Law: Industry makes a pact

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The Independent Online
A MEDIATION service dedicated to the media industry was launched this week, writes Sharon Wallach. Media Dispute Resolution (MDR) was formed by six media and entertainment lawyers from top London firms.

Nigel Bennett, of the Simkins Partnership, explains the background to the move. It began, he says, with a scheme initiated by the Producers' Association for Cinema and TV (Pact) for its members, whereby the lawyers were trained in mediation by IDR Europe Ltd. 'It was very successful,' he says, 'and we could see that there was a need for a mediation service beyond what Pact does.'

The launch of MDR also coincides with new moves by the Commercial Court, which is to encourage litigants to consider methods of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) before going to court. A register is to be kept of organisations offering ADR, including MDR.

Mediation can be an efficient and inexpensive way of resolving disputes. In addition, it is a voluntary process, in which the mediator conducts negotiations allowing both sides to work out an acceptable solution. Another advantage is that it is 'without prejudice,' Mr Bennett says. 'Even if the parties are in the midst of litigation, they can still mediate, without interfering with that litigation.'

A major problem of litigation is the high cost involved, even when the amount at dispute is small. The cost of resolution could drop from as much as pounds 200,000 to as little as pounds 1,000 for each party in a mediated settlement, according to Mr Bennett. The fees for mediation through MDR are pounds 250 per hour, with a minimum of pounds 1,000; the total fee is shared equally between the parties. Most mediations are concluded within a day, according to MDR, and more than 80 per cent of cases referred are settled.

Mr Bennett's colleagues in MDR are Tony Ballard of Allison & Humphreys, Stephen Edwards of Richards Butler, Richard Moxon of Marriott Harrison, Brian Eagles of S J Berwin & Co and Michael Ridley of Denton Hall. They do not mediate in disputes involving their own clients unless both parties expressly ask for them.

Clients are referred to one of the six firms by an administrator, Jacqueline Klarfeld, a trained mediator who also co-ordinates the London area of the Family Mediators Association. She can be contacted on 081-954 9298.

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