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JAMS International & Cross Border Mediation

Mediation could save Ireland millions in legal costs

Today’s post comes to us from Nicola White, a 2010-2011 Weinstein Fellow. A native of Ireland, Ms. White currently serves as a consultant at CEDR in Ireland. She also served as an author and researcher for the Law Reform Commission of Ireland’s Consultation Paper and Report on Mediation and Conciliation.

At the Mediators Institute of Ireland annual conference in early November, the President of the Institute Karen Erwin informed attendees that businesses and the government could save millions if mediation was used instead of litigation. Ms. Erwin calculated that €1.3 billion was spent on legal costs in civil litigation last year, up from €1.2 billion in 2009.

Ireland is the second most costly place for civil litigation, according to a recent survey on mediation and the legal system in 26 European countries. The report from the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs examined the costs and time spent in litigation in Europe. It found that legal costs were cheapest in Luxembourg at 9.7 percent of the value of the claim and most expensive in the Czech Republic, at 33 percent. Ireland was not far behind the Czech Republic, where legal costs represented 26.7 percent of the claim’s value. The survey also found that in Ireland it takes on average 515 days from filing a lawsuit until the enforcement of the judgment. The quickest time was Lithuania with 275 days.

Given that the government is party to between 40 and 50 percent of civil litigation in Ireland, it could make a marked difference to the dispute resolution landscape by using mediation, Ms. Erwin said. With the current fiscal crisis facing the Irish government, it is inevitable that substantial cuts in public sector cuts are on the horizon. It has been estimated that the Irish government spends approximately €300 million in litigation and associated legal expenses annually. It is evident that mediation should, as it is in private sector disputes, have a role to play in the resolution of public sector disputes – particularly given the cost effectiveness of the process compared to litigation.

The integration of mediation within the Irish civil justice system has long been promoted and mediation is fast-becoming an integral component in the Irish litigation landscape. In the last year alone, there have been a number of substantial developments in the field. These include the introduction of the Rules of the Superior Courts (Mediation and Conciliation) 2010; the publication of the Law Reform Commission’s Report on Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Mediation and Conciliation with its Draft Mediation and Conciliation Bill 2010; provision for mediation in the Multi-Unit Developments Act 2011 and the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010.  Furthermore, the EU Directive on Mediation in Certain Civil and Commercial Matters was transposed by Ireland in May 2011.

As more developments occur, it will be interesting to see what sort of cultural shift has been created in terms of using ADR to resolve disputes.

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