On April 23, 2015, a conference on effective communication with the subtitle ‘How to negotiate, resolve conflicts and mediate in the workplace’ took place in Prague. The conference was divided into two blocks: one on mediation and the other on effective communication. 

The first of these blocks focused on practical examples of firms all over the world which are using mediation to resolve disputes between employees and business partners and settle disagreements with their clients and competitors. Mediation was presented not as a universal panacea always resulting in agreement, but rather as a means to facilitate an agreement based on a “win-win” principle. 

The presentations were given by active mediators and mediation lecturers who are also university lecturers, attorneys-at-law, arbitrators and successful coaches. For the legal community, I believe that the highlight was the presentations by two participants from the Czech Republic: 

JUDr. Tomáš Horáček, Ph.D., secretary of the Law Faculty of Charles University Prague, who also lectures on dispute resolution in the banking sector, presented a history of Act No. 202/2012 Coll., on mediation, of which he is a co-author. 

Among the benefits of mediation, he singled out the principle of self-determination of parties. This means that the parties decide for themselves on the time, place and important rules of the “proceedings” and their agreement is their “copyrighted work” subject to only one limit—compliance with the Czech legal system. The agreement can be enforced very easily via execution (see also http://goo.gl/NSIIg9). Dr. Horáček believes that knowledge of the law is the backbone of commercial mediation. Generally, mediators will be at an advantage if they come from the “pertinent field” of the dispute – e.g. as experts on construction, medicine, sports, etc. 

For this reason, in September 2014, Charles University Law Faculty introduced mediation as one of five elective courses, and it is also organising a summer school on mediation. The goal is to produce educated students – future attorneys-at-law, judges, etc. – who will not block mediation or dismiss and devalue this method of seeking a just outcome between disputing parties. 

JUDr. Martin Svatoš, Ph.D., is a prominent arbitrator and mediator who lectures on mediation not only at universities abroad, but also at Charles University Law Faculty in Prague. He gave examples of the advantages of mediation in specific major disputes (e.g. the NHL strike). He also set out the benefits of ADR proceedings, focusing on arbitration and mediation while also comparing the two. On the topic of mediation, he underlined the key word “trust”. All over the world, there are “mediation charters” and other platforms which firms adhere to when presenting their company culture (including a commitment to amicable conflict resolution). As Warren E. Burger, the American politician who later became Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, put it: “The best service which a lawyer can offer his client is to keep that client away out of court.” 

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