How would you like to introduce yourself to our readers? Why Law?
I am a dispute resolution professional, mediator, advocate, and learning enhancement specialist. I have been trained in mediation by the London School of Mediation, UK and Samadhan, High Court of Delhi. I advise businesses, individuals, and educational institutes on methods of conflict resolution. My area of work and interest includes restorative justice, conflict resolution, Cyber Security, and Procedural Justice. I have recently co-founded a dispute resolution organization- Accords International (AcIn).
Currently, I am reading- Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell and recommend it to all of your readers.
You are a certified mediator. Can you help our readers to understand more about this?
Yes, I am a certified mediator to practice in India and the United Kingdom. I have already mentioned I have been trained by the London School of Mediation UK and the High Court of Delhi Mediation Centre, Samadhan. Being a certified mediator means one is qualified to market their services, take clients, and facilitate a mediation. Mediators can work independently, as I do, and get empanelled with any ADR organization or court-annexed mediation center. For instance, I am empanelled with ADR Register, Global Network Group, Amsterdam as a mediator, negotiator, and trainer. Such empanelment helps you in getting clients and expanding your network.
Upasana, can you guide us with the career options as Mediator?
I want to say unequivocally that career options and opportunities in the field of mediation in India and outside India are enormous. One must understand that every career choice requires honest effort, creative thinking, Grit, and a bit of luck.
Mediators, because they are trained to de-escalate conflict and facilitate sustainable agreements, can choose careers that focus on services, such as psychology, teaching, social work, counseling, conflict management coaching, dispute resolution, and many others.
Popular perception among law students and lawyers is that trained mediators can only mediate court-referred matters in a court-annexed mediation centre. And since the minimum requirement to get empanelled with such centres is 10 years of practice this option is closed for many. This discourages many interested and motivated young professionals. But this is a limited understanding that has become popular because of a lack of awareness about mediation in India.
Private mediation practice is a viable option for a trained mediator. It is gaining momentum in India and parties in States like Karnataka, Hyderabad, Kerela, Gujrat, and Delhi have started trusting private mediators and institutions with their issues and concerns. In countries like US, UK, and Canada private mediators are not shy to market their services and get a good number of clients.
Also, Indian corporates and businesses have started to understand the cost-effectiveness of mediation not only as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism but also as a conflict prevention tool. Accords International is working in the direction of bringing corporates on board by regularly organizing awareness programs and consultation circles with their HRs and executives.
Also, despite its criticisms, the mediation bill is rightly creating a culture of pre-litigation mediation. This opens many doors for lawyers who are trained in mediation and negotiation. Even lawyers have started to understand that advising their clients to consider mediation helps the process of conflict resolution and this non-adversarial model has the potential to solve the long-standing problem of judicial pendency in India.
You are an advocate. Can you help us understand the cases you have dealt with in the past 8 years?
I wear multiple hats as a professional. I am a lawyer, mediator, academician, and restorative justice practitioner. In the past 8 years, I have dealt with family disputes, domestic violence cases, forgery and fraud maters, commercial disputes, workplace conflicts, and consumer disputes. I come from a family of advocates, judges, and bureaucrats. So, I also get a diverse set of matters from them. Also, I seldom say no to work even if it’s an area which I have never dealt with. Eventually, I find the solution and way to handle it.
What is pre-litigation Mediation?
The concept of pre-litigation mediation was introduced in India by the Supreme Court Mediation and Conciliation Committee (MCPC) in 2014. As per this concept of Mediation, disputes, which arise out of legal relationships, cases/matters of civil nature, monetary issues/matters, contractual matters, etc. may be received under pre-litigation in the Mediation and Conciliation Centre, prior to registration of FIR/NCR or initiation of civil proceedings in a court of law. Further, any settlement agreement that is the result of such a process will have the same status and effect as if it is an arbitral award on agreed terms on the substance of the dispute on agreed terms rendered by an arbitral tribunal by virtue of section 74 of Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996.
Codification of the concept of pre-litigation mediation can be seen in section 12A of the Commercial Courts Act, 2015. Also, the Mediation Bill 2021, which is currently completing its legislative journey, makes pre-litigation mediation (at least 2 sessions of mediation) mandatory for the parties before beginning court proceedings.
Is Mediation a life skill?
As mediators, we possess powerful tools that can change the world. Without even consciously realizing it, we mediators promote the following values and principles:
Any decision will be a sustainable decision only when all the parties, having an interest in the conflict, get an opportunity to voice their point of view.
Active listening to the other person motivates him/her to reciprocate the same gesture when you are speaking.
Mostly, conflicts can be solved with civilized discussion and problem-solving.
Understanding others’ points of view expands your own point of view.
Solution to a dispute can be win-win and it’s easily possible through sharing of ideas.
I believe with the help of mediation we can highlight the fact that at the core people are good and they want to do the right thing. Any trained mediator just creates a conducive environment for the disputing parties to find out how it is done.
You are a founder of Accords International (AcIn). Can you help our readers understand this new venture?
Accords International (AcIn) is an organization based in India that deals with conflict resolution, mediation, and restorative justice. It was conceptualized in 2021 with an aim to:
Empower individuals to establish better dispute-resolution mechanisms.
Utilize existing techniques in dispute resolution in a more productive way and create new techniques in the area.
Create a pan-India network of professionals, academicians, judges, bureaucrats, and students working in conflict resolution and restorative justice.
Synergize the working of alternate dispute resolution mechanisms with courts and the government for faster and optimal results.
The vision is to equip professionals, policymakers, and civil society members with the tools required to nurture creative conflict-resolution techniques. AcIn partners with and serves mediation/conflict resolution centers, schools, universities, businesses, and research institutions worldwide to deliver innovative unions of research, advisory, creative techniques, deliberative inquiry, and consulting services. It offers learning programs, workshops, and Bootcamps in areas covering the psychology of conflict resolution, divorce mediation, and interests of a child of divorce; Cyberbullying, and restorative justice.
As a step forward in this direction, we have launched the Jan-Feb 2023 Cohort of our mediation training program which is scheduled to start on January 21, 2023.
Any advice to our young readers?
I quote Warren Buffett, an American businessman, investor, and philanthropist whenever someone asks me this. “You really should take a job that, if you were independently wealthy, that would be the job you would take. You will learn something, you will be excited about it, and you will jump out of bed. You can’t miss.”
Every person, irrespective of age or professional achievements should do the thing that they love the most. If conflict resolution or ADR is something that drives your passion and gives you the energy to work hard and innovate then go for it!
When I started the training program under Accords International, I knew deep down that I had always wanted students and law professionals in India to thrive. It has become a passionate pursuit for me that I love.
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