Finnish Bar Association has launched a pro bono mediation campaign to ease the backlog of cases in the Finnish courts. The campaign runs from October to the end of 2021.
Jussi Ikonen and Heidi Merikalla-Teir from Merilampi act as mediators in the campaign. They are experienced dispute resolution experts who, in addition to serving as arbitrators, act as mediators in the mediation of business disputes. Jussi and Heidi have both been trained as mediators by the Finnish Bar Association in addition to which Heidi is a CEDR accredited mediator. Heidi is also a member of the Mediation Committee of the Finnish Bar Association.
Main principles of the mediation campaign
In the Finnish Bar Association’s mediation campaign, nearly 80 attorneys who have been trained as mediators by the Finnish Bar Association have committed to offer free mediation to parties to a dispute between 1 October and 31 December 2021. The campaign includes one day of preparatory work and one day of mediation, and the mediators mediate both business disputes and disputes between private individuals. However, family and custody disputes have been excluded from the campaign as the courts have a well-established procedure for settling such disputes.
A case can be included in the campaign if at least one of the parties to the dispute is represented by an attorney who, due to the nature of the dispute, considers that the case would be suitable for the campaign. Clients can also ask their attorney to put a case forward for the campaign.
Mediation has unused potential especially in business disputes
As the Finnish Bar Association states in its press release, attorney-assisted mediation has become more popular in recent years, but its full potential has not been realised. We too have drawn attention to this in our writings and have highlighted the benefits of mediation as a means of dispute resolution, calling mediation the uncrowned king of dispute resolution.
The backlog of court cases and the long length of court proceedings were an unfortunate fact even without the COVID-19 pandemic. The situation has now become even more difficult, and we need both quick and cost-effective solutions to resolve disputes and conflicts effectively, for which mediation offers an excellent alternative.
For businesses, effective dispute resolution enables companies to focus on their core business and its development instead of lengthy legal proceedings. It is important to remember that the company’s management shall in all its activities consider the overall benefit of the company. Lengthy legal proceedings are rarely justified from a business point of view. However, sometimes the initiation of legal proceedings cannot be avoided.
One advantage of mediation is that it can be tried also while the company awaits the progress of possible legal proceedings. If the parties do not reach an amicable settlement in whole or in part in the mediation, the parties may proceed to arbitration or litigation as previously agreed. If, on the other hand, the mediation leads to the desired outcome, arbitration or litigation may be cancelled.
The benefits of mediation are indisputable
Mediation is a voluntary and confidential process in which a neutral third party (a mediator) assists the parties in settling their dispute amicably and/or in avoiding disputes. Through discussions and questions, the mediator seeks to facilitate dialogue, understanding of interests and needs of the parties, and facilitates negotiations between the parties. As a person outside the conflict, the mediator can look at the matters in dispute objectively and is often able to help the parties to overcome deadlock in their negotiations.
The mediator does not make juridical decisions or rulings as to the merits of the case. The outcome of a successful mediation is a settlement agreement, which sets out the overall solution to the conflict – both the financial performances and possible other terms. In the best-case scenario, the parties will also find new joint business opportunities that will be taken forward together.
Mediation is often characterized as a cost-effective, fast, flexible, straightforward, and user-friendly way of settling conflicts. This is especially because the process followed in mediation is freely negotiable and the conflict can be resolved in as little as one day of mediation. The mediation day is then preceded by some preparatory work, such the presentation of parties’ written views on the case.
The costs of mediation consist of the mediator’s fee, which is based on a reasonable, predetermined hourly or daily rate, and any expenses incurred by the mediator. In addition to these costs, the parties will incur the costs of a possible legal representative. However, the use of a legal representative is not mandatory.
During the Finnish Bar Association’s mediation campaign, the mediators do not charge a fee for their work. Consequently, now is an excellent opportunity to experience the added value of mediation as a means of dispute resolution.