Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference 2018

Ian Walker - Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference 2018On the 11 and 12 October 2018 travelled to Nottingham to attend Resolution’s annual Dispute Resolution Conference. The aim of the conference is to bring to together family law experts in dispute resolution to share their experiences and to discuss and learn about the latest ideas for innovation and promoting best practice.

The Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference is organised by Resolution’s Dispute Resolution Committee, of which I am a member. (Although I hasten to add that I was not on the conference organising subcommittee).

There were around 160 – 180 delegates from all around the country. It is always enjoyable to catch up with friends and colleagues and to meet other like-minded professionals. The majority of the delegates are either mediators, collaborative family lawyers or family arbitrators or like myself all 3 (as well as being practising specialist family law solicitors and barristers).

Promoting collaborative family law

Amongst the topics discussed were promoting collaborative family law as the normal way of family law practice.

Sadly we are not quite there yet, with collaborative family law being the normal way of family law practice with some lawyers practising within family law still taking a litigious approach which can exacerbate family difficulties – and which is avoidant of the use of family mediation, collaborative family law and arbitration

Other topics included; Innovation in family law/mediation/collaborative law/arbitration; better preparing clients for stressful meetings including by encouraging clients to make use of techniques such as mindfulness and by accessing counselling; working together with complimentary professionals (such as financial advisers and children experts) and integrating working together in different aspects of practice; better assisting families to implement children court orders achieved through court proceedings (often with high conflict) or mediation and assisting couples to better work together in order to avoid returning to court.

Amita Sehgal – dealing with stress and anger

The Henry Brown Lecture (named after Henry Brown – Henry is a pioneer of the use of family mediation in the UK and who incidentally trained me as both a family mediator in 1996 and a civil/commercial mediator – Henry is now enjoying his retirement) was given by Amita Sehgal who is a couple psychoanalytic psychotherapist accredited by the British Psychoanalytic Council through the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology. This considered the impacts of dealing with stress and anger and steps that could be taken to minimise the negative impacts of these.

Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference 2018Jo Berry and Patrick Magee – Building Bridges for Peace

The highlight of the conference was undoubtably the keynote address given by Jo Berry and Patrick Magee of Building Bridges for Peace.

Jo Berry is the daughter of Sir Anthony Berry MP who was amongst those killed in the bombing of the Grand Hotel, Brighton by the IRA (Irish Republican Army) on October 12, 1984. Patrick Magee is the man who planted the bomb and who was convicted and sent to prison for that act.

Jo described how within 2 days of her father being killed she resolved to find something positive out of what had happened and to bring meaning to and even understand those who had killed her father.

Jo and Patrick met 16 years later after Patrick was released from prison as part of the Northern Ireland peace process. The charity Building Bridges for Peace was launched in Brighton in October 2009 on the 25th anniversary of the bombing.

Building Bridges for Peace works to enable divided communities and the general public to explore and better understand the roots of war, terrorism and violence. Jo and Patrick promote dialogue and mediation as the means to peace.

Jo Berry and Pat Magee have given talks in Palestine, Lebanon, Rwanda and throughout the UK.
There is a quote on the Building Bridges for Peace website from Terry Waite CBE which is worth repeating;

To be a subject of a grievous wrong is always wounding and painful and can frequently provoke anger.

However, anger, if allowed to fester is like a cancer of the soul. It does more harm to those who hold it than against those whom it is held.

Jo Berry knows from personal experience what it is to have to face deep suffering as her father was blown up in a IRA bomb. She has let go of personal need for revenge and empathised with Patrick Magee, the man responsible for planting the bomb.

To hear her speak alongside the one who killed her father is a living demonstration of the transforming power of reconciliation when two people who have been on different sides truly listen and can see each other’s humanity, an example this sad world so desperately need.
Terry Waite CBE – humanitarian and former hostage

It was particularly inspiring to hear Jo and Patrick speak on a day that was in fact the 34th anniversary of the bombing.

Terry Waite’s words encapsulate the importance of the work of Jo and Patrick not only in the theatre of political conflict but also in the theatre of personal conflict.

Anger in personal conflict

As family law practitioners we are very often assisting clients who have been wronged and who are angry with their former partner who they feel has caused them that wrong.

The anger and pain is very often a two-way thing. Unresolved anger can play out in making it much harder to reach objectively reasonable outcomes and can be compounded by further anger generated through the process of divorce/separation and having orders/outcomes imposed. A couple’s children can be caught within this conflict and this can be very damaging indeed. This can play out in children being psychologically harmed, losing contact with one parent or family members (sometimes with parental alienation) or not receiving good role modelling to equip them to deal with resolving disputes in their own lives in the best way.

I would strongly recommend that if you ever have the opportunity to listen to Jo and Patrick speak then you should take this up. What they have achieved together, both on a personal level as well as through their wider work is truly inspiring.

The delegates to whom I spoke, all left thinking about how they could better assist their clients through their own personal conflicts.


I left the conference re-energised that as a practice we are clearly on the right track in terms of how we are trying to assist our clients and over the next few months we will be reflecting further upon how we can make improvements to our service and to supporting our team to do this.

I am already looking forward to the 2019 Resolution Dispute Resolution Conference.

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