New association brings mediation to the forefront

Mediation and arbitration are a wide-ranging and broad-reaching set of services that are slowly growing in Cayman as the community becomes more aware of their value.

Alistair Walters, managing partner with attorneys Campbells, is one of the founding members of the association and says that the creation of this new association will help provide a solid base for individuals who have need of such services.

“The intention is to encourage those with the appropriate qualifications to become members so that we can establish panels of mediators and arbitrators with different skills. We will also be working on increasing the understanding of mediation and arbitration as alternatives to litigation and ways of resolving on-going disputes.”

Walters says this will require that lawyers, clients, the judiciary and so on all start to buy in to the concept and its value. He furthers that the services of a mediator or arbitrator do not need to be limited to just situations that involve litigation and that the services can be beneficial in situations such as community and workplace disputes.

Vaughan Carter, deputy chief officer in the Ministry of Education and a member of the new association furthers this point, saying that while the availability of mediation should attract interest in the commercial arena as a cost-effective alternative to litigation, it also promises much for other areas of law, such as employment and family, where legal costs can be prohibitive. 

“In all cases, the potential of mediation to facilitate on-going relationships between the disputants, whether these be in a business context, in the workplace, or in the home, is perhaps its greatest advantage.”

“Mediation also offers interesting opportunities to resolve disputes in other settings such as schools, where peer mediation programmes have been successfully deployed to manage conflict in other jurisdictions,” he explains.

The Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau sees potential for a useful partnership between the two organisations: “One of the objectives of the Chamber is to act as arbitrators or set up machinery for arbitration for our members in commercial disputes,” he explains. “We plan to work closely with the new association in order to respond to any requests from our membership. Most of the members of the new association belong to the Chamber so we will continue to do our part to promote their services. Arbitration in commercial disputes is becoming more popular locally so it is a good decision to establish an association that will ensure that best standards are being applied.”

As well as providing a useful starting point for mediation and arbitration services, the association also stipulates that members provide 10 hours free mediation and arbitration services a year, an added benefit to the community.

Walters says the association will improve access to mediation and arbitration which in turn will hopefully reduce the number of disputes that go to court – saving private and public money. “Mediation and arbitration can also enable more creative solutions to be founds to disputes than might be open to a court,” he adds.

The new association is made up of a variety of mediation and arbitration experts, including Kirsten Houghton, Campbells; Julie McLaughlin, Solutions Ltd; Eleanor Fisher and Tammy Fu, both with Zolfo Cooper; James Stenning, Stenning & Associates; Vaughan Carter, deputy chief officer with the Cayman Islands Government; Deborah Musson, Office of Complaints Commissioner; and Chanda V. Glidden, attorney-at-law.

Eleanor Fisher and Tammy Fu explain the relevance of the association to their specific line of work. “Mediation is relatively new and under-used in Cayman. We hope that the association will help to bring mediation to the forefront of people’s minds when they are considering the options that are available to them in commercial or personal disputes. Mediation can provide a timelier and cost effective way of resolving a dispute and also free the Court to deal with issues that cannot be resolved without the Court’s assistance.”

They say that as a leading corporate advisory and restructuring firm, Zolfo Cooper is often faced with issues involving disputes and potential litigation. 

“Mediation could lead to much swifter resolutions for stakeholders and potentially earlier realisations for creditors,” they confirm. 

Chanda V. Glidden furthers: “As an attorney I see countless areas such as estate disputes, divorce settlements, employment contracts, personal injury and debt collection that would be well served by mediation. It is such a great tool in assisting those involved to reach a mutually satisfying solution by allowing them the flexibility to negotiate terms that they may not have otherwise reached in court proceedings due to the tension that naturally arises in litigation. 

“Thus mediation creates a holistic way of dealing with problems as opposed to a win-lose situation. That said, mediation is not a replacement for the function of the courts or the advice from a qualified attorney. In fact, when properly explained it will more readily clarify the roles of attorneys and the judiciary so that their services and that of mediators can be used more resourcefully within the community.”

Walters says that the association is planning to create public awareness of the association and its goals and says that they will be encouraging a culture of best practice by having reasonably tight membership criteria. Legislation that he believes is missing in this area specifically relate to court rules requiring mediation as part of the litigation process and enabling courts to send parties to mediation, he believes.

The Association will be holding an AGM on Tuesday, 15 March, at 6pm at a venue to be arranged. Anyone interested in attending should email Alistair Walters at awalters@campbells.com.ky

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From left, standing Tammy Fu, Eleanor Fisher and Kirsten Houghton, seated Alistair Walters, Julie McLaughlin and Deborah Musson. Missing from the picture: Vaughan Carter, James Stenning and Chanda Glidden

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