ARC Mediation was set up by Roisin O’Shea and Shane Dempsey in 2010. At the time Roisin was an IRC-funded doctoral research scholar in the middle of a ground-breaking empirical study of the family law courts in Ireland. Shane was a research engineer who saw the benefit of mediation for resolving workplace conflict.
An Interdisciplinary Approach to Resolving Conflict
This interdisciplinary approach created a unique partnership that sought to identify and adopt mediation best practice from around the world. Shane sought to apply the manufacturing philosophy of “continuous improvement” to the mediation process, taking an objective view on the efficacy of the many schools of mediation techniques. Roisin established herself as an innovator in both mediation and family law, winning and coming runner-up in a number of awards including the Law Reform Commission essay competition, HEA Innovation in Research competition and The Hague Institute international Innovating Justice award.
Recognising that mediation was at an early stage in Ireland, the ARC partnership travelled to Canada and New Zealand to study both advanced mediators and the interactions between mediation and the family law courts. ARC Mediators, in collaboration with Waterford Institute of Technology organised conferences and seminars for family law practitioners from Canada, the US, the UK and around Europe.
Commercial Mediation & Business Alliances
At that time, ARC also facilitated negotiations between an alliance of more than 80 businesses in the hotel, catering and leisure sectors who were interested in reforming the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) system that regulated employment and pay conditions. ARC developed significant expertise in conflict management within the Hotel & Leisure sector and were invited to give a seminar in the Shannon College of Hotel Management on our work and experiences.
Building on this success, by 2013 ARC had become one of the first full-time mediation practices in Ireland, refining a new mediation model that emphasises a structured process and a series of short term agreements to test out compromises. These agreements are negotiated over a number of short meetings taking place over several weeks versus the “single day mediation” model that had become the norm to settle family, workplace and commercial mediations. The new ARC model was particularly advantageous in workplace, family and family-business mediations where high levels of participation of all parties are desirable in order to regain and preserve existing relationships. It also promoted involvement of legal and financial advisors with adequate time given for consultation and feedback on draft agreements. The overarching goal behind our process was to ensure clients were satisfied that any agreement reached in our mediations was both sustainable and the best possible compromise. We believe the single-day approach may be appropriate for some categories of commercial mediations where the object of mediation is to negotiate a cash settlement but may not be appropriate in many other circumstances.
From a commercial perspective, it may be convenient for the mediator to negotiate a settlement in a single day but our experience suggests clients felt this approach to be too pressurised and some believed they settled simply to end the mediation process which they were finding extremely stressful. We wanted to offer our clients something better!
Assembling Our Panel of Mediators
Over the next 5 years the original ARC partnership was joined by talented mediators who had heard about our reputation and results, and wanted to learn to mediate “the ARC way”. Mindful of the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach, ARC sought to balance the skillset of new mediators to address the many competencies required on increasingly challenging cases. While the practice aimed to be General Practitioner mediators with the skills to take on any dispute, those skills aren’t necessarily found in a single mediator and therefore ARC assigned co-mediation teams to cases, tailored based on individual requirements. For example, a family business mediation may require a team of mediators with expertise in business administration, accountancy and organisational psychology. Again, this modular approach to mediation is unique to ARC, and delivered in a cost-effective manner sensitive to clients’ budgets and the nature of the dispute.
This philosophy encouraged ARC to seek out new mediators with diverse additional skills including business administration, accountancy, psychology, engineering, project management, community work and debt negotiation. We wanted broadly educated and experienced professionals who could bring different perspectives to bear on complex disputes (such as succession mediations).
Ongoing Research – A Public Private Partnership
From 2013 to 2017, ARC ran the Family Mediation Project, a low-cost family mediation alternative to the state system with short waiting times and a willingness to take on high-conflict cases. The project ran in Waterford, Kilkenny and Carlow. As part of a joint research project with Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT), empirical data was obtained with participants consent to assess the efficiency of the ARC process with more than 9 in 10 mediations resulting in settlement. The process and manuals from this project were provided to Dublin Community Mediation (DCM) who will run the pilot on a larger scale across FRC’s in Dublin. We believe that improving the quality of mediation across Ireland will ultimately lead to greater adoption of mediation as an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process.
Contribution to the Regulation of Mediation in Ireland
In 2017, ARC mediators Dr Roisin O’Shea and Dr. Sinead Conneely were recognised as stakeholders by the Dept of Justice and made detailed submissions to the Mediation Act 2017. These submissions were informed by ongoing research into the refinement of the practice of mediation in Ireland, and also international best practice. Both mediators have written for academic publications and national media about the ARC model and case studies, presenting at conferences such as the ICSP, Relate UK and the Nuffield Foundation. Additionally, Dr. Roisin O’Shea had been appointed to the International committee of the AFCC.
Building on our Strengths
By 2018, ARC had completed around 350 cases across family, workplace and commercial mediation sectors. This level of experience is extremely rare among mediators practicing in Ireland. We’re confident in our claim that ARC has several of the most experienced mediators in the country with broad experience of family, workplace and commercial dispute resolution.
ARC trains new mediators exclusively under the Friary Law brand. Candidates have told us the programme, delivered over 6 days, is tough but rewarding with skills that can be applied directly to their professional lives. Typical candidates are business executives, solicitors, accountants, barristers, consultants and other professionals who believe mediation could be a new practice area or an enhancement to their professional toolkits in dealing with interpersonal dynamics in their workforces.
We aim that every ARC-trained mediator delivers a high standard of competence and professionalism to their clients and that more people will realise mediation is not just a viable alternative, but a preferred mechanism for resolving all manner of family and civil disputes.
How to Engage an ARC Mediator?
ARC operates in Waterford, Kilkenny, Cork, Carlow and Dublin and has mediators who live and work in these counties. Our mediation process requires a high degree of client contact and therefore we don’t feel comfortable offering mediations outside of these locations at present in order to maintain the level of quality and support that our clients have come to expect. Please contact us for more information.