborough-cathedral.org.uk