Fiona Young qualified as a litigation lawyer in London in 2000. She was drawn to litigation because she enjoyed hearing people’s stories and solving problems. Traditionally, litigation is a legal way of solving a dispute. Parties to a dispute use lawyers and a court process to obtain a third parties’ judgement. It uses words, and research to present the best and strongest case for one party. The downside of this is it involves long hours of pouring over documents, analysing evidence, researching case law and drafting long, cleverly worded legal correspondence with equally diligent lawyers on “the other side”. It is hugely divisive. The parties only speak through their lawyers, especially in court. This, to bubbly, friendly, sociable Fiona - felt strange and cold given that these parties had long standing relationships in either business or marriage prior to the legal conflict arising. Another problem, Fiona found, was that it is an extremely stressful process for all involved. Her heartbeat would speed up when letters arrived from her “adversary”. She would lose sleep worrying about her client’s cases and would feel physically sick before court appearances. If things did not go the way the client wanted they would be angry and resentful. Finally, Fiona found that the costs involved would often outweigh the benefit for the client, making them frustrated and unwilling to pay, even if the outcome for them had been positive
Having a young family also meant that the long hours and stress did not tie in with her children’s needs. In 2014 Fiona began to feel strongly that there must be another way to use her skills:, interest in people, attention to detail and understanding of the law -to help people solve their problems in a kinder, calmer, quicker and more cost effective way.
Coincidentally, around this time Fiona had the opportunity to participate in a mediation course. To Fiona, mediation appeared to hold the keys to an approach that would value people and their points of view while forging a path that would ultimately be suitable to all parties involved. In 2015 Fiona took her studies in mediation further completing a qualification in commercial mediation, and by 2016 Fiona had completed a diploma in international conflict resolution and arbitration.
Since this time she has used the mediation skill set (active listening, reframing, building rapport, brainstorming mutually beneficial solutions) - to hear her client’s stories, unravel their issues and help them work together to problem solve - saving time, money, stress and ultimately their interpersonal relationship. She has worked with 100’s of parties to help resolve their disputes, time effectively using her personable, friendly practical approach as well as a genuine ability to see everyone’s point of view empathetically. Additionally when acting as a solicitor -in an employment context - she will apply the mediation tools to ensure that the dispute is resolved promptly, effectively and fairly.
Fiona is also passionate about sharing the mediation skills with organisations and businesses and runs a variety of training programs to assist businesses improve their employee’s interpersonal and conflict resolution approaches.
“Being a good mediator is all about having life experience. It is about meeting all sorts of different people and liking them for who they are. It’s also about understanding and appreciating cultural differences, age differences and difference of perception. Travelling to and working in different countries has helped me with keeping an open mind but the most important mediation training I have had is being a wife and mother - there is no better place to practice mediation skills than between small squabbling siblings or with demanding teenagers!”.
This is more than just a method of conflict resolution. It is training on how to successfully navigate a world where conflict, disagreement and problems are all around us all the time.