Meet the Mediator with Rebecca Clark

Our ‘Meet the  Mediator’ feature continues with Rebecca Clark 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 solicitor benefit your work as a mediator?

When parties volunteer why they chose me as the mediator, it is nearly always because I had my own retail business. I think knowledge of the law is assumed, but knowledge of running an independent business with all that involves – partnership decisions, supply chain, cash-flow, accounting, employing staff, dealing with landlords etc – that is something not many lawyers experience.

What led you to move into mediation?

In 2012, I took on the role of Head of Litigation at UKAR, which was responsible for managing the tax-payer’s interests in Bradford and Bingley and Northern Rock after they were bailed out. As you can imagine with two failed banks, there was a lot of litigation of all different types – professional negligence, fraud, insurance coverage, regulatory litigation and large value warranty claims.  The two banks were claimant in the vast majority of those actions and so we were sitting on a huge potential source of income, which would go some way towards repaying the tax-payer. As a business, we wanted to understand what cases we had, and get some control over recovering that money. By adopting a deliberate mediation strategy, we were able to take back control over the outcome of those cases, from a timing, attitude to risk and money perspective. We could group categories of cases together by for example, insurer, or professional firm involved and resolve large numbers of cases in one mediation process. It was transformational and I became increasingly convinced that it was what I wanted to do.

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

A huge variety! Obviously given my background, I have mediated financial services cases, but also general commercial cases, including supply chain issues, product liability and breach of contract. I have seen a real upturn in the number of insolvency related cases coming to mediation along with shareholder and director disputes. I particularly enjoy working with businesses in a dispute management and limitation role, dealing with issues before they become formal legal disputes. Working with people to devise a plan to enable them to move forward together, feels very positive and collaborative.

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

My favourite go to is “The Golden Bridge”. This is a concept from the writing of Sun Tzu a 4th century BC Chinese military strategist, who said. “A wise conquering general is one who builds a golden bridge upon which his defeated enemy can retreat”.  If someone is given a dignified exit route from a dispute, they are more likely to take it. Sometimes this is as simple as making a concession that the other party might seize upon to save face and enable them to move forward.


Disputes can often be quite complex and multifaceted. To what extent do the various elements – such as industry, size of company, jurisdiction of conflict, etc. – play a role in your approach?

They entirely inform my approach. Mediation is a party-led process, and it has to fit around the circumstances of those involved so that they are best placed to make some difficult decisions. Indeed, the beauty of mediation is its flexibility and its ability to be adapted to all different sorts of disputes, parties, jurisdictions and industries.

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?

The mediations I tend to remember are those where someone is released from a dispute which they are finding personally intolerable. One of my first mediations was a dispute by a business against a retail bank for unauthorised withdrawal of facilities. The dispute had been going on for 5 years before I was involved, and the director of the business was desperate for a resolution but couldn’t get the bank to engage with him. Sitting around the table at the start of the mediation was difficult but absolutely critical. The bank listened carefully to the director as he explained the financial, emotional, health and marital consequences this dispute had had on him and his wife. It was a much needed emotional outpouring, which the bank listened to, took on board and apologised for.  It genuinely had not realised the impact. It really brought home to me how important it is for people to meet and talk, rather than communicate via letters or emails which can be so easily misunderstood.

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

Help the other party to prepare. Think about what the other party might need to know or understand in order to make a decision. Don’t wait for them to ask for information, because they might not realise they need it. And provide it well before the mediation. People need time to assess and absorb new information and work out how it feeds into their risk assessment before the mediation. Ambushing is completely counterproductive.

What's the best part of your job?

The relief on peoples’ faces when something has settled.

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

People, businesses and the legal profession are much more aware of mediation and less likely to confuse it with meditation! Practically speaking, disputes are coming to mediation earlier than they used to do. Alongside that, sometimes cases come to mediation several times during the life of a dispute, with parts being resolved and other aspects remaining in dispute.

I also think cases have become harder to settle at mediation, which I attribute to everyone being much better at thinking about solutions early on, rather than speeding down the trial track. Mediators tend to get involved where they are really needed.

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

I am currently Chair of the Civil Mediation Council which is a charity promoting mediation and the largest self-regulatory body for mediators in England and Wales. It keeps me pretty busy, particularly with all the latest government initiatives around integrated mediation for small claims.

Other than that, I am a big fan of the theatre and good food. And walking my dogs on Ilkley Moor.

All Mediators listed in top tiers of Legal 500 2024