When is the right time to book a venue?
When a mediator has been agreed and a mediation date confirmed in the diary, a mediation venue needs to be agreed and booked. It is usual for the parties to share the cost of the venue hire in the same way that they share the mediator's fees.
Who books the mediation venue?
If a mediation is booked via a mediation service provider, often the provider will offer to search for a venue on behalf of the parties, if they know what location the parties would prefer. Some mediation service providers can achieve preferential rates with mediation venues and they pass these preferential rates onto their clients, as part of their mediation case management service.
If an independent mediator is booked by the parties, it is common for the mediator to expect the parties to make their own venue arrangements.
Often it is suggested to the parties that they provide rooms at the solicitor's offices or the offices of clients. This can save on venue hire costs and saves participants having to agree anything other than the mediator and date. Sometimes the parties to the mediation prefer for the mediation to take place at a completely neutral venue. In this case the parties will need to research venue hire charges and make a booking with the agreed venue, as well as booking the mediator.
How many rooms need to be booked and for how long?
The usual set up required consists of a breakout room for each of the participating parties and then one large room which can hold all the parties when a joint or plenary session is held. Often the mediator will ask for a further room to be made available for them, so they have a base for the duration of the mediation, when they are not in sessions with any of the parties.
The venue that is booked needs to be available for the whole day. Mediations tend to start from 9.00am and take a full day, finishing typically at 5.00pm. It is useful to book a venue that are happy to provide the rooms into the evening too. Therefore, if the mediation should run into extra hours, the parties know they can continue to use the rooms for as long as they need. Most venues are likely to charge a day rate and then make an additional charge after working hours.
What do the rooms need to have?
Mediation rooms need to be comfortable, as the parties are going to spend a considerable amount of time in them. There should be plenty of natural light and good temperature control. There should be good air circulation throughout and the opportunity for the parties to control the air flow and temperature if at all possible. The layout of the tables and chairs needs to be conducive to open and free-flowing communication and interaction. The company that provides the venue needs to understand that privacy is paramount. The rooms should be private and sound-proof. Also, each of the room should not be too far apart from one another. This will help the mediator when they have to shuttle between the rooms during the course of the mediation.
Do any other requirements need to be taken into consideration?
The venue need to be aware of any special dietary requirements or any other considerations such as accessibility. On occasion you may have parties whose relationships have broken down to such an extent that they do not wish to see each other on the day of the mediation. The venue need to be aware of this, so they can think carefully about what rooms they place the participants in and how the parties access those rooms. They also need to take into account where the toilets are and where the parties need to be situated when they have any refreshments.
It is always a good idea to check whether the venue include refreshments with the room hire. Some venues charge for a complete package of room hire, refreshments and a working buffet lunch. Others might only provide the rooms. If the parties wish to have refreshments and/or lunch and snacks, this may need to be booked separately and be charged per head. Such refreshments may also need to be pre-ordered before the day of the mediation.
What equipment does there need to be?
Some mediators might request a flipchart to be made available for use. When the parties are holding sessions, sometimes it helps if what is being discussed can be illustrated on a flip chart. Usually the venue will provide this if asked. Remember to ensure that any information written on the flipchart is not visible or accessible to anyone outside of the room.
Internet and wifi is important. Inevitably solicitors, mediators and the clients are going to bring a laptop and mobile phone as a minimum. It is likely that if settlement is reached the lawyers will use a laptop to write up the settlement agreement and maybe a Tomlin order.
It will also be useful therefore to have access to a scanner, printer and/or fax where documents can be actioned. For example the mediator is going to want to make copies of the signed mediation agreements so that each party can keep a copy. The settlement agreement will also need photocopying too.
Finally, if the mediation is a hybrid one, where some parties are in-person and others remote, good IT and telephony equipment is a must. Calls and connections need to be made with ease and with no technical difficulties to obstruct the flow of the mediation.
It is worth checking when you book the venue which of the things mentioned above are included in the price of the room hire and what will be charged as an extra.
Mediation Venues in Central London
Search for a venue
Use the interactive hotel and Airbnb map below to search for a mediation venue in your local area.
Tip: Many hotel chains such as Hilton offer good facilities to host a mediation. They have meeting rooms that are otherwise used for conferences that are ideal for mediations.