Thursday, March 17, 2011

Italian Lawyers Go On Strike to Oppose Mediation

I had to blog about this.

The Wall Street Journal has a blog about lawyers in Italy preparing to go out on strike to protest a new law requiring mediation in commercial cases. Whoa.

I understand that the legal system, culture and economics are very different in Italy compared to the U.S. But striking to oppose a public policy fostering mediation?

As Michael McIlwrath posted in Karl Bayer’s wonderful blog Disputing, Italian lawyers must fear that ADR really does stand for “Alarming Drop in Revenues” for attorneys. The Italian bar has proposed changes to the law that, according to McIlwrath, would substantially cripple it. They want the law to not require mediation but make it optional. And they want the law to require “technical” (read: legal) assistance at the mediation.

Many mediators in this country have suggested (often over a glass or two of scotch at conferences of mediators) that U.S. lawyers fear mediation because it would reduce their fees (where do you think “Alarming Drop of Revenues” came from?). And some lawyers have said the same.

I disagree. I find that many attorneys in the U.S. are receptive, and even embrace, mediation as an attractive alternative to litigation. Over the years, attorneys have told me that mediation in this country is often the only remedy their clients will accept because litigation is so expensive. And so very few cases in this country actually go to trial, so lawyers aren’t necessarily as tied to litigation for their economic livelihood as perhaps is the case in Italy. Attorneys in the U.S. have come to recognize the benefits of mediation and are responding to the market demand from their clients.

However, this story does point out one thing – mediation must be gaining wider acceptance and becoming more prevalent to be seen as such a serious threat by Italian lawyers. Not such a bad thing!

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