From “Wagatha Christie” to Johnny Depp: how a successful mediation can cut the risk of going to court
Depp versus Heard, Vardy versus Rooney, celebrity court cases may generate great headlines which keep both the public and media enthralled. But wouldn’t the celebrities involved in such high-profile cases have benefited from a well-handled mediation instead, rather than expose themselves to the risks of going to court? It is a salient lesson for us all, as the Head of Dispute Resolution, Solicitor Peter Livingstone explains.
There is often a good deal of hubris in high profile claims, and it is hard to fathom why the parties involved in the current high profile cases thought that trials in public would show them in a good light.
Some commentators have suggested that the only people who benefit from trials like that are the lawyers, but it is risky for lawyers to encourage their clients to go to trial. Half of the legal teams involved in trials are going to see their client's case crash and burn, with all of the collateral damage which that may cause. No lawyer can hope to beat that statistic for ever.
Instead, it is far better for the lawyers to guide their clients towards a reasonable settlement if that can be achieved. There are cases in which that is impossible, but those tend to be the exception.
There are various forms of what is called alternative dispute resolution which can be employed. Claims can be concluded through phone calls between lawyers, exchanges of letters, face-to-face meetings, meetings by zoom or through mediation. The last of those is a form of discussion where there is an independent mediator who shuttles between the parties trying to bring their positions closer together. It does have a good track record of success but it can be quite expensive.
Ultimately, parties should go to trial only as a last resort and only if they are prepared to accept all of the expense, as well as the other costs in terms of time, energy and stress, which that will bring. Even the Rooneys seem to have got fed up with it all. Not everyone will be involved in a case which catches the public attention as much as the current celebrity trials, but everyone can at least try to avoid going to trial unnecessarily - time and effort spent trying to keep a claim away from the inside of a courtroom are rarely wasted.