Compulsory Mediation in UK Courts – A Turning Point in Dispute Resolution?

Move to Compulsory Mediation in the UK

Problem: In the UK, legal disputes, especially in civil and commercial matters, often lead to time-consuming and expensive court proceedings. This strains the resources of the involved parties and burdens the judicial system. Lengthy court battles can hinder the swift resolution of conflicts, leading to increased costs and sometimes deteriorating relationships. Prolonged disputes can be particularly detrimental to businesses, impacting operations and financial stability.

Solution: The solution to these challenges lies in the increasing adoption and integration of mediation into the UK’s civil justice system. Mediation can offer an alternative path to dispute resolution, characterised by its efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and ability to preserve relationships. Recognising its potential, the UK government has taken significant steps to institutionalise mediation, particularly for small claims. The introduction of compulsory mediation for claims valued up to £10,000 is a progressive move aimed at streamlining legal processes and reducing the courts’ burden. This mandatory mediation approach facilitated through services like the Small Claims Mediation Service, is expected to expedite dispute resolution and lower the overall costs of legal proceedings for the parties involved.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a form of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) that involves the intervention of an impartial and independent third party – the mediator – to assist in resolving a dispute between two or more parties. Unlike in court proceedings, the mediator does not impose a decision. Instead, their role is to facilitate discussion, help clarify issues, and guide parties towards a mutually agreeable solution.

Several of our lawyers are also qualified mediators, and this provides our clients with a unique advantage when our lawyers negotiate on your behalf to obtain the best outcome for you.

How Does Mediation Work?

The important thing to note about mediation is that the parties are in control of the process, and the solution that they agree between themselves to resolve the legal dispute but typically it can include:

  1. Agreeing to Mediation: Mediation usually begins when parties agree to resolve their dispute through this process or when it is mandated, as in the case of small claims mediation in the UK.
  2. Selection of an Independent Mediator: Parties either choose an independent mediator or, in court-mandated cases, one is appointed by the court. Organisations like CEDR (Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution) and the Civil Mediation Council provide accredited mediators.
  3. Pre-Mediation Preparation: Before the mediation session, parties often submit a brief to the mediator outlining their position and the issues in dispute. Mediators may also hold pre-mediation talks to understand the parties’ perspectives.
  4. Mediation Session: During the session, which can be in person or via online mediation platforms, the mediator facilitates discussion. This process involves joint sessions with all parties and private caucuses where the mediator meets each party separately.
  5. Negotiation and Problem-Solving: The mediator assists the parties in exploring potential solutions and negotiating terms that are acceptable to all. The focus is on identifying interests, not just positions, and finding common ground.
  6. Reaching an Agreement: If parties reach an agreement, it is typically documented in a mediation settlement agreement. This agreement can be made legally binding if the parties so choose.
  7. Post-Mediation: If an agreement is not reached, parties may choose to proceed to court or explore other ADR options.

Mediation is designed to be a confidential, flexible, and voluntary process, although certain types of mediation, like small claims mediation, are now compulsory in the UK. The key is that the parties retain control over the decision-making process, which is a major advantage over traditional litigation.

Is Mediation Compulsory?

In the UK, mediation has traditionally been a voluntary process. However, recent developments have introduced elements of compulsion in certain cases:

  1. Small Claims Track: The UK government announced plans to make mediation a mandatory procedural step in all Small Claims in the County Court, applicable to most claims valued below £10,000. This marks the first instance of mediation being compulsory for a whole class of claims in the English courts​​​​.
  2. Application in County Court Proceedings: The compulsory mediation scheme applies to all defended County Court proceedings allocated to the Small Claims track within the standard CPR Part 7 procedure, with no exceptions for specific case types or individuals. Parties failing to attend scheduled mediation face potential sanctions, including cost sanctions or strike-out of their claim or defence.

The historic position on compulsory mediation in Halsey v Milton Keynes General NHS Trust [2004] EWCA Civ 576 (the court cannot compel the parties to mediate a dispute)

Halsey was an important case that addressed the issue of whether UK courts could compel parties to mediate. The court in Halsey set out several factors to consider when determining whether a party’s refusal to mediate was reasonable, including:

  1. The nature of the dispute
  2. The merits of the case
  3. The extent to which other settlement methods have been attempted
  4. Whether the costs of mediation would be disproportionately high
  5. Whether any delay in setting up and attending mediation would be prejudicial
  6. Whether mediation had a reasonable prospect of success

The ruling was significant for judicial comments stating that, “To compel unwilling parties to refer their disputes to mediation would be to impose an unacceptable obstruction on their right of access to the court.” The court judgment established a precedent that while courts could encourage ADR, they could not compel the parties to it, citing potential infringement of the European Convention of Human Rights related to the right to a fair trial.

However, it has long be argued by lawyers and other commentators that the Halsey decision no longer applicable in recent years where judges have been strong advocates for mediation, and often recommend that the parties engage in mediation to resolve legal disputes when setting out directions for court proceedings.

The new shift towards compulsory mediation in James Churchill v Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council [2023] EWCA Civ 1416

The recent judgment in Churchill handed down a few weeks ago revisited the issue of compulsory mediation given the evolving attitudes towards ADR.

The Court of Appeal in Churchill reviewed the Halsey decision, giving a contrasting ruling. The court held that it does have the power to compel parties to engage in ADR. A key observation from the judgment was that while Halsey presented persuasive arguments about the voluntary nature of mediation, it did not establish a legal barrier to mandatory mediation.

The court stated, “The Civil Procedure Rules empower the court to stay proceedings to enable ADR to be conducted… ADR, including mediation, is now deeply embedded in our civil justice system.”

The Master of the Rolls, Sir Geoffrey Vos, articulated in the judgment: “…it would be undesirable to provide a checklist or a score sheet for judges… They will be well qualified to decide whether a particular process is or is not likely or appropriate for the purpose of achieving a fair, speedy, and cost-effective solution to the dispute…

Many lawyers and commentators will argue that the decision brings the case law up to date with the judicial practice over the past few years. In any event, the Churchill case represents a judicial shift, making it clear that courts can, under appropriate circumstances, require parties to engage in ADR processes, including mediation. This could pave the way for a broader application of compulsory mediation in the UK, reflecting the growing acceptance of ADR in the legal landscape.

Advantages of Mediation

Our lawyers have represented several clients in mediation across the country successfully to resolve disputes quickly and to satisfaction. The main benefits of mediation include:

  1. Cost-Effectiveness: One of the primary advantages of mediation is its cost-effectiveness compared to traditional court proceedings. Legal disputes can be financially draining due to high attorney fees, court costs, and the extended duration of cases. Mediation significantly reduces these expenses, making it a more affordable option for conflict resolution.
  2. Time Efficiency: Mediation is typically much quicker than going through the court system. Legal battles can drag on for months or even years, whereas mediation can often be completed in a matter of days or weeks. This timely resolution is particularly beneficial in business disputes where prolonged conflicts can disrupt operations.
  3. Confidentiality: Unlike public court cases, mediation is a confidential process. This privacy is crucial in sensitive matters, allowing parties to discuss and resolve their issues without public scrutiny or the risk of damaging their reputation.
  4. Control Over the Outcome: In mediation, the disputing parties have more control over the outcome. Unlike in a court judgment, where the decision is made by a judge, mediation allows the parties to collaboratively negotiate and agree upon a mutually satisfactory solution. This collaborative nature often leads to more amicable settlements and is less likely to leave one party feeling dissatisfied.
  5. Preservation of Relationships: Mediation is less adversarial than court litigation. It focuses on effective communication and negotiation, which can preserve or even improve relationships between the disputing parties. This aspect is particularly important in disputes involving ongoing relationships, like family matters or business partnerships.
  6. Flexibility: The process of mediation is more flexible than the rigid structures of court proceedings. It allows for creative solutions tailored to the specific needs and interests of the parties involved. This flexibility can result in more practical and effective resolutions than those typically imposed by a court.
  7. High Success Rate: Mediation has a high success rate in resolving disputes. The collaborative nature of the process and the involvement of a neutral third party (the mediator) often lead to solutions that all parties can agree to, thereby avoiding the winner-loser scenario common in litigation.

Expert Mediation Solicitors in London

The shift towards compulsory mediation in the UK marks a significant evolution in the approach to dispute resolution within the legal system. From the landmark rulings in Halsey to the more recent Churchill case, the judiciary is increasingly recognising the benefits of mediation. This transition towards mandatory mediation, particularly in small claims, reflects a commitment to more efficient, cost-effective, and amicable resolution of disputes.

For businesses and individuals navigating this changing landscape, understanding the nuances of compulsory mediation is crucial. Whether you are dealing with a small claim or a complex commercial dispute, the right guidance can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case.

At Go Legal, our lawyers specialise in mediation and dispute resolution many of whom are qualified mediators. Our team of experienced mediation solicitors is well-equipped to guide you through the mediation process, ensuring your interests are effectively represented.

We can help you understand the implications of these legal changes for your specific situation and assist you in achieving the best possible outcome. Please call us on 0207 459 4037 for a Free Consultation today.


Karim Oualnan handled a contractual case to a successful resolution. Karim was very diligent, always providing great, honest advice in which Karim always put my best interests at the forefront of his suggestions during the case. He is very reliable, trustworthy and always on hand to help. I would highly recommend Karim.
I have no hesitation in recommending the services of Karim and his team. I had been banging my head against a brick wall after my bank forced the closure of my accounts and froze a substantial amount of my cash assets. Karim quickly reviewed all of the documentation relating to the matter and issued a letter before claim and formal...
We hired Karim for a commercial dispute, with a UK based entity that breached our P.O. terms. The difficulty with the case was that we have paid a down payment without much leverage to recover it. The supplier misled us forever 2 years and finally decided not to pay our down payment. However, with the support of the lead lawyer...
Very satisfied with the way that Karim Oualnan and his team took hold of a messy conveyancing professional negligence claim, and progressed it all the way through to an amicable settlement in just over 6 months. Professional, courteous, knowledgeable and also pragmatic with advice and strategy. I would not hesitate to recommend.
Karim offered me some advice regarding a lease issue. He was kind , courteous, knowledgable and above all really generous with his time and support . I would recommend Karim in a heartbeat for explaining things so clearly without patronising and for making me feel so at ease.
Karim is wonderful to work with, attentive, calmed and a knowledgeable professional. I appreciate his help a lot, he guided me in a way that not a lot of people does. Reliable and a great motivator.

Choose Excellence in Dispute Resolution

Our Mission

Our litigation solicitors have a proven track record of delivering successful outcomes for clients. Go Legal was founded to make exceptional lawyers accessible and solutions affordable.

Our lawyers and mediators have decades of experience and specialise exclusively in commercial litigation. Our lawyers have been described as “the best litigators in the country” & provide solutions to clients in the following areas of law:

karim sign

Karim Oualnan

Partner and Managing Director

Our Story

Having worked more than a decade in law and fuelled by his passion for access to justice, Karim envisaged a different law firm – one that stood as a symbol of hope, fairness, and an unwavering dedication to justice. By providing legal services through a partnership with Go Legal and Spencer West, Karim has been able to create this vision.

Karim did not have a storybook beginning. His childhood echoed with challenges, where he witnessed his family and friends struggle with legal issues. It made him realise that there are individuals and businesses caught up in the complexities of the UK legal system who need reliable, affordable and technically astute lawyers to get results.

Our lawyers make a promise – we will work hard to achieve the best outcome for you. We are here to help!

Our Values

Our firm’s values ensure that we consistently exceed client expectations. We are:

  • Honest: Our lawyers are trusted by many clients
  • Generous: We are technically astute lawyers with compassion, & a genuine desire to help
  • Dedication: Our lawyers tackle each case with relentless dedication & work tirelessly to achieve a successful outcome
  • Innovative: We have access to technology & strategies not used by other law firms
  • Guardians: Our lawyers will guide you through every legal step, ensuring clarity & understanding at all stages







*through our exclusive partnership with Spencer West LLP

Our lawyers are regulated and members of:

Why instruct Go Legal



Our team of award-winning legal experts are renowned for their technical expertise, honesty and dependability. We prioritise customer satisfaction by providing personalised attention and ensuring that we consistently exceed our clients' expectations throughout.

why icon 2

Rapid Response​

We understand the urgency of legal matters and offer 24/7 support to clients. Whether you require immediate assistance with legal advice or representation, our team is always available to provide prompt and reliable support. We will create a Whatsapp group with you and your legal team once instructed if you have any out of hours questions throughout your litigation and dispute resolution case.

why icon 3

Fair and Transparent pricing

We provide honest estimates for our legal services at the very outset. We are often instructed on an hourly rate basis, but we can offer discounted fixed fee packages, and no-win no fee agreements. For further information, please see our Funding page which sets out some of the packages we may be able to offer clients.

fast litigation and dispute resolution lawyers

Fast & Reliable

Efficiency and dedication to our clients’ needs are the cornerstones of our practice. We have earned the appreciation and praise of clients and even our opponents by consistently meeting high standards and delivering exceptional results.

why icon 5

Qualified and Regulated

Our team consists of highly qualified and regulated legal professionals who possess extensive knowledge and experience in dispute resolution. You can trust that your legal matter will be handled by specialist and experienced lawyers who provide the highest level of service to achieve the best result for your case.

why icon 1

Customer Satisfaction Guarantee

We are so confident in our ability that we give our clients a service level guarantee. If you are not happy with the service we provide on your case, you can request a 10% discount on our invoice(s) no questions asked.

1. Book Free Consultation

2. Our Lawyers will call you

3. We will represent your best interests to success

Schedule a Free Consultation

Select Date & Time below
Maximum file size: 10 MB
error: Content is protected !!

How can we help?

Resolving Payment Disputes: A Legal Guide for the UK Construction Sector

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

The Ultimate Guide to Construction Project Management: Legal Tips & Best Practices

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

The Complete Guide to Litigation Funding in England & Wales

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

The Essential Guide to Intellectual Property Protection in the UK

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Understanding Defamation: A Comprehensive Guide

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

A Comprehensive Guide to Preventing and Resolving Partnership Disputes

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Navigating Partnership Disputes: A Step-by-Step Guide

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Understanding Your Rights: A Guide to Financial Services Disputes in the UK

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

The Essential Guide to Resolving Financial Services Disputes in the UK

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Understanding Professional Negligence: An Introductory Guide

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Guide to starting a Professional Negligence Claim

We are here to help you. Call us for your free consultation: 0207 459 4037

Appealing HMRC Decisions: Your Rights and Procedures

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

A Guide to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) in HMRC Disputes

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Best Practices to Minimise Bad Debts

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

How to start a Debt Claim

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

A Guide to Creditors' Rights in Insolvency Proceedings

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Crypto Recovery Group: Overview of Cryptocurrency Recovery& Fraud

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Cryptocurrency Tax Disputes: Navigating the Grey Areas

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Avoiding Insolvency: Early Warning Signs and Remedial Actions

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Navigating Corporate Insolvency: A Step-by-Step Guide

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

Preventing Shareholder Disputes: A Proactive Approach

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037

The Legal Implications of Deadlock in 50/50 Owned Companies

We are here to help you. Call us for your Free Consultation: 0207 459 4037