The CPR European Advisory Board (EAB) continues its series, “Meet CPR’s Distinguished Neutrals in Europe” and today it presents its fourth Q&A, with Bart Neervoort, from the perspective of a mediator.
Bart is an international trial lawyer turned full-time mediator and arbitrator, based in the Netherlands. Over the last ten years he has handled disputes in diverse areas including construction, shipbuilding, professional negligence, medical malpractice and shareholder disputes. He has been an arbitrator for NAI, ICC (Paris), UNUM (Rotterdam), LCIA (India) and CIETAC (China). These days his practice focuses on mediation and he is a certified mediator for MfN, IMI, ICC (Paris), CEDR (London) as well as a CPR Distinguished Neutral.
How did you get your start as a neutral?
As a committed litigator I was skeptical when the High Court in London suggested mediation in a case I was involved in before the case actually went to trial. I was more than surprised that the case settled in a day!
Who is your dispute resolution hero/heroine?
Among many others, I would say David Hoffman and Michel Kalepatis. David’s teaching at Harvard’s Summer School left me and other experienced mediators in awe as he demonstrated how to overcome the most challenging of deadlocks and keep the most difficult people at the table. And Michel is simply the Godfather of mediation in Europe!
What is the one piece of advice you would want to give to the younger generation looking for a first appointment as neutral?
Don’t be too keen as a mediator on reaching resolution. When you start mediating, you tend to think settlement is your success and failing to reach agreement is your failure. My experience has been that one can overstretch your skills if you are too eager. Let the parties do the work. It is their process. You are there to guide them. Keep in mind, it is their resolution, not yours and their problem if they do not resolve their dispute. Finally, don’t boast about your success rate. Remember, you are there for the parties.
Were you ever the first in doing something?
Yes, I was the first Dutchman to do an ICC mediation (between a UN Body and a Greek party).
What makes your conflict resolution style unique?
I would like to think, that showing my own vulnerability to the parties works well. Also, my sense of optimism about the outcome of the dispute and, of course, humor always helps!
What has been the most difficult challenge you have faced as a neutral?
Mediating between two very stubborn 88 year old shareholders!
What is the most important mistake you see counsel make?
They often fail to realize that in order to reach settlement at mediation it is extremely unhelpful to position oneself as the “opposing side.” Settlements are reached together.
If you could change one thing about commercial mediation, what would it be?
I would make mediation advocacy compulsory in lawyers’ training programs.
Now let’s turn to a specific topic: what is your approach to cybersecurity and data protection in international dispute resolution?
I believe the dangers are currently underestimated and neutrals should have proper protection in place and be accountable for that to the parties.
What do you see as the next “big thing” in global dispute prevention and resolution?
Dispute prevention being recognized for what it’s worth in all layers of the business community. Resolution of disputes by the parties themselves being recognized by lawyers as something that is really beneficial for their clients.
For which types of conflicts would you recommend ADR?
I believe you can use ADR for almost any commercial or corporate dispute.
In your view, what makes CPR unique?
The way in which it has been able to mobilize both the corporate and legal US communities to draw up Dispute Resolution Pledges and offer a forum for ADR. If only CPR could reach the same standing in Europe!
Do you have an anecdote you would like to share?
A Greek almost tragedy that ended well! In an international mediation between a German and a Greek party, the latter and his lawyer made it difficult for the other party and the mediator. The lawyer, when asked in caucus what his client’s BATNA was, said he had no idea and saw it as his task to bring forward his client’s arguments as if in litigation, not to advise on a possible outcome of a court case. His client rejected what was on offer, said “no” and closed his folder. He said “no” a second time, putting his file in his briefcase and repeated his position a third time as he left the room. Finally, in an improvised caucus in the hallway the client made a counter-proposal with only minor changes, which was acceptable to the other party. Multicultural mediation. I love it.