The parties and their representatives assemble in separate rooms. I have an introductory meeting with each party, explaining what will happen on the day and answer any questions about the process.
Then, usually, there is a joint opening meeting attended by all parties and their representatives. This is a meeting which I chair and it is an opportunity for the parties to briefly state their case and to highlight any particular aspects of the dispute which are of concern to them. The joint meeting runs for as long as it is proving a useful forum. When it is over, the parties return to their respective rooms. I then speak again separately to each of the parties, reviewing the state of the dispute in the light of the joint opening meeting and thereafter I shuttle between the parties’ rooms, doing what I can to narrow the issues of the dispute. If appropriate, during the course of the day, the parties may meet again – sometimes everyone, as at the joint opening meeting, sometimes just the lawyers, and occasionally just the parties themselves. I chair all these meetings.
Most mediations are resolved in one day unless the dispute is extremely substantial. In the vast majority of disputes, a settlement is achieved. Even if a settlement is not achieved, the day is invariably useful for perhaps agreeing some aspects of the dispute or clearly identifying those aspects that remain unresolved. What passes between the parties on the day remains confidential, as can the terms of the settlement (unlike a judgment of a court, which is a matter of public record).