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Barr Ellison Solicitors – commercial property
7 January, 2016 - 13:00 By Tony Quested

Cathedrals offer a prayer of conflict mediation

Cathedral Peterborough

English cathedrals are offering themselves as new-style venues for resolving business conflicts. Thanks to Cambridge UK-based law firm Hewitsons, corporate combatants really do have a prayer of resolving disputes.

The mediation in places of meditation initiative is the brainchild of Dominic Hopkins, partner and head of dispute resolution and litigation at Hewitsons and a Trustee at Peterborough Cathedral. He has been instrumental in the development of a new scheme – Mediation at the Cathedral – that will provide neutral Cathedral building venues to those arranging mediations in commercial cases.

The first ‘Mediation at the Cathedral’ venue is the Almoner’s Hall at Peterborough Cathedral. With the support of the Association of English Cathedrals, plans are also afoot for the establishment of a national network of similar mediation venues up and down the country.

Hopkins said: “Recent changes in civil justice procedures and rules on litigation costs are designed to encourage parties towards mediation or one of the other Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) procedures at an early stage of a case. 

“Whilst mediation won’t be appropriate for every dispute, it often is, and can save substantial costs and time and achieve a very positive outcome in many cases. 

“Mediation is a tried and tested tool in the toolbox of the commercial litigator, but finding somewhere suitable for the occasion – acceptable to both parties – can be a frustratingly time consuming process. There are many ‘must haves’ to consider, such as convenience of location, price, accessibility, adequate technology and flexibility.”

As a Trustee of the Peterborough Cathedral Development and Preservation Trust, Dominic has recently been working with the Cathedral to bring the restored and historic Almoner’s Hall into use as a commercial mediation venue and this prompted him to conceive the idea of a network of venues with an online presence. 

This has met with enthusiastic support from some of the UK’s leading mediators as well as interest from other Cathedrals. The Association of English Cathedrals is also now on board to support the development of a nationwide scheme and a conference will take place at Peterborough next year for the Cathedrals involved.

Hopkins added: “Finding neutral territory is extremely important when setting up mediations and the Cathedral setting is not only peaceful and conducive to putting all parties at ease, but it also has stress free access, good parking and well supported services.

“When booking this or one of the other ‘Mediation at the Cathedral’ venues that come online, parties will also be supporting a charity and contributing to the preservation of one of the UK’s most important historic heritage sites.”

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