The annual ICC Commercial Mediation Competition is about to kick off in Paris, France on 7 February 2014 and as I write this 500 students from over 40 countries will be making their way to The City of Light by trains, planes and bus.

Teams are drawn from law and business schools across the globe and 120 of the world’s leading commercial mediators and corporate representatives will play their part as judges and mediators.

Over 6 days in the dead of a Paris winter there will be 200+ mock mediation sessions with numerous training programmes and social events – all held in the smartest of Paris law firms like Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Eversheds and McDermott Will & Emery.

So, to the students who are part of this wonderful event perhaps keep these tips in mind in all that you do at the competition;

1. Mediation is an oral tradition – keep it that way – so please don’t read your opening statement or anything else for that matter.  You can’t script mediation and true spontaneity only comes from complete preparation.

2. These mediations are 3 way conversations, not 2 way negotiations; ‘Making Good Use of the Mediator’ is worth double points in the judges’ score sheet

3. The competition, first and foremost,  is a learning opportunity – so no matter where you come in the competition, appreciate the possibility to learn and don’t forget that feedback from the judges says as much about their perception as your performance.

4. Keep it real –  steel fist inside a velvet glove – protect interests and positions that are important to you 

5. During the competition go observe some of the best mediators in the business like Michel Kallipetis (who you will see mediating the final), Birgit Sambeth Glasner, Jason Meek, Claude Amar, Bill Wood, John Sturrock, Susan Hammer, Liz Hasse, Amanda Bucklow, Thierry Garby, Bill Marsh, Phillip Howell-Richardson, Nicholas Pryor, Alan Limbury, Giovanni di Berti, Elizabeth Birch, Ronald Austin and many others…

6. If  you are stuck about what to do next, ask a question or paraphrase; ‘Information Gathering and Ascertaining the Other Party’s Interests’ is worth weighted points

7. Have a plan around calling a caucus and what you want to do when you are in it – don’t just call a caucus for the sake of it. Plenty of teams don’t call a caucus, as they know much of the magic happens in joint session (try In Praise of Joint Sessions at

8. Clients, be in the moment and show some emotion.  Lawyers, don’t treat your client like a potted plant .

9. Slow it down, breathe – especially at the end – there are no points for getting to yes

10. Which reminds me, don’t forget to have fun both at the table and out on the town in this wonderful, romantic city… make new friends, talk to each other, talk to the mediators, try your French out on the guy on the subway…



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  1. Geoff – thanks for that great list of suggestions, which I’ve now passed on to my team. The ideal here, too, is that this sort of checklist means that all teams start from the same base – and what makes a difference is how we implement this stuff at the table.

    One more point that I know you’d not make: one of the very experienced commercial mediators we’ll see in action is none other than Geoff Sharp!

    See you in a few days, Geoff and others.

    Ian Macduff

  2. Great timing Geoff! I’m helping out at a practice with uOttawa’s team this afternoon.

    My addition to your list would be, “Remember, listening can be as important as talking.”

    Too often in these competitions I’ve witnessed teams who mistake mediation for debating; hoping to score points with logic and erudition by monopolizing the air time. As a judge I’m more impressed with true “active listening” combined with collaborative position adjustment.

    I won’t be able to join you this year but wish everyone much success and enjoyment. The ICC deserves much credit for its ongoing support for this important event.

  3. Great thoughts, Geoff, as always. Interesting to see how many teams can put some of this into effect in Paris.

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