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Book reviews

17 September 12

Reviews of Risk and Compliance for Law Firms in a Changed World (Maher); Mediation: A Practical Guide for Lawyers (Mantle)

by Tom Johnston, Anita Hall (Review Editor: David J Dickson)

Frank Maher

PUBLISHER: ARK GROUP

ISBN: 9781907787591

PRICE: £295 (save £70 by quoting code MP-W1 on +44(0) 20 7566 5792 / publishing@ark-group.com to place your order)

It should come as no surprise that this book begins with a disclaimer! It then continues with the very impressive resume of the author, a practising solicitor with a worldwide client base. There are no doubts as to his credentials to write such a volume.

It was produced against the background of the English Solicitors’ Regulation Authority, and its new handbook, which came into force last year. I went to print it to read at my leisure. On discovering that it runs to 1,442 pages I had a change of heart. The boast of the SRA is that theirs is a new approach to rule making, based on “OFR” (Outcomes Focused Regulation). Our own consolidated Practice Rules are of a more traditional regulatory nature. Their miserable hundred and something pages make them seem Lilliputian by comparison. I make no comment on the respective merits of these two approaches, but it must be remembered that this book is based on the English rules.

But while the SRA may not have grasped the merits of brevity, Mr Maher most certainly has. In nine short chapters he highlights numerous areas of potential risk that should be at the forefront of the mind of everyone running a legal business. One of the clear merits of the SRA handbook is that it imposes risk assessment and management as a mandatory requirement, not just something desirable. Drawing on the new rules, and his own considerable experience, Mr Maher gives us all much to consider.

Some advice is very familiar, but nonetheless relevant. Don’t dabble; be cautious acting for family or friends; beware the client who has changed lawyers four times in the course of the same case. Other advice is based on time spent at the coal face – the firm that collapsed two years after recording record profits. Or the firm that took great pride in poaching a team from its competitors, only to have to field the personal chaos which befell its new partners as a result of the demise of their previous firm. There is invaluable advice on matters such as business continuity, and the many pitfalls which can accompany apparently sound business practices such as outsourcing, takeovers and lateral hires.

As Mr Maher concludes, “Risk management is a culture, not an event.” Wherever you ply your legal trade, this slim volume contains enough material to improve even the best managed practice.

Tom Johnston, Young & Partners LLP

Marjorie Mantle

PUBLISHER: DUNDEE UNIVERSITY PRESS

ISBN: 9781845861216

PRICE: £25

This slim, self-effacing book may not have the weight of other publications about mediation, but it is a treasure trove of useful information for lawyers and mediators alike.

Marjorie Mantle’s commonsense approach to mediation, and her persuasive argument on why mediation should be part of every lawyer's skillset, run as a consistent theme throughout the book.  This book is a clarion call for all lawyers to embrace the values, both fiscal and emotional, that mediation will add to any practice.

This is very much a "how to do mediation" practical manual. From the very start Mantle addresses the question whether mediation is financially worthwhile. The response is unequivocal. Through use of examples she demonstrates that, as well as being a credible option for alternative dispute resolution, mediation can be a lucrative revenue-earning activity. The argument to support this is dealt with early on in the Sidebar section. This develops a financial raison d’être for mediation aside from the main body of the text, a clever device used throughout the book to develop supplementary information in parallel to the main text. The sidebars, along with the case studies, examples and tips, are clearly delineated as shaded boxes. This makes the text easy to navigate. The reader can either read these sections as part of the continuous text or can come back to them for further clarification after reading the main body of the text.  

Mantle debunks any mystery that mediation may have for lawyers. She explains the process clearly and concisely, unpacking each stage both as a narrative and as an easy-to-follow flowchart. Pitfalls are exposed and discussed with clarity and honesty, while the summaries at the end of each section distil previous information into easily digestible key points for the reader. 

Mantle is refreshingly candid about the limitations, as well as the advantages of mediation, and acknowledges that mediation requires a sea change attitude from lawyers which may not come, or sit easily with them because of the adversarial nature of the system in which they are trained. Just as a mediator needs to reframe the clients' views to enable them to understand the win/win solution that mediation might offer them, so Mantle applies a reframing technique in her SPIN paradigm to sell mediation to clients who might otherwise want their "day in court" and the costs accompanying it.

She creates a number of "mediation scenarios" for the reader, which capture the essence of typical mediation issues. Having set the issues out, she then proceeds to deconstruct them, suggesting arguments and even key phrases the lawyer might wish to consider using, in order to challenge and move a potential stalemate situation forward. The structure of the book may appear to be simple in its approach; however it is very clearly underlined with intellectual rigour which brings mediation into sharp focus.

Marjoire Mantle brings her experience as founder of Mediation Scotland and her work with the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission to bear in this book, but, most of all, she brings her enthusiasm and unconditional belief that mediation is a worthwhile activity for lawyers to be engaged in. As a mediator in England, I hope that this book is becomes, at the very least, recommended reading for English law students. With the role of mediation being strengthened in England’s Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, it is imperative that lawyers are aware of their duty in offering mediation as an alternative means of dispute resolution.

In the introduction to her book, Mantle hopes that readers will find the book enjoyable to read and a useful guide. As a qualified mediator I did indeed find this book very readable, very enjoyable and very useful in reflecting on my own practice and noting ways to improve outcomes for my clients. Given this, I would suggest that the book’s scope might also include new mediators as well as lawyers. 

Anita Hall, Trinity Family Mediation (www.trinityfamilymediation.co.uk)