Meet the Mediator with Jonathan Lloyd-Jones

Our ‘Meet the Mediator’ feature continues with Jonathan Lloyd-Jones and will feature a different mediator in each issue. Here the mediators share suggestions on maximising potential for reaching a settlement (in their opinion), strategies they find useful in breaking a deadlock, a mediation they will always remember and some of the changes they have witnessed in the mediation landscape during their time practising in the field.

How does your background as a barrister / solicitor benefit your work as a mediator?

My legal training has given me the ability to read and process large quantities of documents and information quickly and to be able to sift out what is relevant from what is not. Additionally the wide range of people that I have come into contact with at stressful times in their lives during the course of my career as a solicitor has, I feel, given me a certain empathy which has proved useful in mediation. It has undoubtedly helped that my legal career has been diverse, starting as a commercial real estate lawyer in the City of London, then becoming a legal aid criminal advocate in the West End and thereafter undertaking a wide range of litigation as a solicitor in Oxford.

What led you to move into mediation?

I first came across the idea of mediation in 1991 and immediately felt an affinity with its aims and processes. Litigation generally provided a poor approach to dispute resolution. There was only winning and losing and even winning was not always attractive. I prefer peace to war. So it was a case of round peg, round hole for me.

What types of cases have you been involved in as a mediator?

A vast range from defective goat milking machines to poor advice on setting up an ostrich farm, defective paint on a large cargo ship, a Chinese restauranteur setting fire to his premises whilst trying to kill a cockroach with a blow torch. However much of my work involves claims against professionals and claims in the construction industry. As the law develops, so it becomes more specialised and there is in the field of professional negligence much variety which keeps me interested.

What are one or two of the mediator techniques that you find particularly useful in trying to break deadlock?

Changing the people speaking (ie move from lawyers to clients).

Change the setting. Move people from room to room. Go out for a walk with one of them.

Sometimes putting figures on a whiteboard in a different way can work well and get people to rethink their positions.

Is there a mediation that you will always remember? What difficulties or examples of excellence did it possess and how did you learn from these?

One that sticks in my memory is a multi party claim I mediated arising out of the Foot and Mouth epidemic 15 years ago or so. I visited the farms that had been affected by the indiscriminate burning of cattle on pyres and we subsequently had a 20 hour mediation in central London. Each claimant had a slightly different story and each had to be heard. We achieved a result for all of them and for some, compensation. But just as importantly, a measure of closure. These were intensely personal stories

involving not only the loss of livelihoods but the loss of animals that many farmers had spent years raising and caring for. Although physically demanding and psychologically draining, it embodied much of why mediation is such a good process for resolving disputes.

Do you have any tips or suggestions for participants on how to maximise the potential for reaching settlement?

Preparation, preparation, preparation! Know the facts, know the law but most importantly, know your client. What does he/she really want? What can they give up? What does a good result look like?

What's the best part of your job?

Settling cases people thought were unsettlable! Helping people to achieve closure over problems and issues that had dominated their lives for years. Helping to restore relationships in families that had drifted apart over the years.

What changes have you seen in the field in the time you have been practising as a mediator? Have these changed how you mediate?

Lawyers now understand what mediation is although many still don’t see the flexibility it can offer. More and more clients also get it although it is not yet ingrained into everyday commercial life in the way it should be. However it is more commonly used as a tool in the dispute resolution tool box than before.

Since the Covid pandemic, mediation has moved online and like many of my fellow IM mediators, I have now done a lot of mediations by Zoom and MS Teams. Whilst I would be surprised if all mediations remained online, I think quite a number will. There are many advantages to being online such as ease of access, availability of parties, flexibility in timing, etc. However, my own view is that there are still many cases where the physical presence of all involved in a single place remains vital to achieving a satisfactory outcome.

When you are not mediating what do you like to do?

I love being outside and exploring new places. So I like travel and meeting new people and in particular finding out what is important in their world and culture, especially art and music. I like to slow down and look around.

As has been said elsewhere

What is life if full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?

All Mediators listed in top tiers of Legal 500 2024