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LLM Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution: an interview with Amanda Lee

Amanda Lee (FCIArb) completed the LPC with us in 2007. She is dual-qualified as a Solicitor-Advocate (Civil) and a New York Attorney. Amanda also holds a Certificate in International Commercial Contract Law from Pace University, New York and is admitted to the Bar of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and sits as an arbitrator. We spoke to Amanda about our LLM in Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).

Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) allow parties to manage and resolve conflicts using methods other than going to court. Experts in this area educate parties about the best methods of resolving specific types of dispute and facilitate the resolution of disputes, whether as in-house advisers, external counsel or as dispute resolvers such as mediators, arbitrators or negotiators. With the UK’s departure from the European Union pending, this is also a fascinating time to consider the future of measures imposed by EU initiatives such as the EU Mediation Directive.

The LLM is aimed at students who have completed a qualifying law degree who recognise the potential of better understanding Mediation and ADR. The LLM offers students the opportunity to deepen their understanding of what it is to practice as a mediator, focusing on practical training alongside academic study. Completion of the programme may also exempt students from the BPTC Selection Event (additional modules and minimum grades are required). If students want to combine their specialised studies with the development of demonstrable practical skills in negotiation and mediation, as both mediator and party representative, then this is the LLM for them. 

Expert knowledge of Mediation and ADR opens up a number of different career paths. Those that qualify as lawyers in the future will be able to develop a specialised practice in this area by advising parties on appropriate dispute resolution clauses to include in their contracts, handling negotiations and serving as mediation counsel or mediator. Those working or hoping to work in fields such as construction will be better equipped to manage risk associated with contract management. Students will also be prepared for a career in the future as a dispute resolver, acting as mediator.

The course offers a blend of academic theory and practical skill development. The first part of the module will cover ADR, focusing on Negotiation, Commercial Arbitration, how to identify the most appropriate form of ADR for different types of dispute and how to avoid the pitfalls of pathological dispute resolution clauses. The second half of the module will focus on Mediation, in particular the role of the mediator, the qualities and skills of an effective mediator, the structure of a mediation, the impact of technology on mediation and the art of mediation.

Students will have the opportunity to hone their practical skills as a negotiator and mediator, while developing the advocacy skills required to represent clients at mediation. The LLM includes a 60 credit (15,000) word dissertation on an aspect of Mediation or ADR, offering the opportunity for students to consider a topic of particular interest to them and contribute to this growing area of academic research.

Conflicts unavoidably arise in every area of human interaction: family relationships; employment; business partnerships; contracts with consumers; commercial transactions. Parties wishing to apply to the court in respect of family issues must attend a Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting beforehand. Before making a claim before an employment tribunal parties are offered the chance to try and settle by using ACAS’s Early Conciliation service. The English Civil Procedure Rules expressly provide that the court must encourage parties to use an ADR procedure if appropriate and a party’s unreasonable refusal to mediate will be poorly received.

Every dispute is different: there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to conflict resolution. As technology continues to evolve, ADR evolves with it to offer new and exciting ways of managing disputes. The Civil Justice Council’s ADR Working Group continues to search for the “right relationship” between the Civil Justice System and ADR, finding new ways to encourage parties to explore alternatives before having recourse to the courts. The United Nations Convention on the International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation – the Singapore Convention – was signed by 46 States in August 2019. Once ratified it offers the potential for greater use of mediation to resolve disputes between international parties. 

If you are considering the LLM in Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution, my biggest piece of advice would be to recognise the immense opportunities presented by this area of study. Whether you want to practice in the field of dispute resolution or focus on non-contentious practice, understanding the potential for conflict to arise is vitally important. When difficulties arise between parties, being able to identify the best way to resolve conflicts as efficiently, expeditiously and inexpensively as possible is a vital skill. When drafting contracts and advising parties about disputes, it is important to understand that litigation is not always the way forward.

Discover more about studying LLM Mediation and Alternative Dispute Resolution now.