The CPR European Advisory Board Presents: “Meet CPR Distinguished Neutrals Based in Europe: Catherine Peulvé”

The CPR European Advisory Board (EAB) continues its series “Meet CPR’s Distinguished Neutrals in Europe” and today it presents its next Q&A, with Catherine Peulvé, a commercial lawyer and mediator, CPLAW Paris, France.

  1. How did you get your start as a neutral?

I can date my start as a Neutral to the opening in Paris (France) of my law boutique CPLAW in 2007. Indeed, after several years with UK and US law firms (Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP/Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP), including practicing abroad, I realized that despite being a lawyer and having gained a huge amount of experience as a litigator, I did not know so much about negotiation and mediation.

2. Who is your dispute resolution hero/heroine?

Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand, he is said to be the “Prince” of negotiators.  He is known for excellent preparation, obtaining and exploiting the necessary information, winning concessions and using lobbying strategies at private receptions: all principles that are still prevalent both around and outside the negotiating table.

3. What is the one piece of advice you would want to give to the younger generation looking for a first appointment as neutral?

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax, ” said Abraham Lincoln, former president of the US. Thinking about this sentence, my advice to the younger generation would be learn how to learn and improve before doing. In other words, they must be well prepared. You can work hard as a neutral during sessions, but the magic happens when you have spent time preparing, structuring the process and perfecting your skills.

4.   Were you ever the first in doing something?

–     First women president of the Association for Business Lawyers (ACE) – Paris Section
–     First lawyer in my family
–     Winner of the Freshfields – Les Echos prize that launched my international career
–     Major of my student promotion at the Master’s Degree in Business and Economic, University of Panthéon Sorbonne Paris (1990)
–     Head of list of the ACE business lawyers for the election of the French National Council of Bars (CNB)

5. What makes your conflict resolution style unique?

I have been described, when appointed in a major, long-lasting, multi-dimensional mediation concerning a conflict that had been made public by the other side, as an outstanding mediator that managed the whole process in an extremely efficient manner, both in terms of ensuring the overall tone of the mediation and keeping the mediation on track over time.

My style is facilitative and I combine self-confidence with a sound command of the mediation framework, techniques and tools.

I invest time in training, keeping abreast of new tools that may enrich my practice.

6. What was the most difficult challenge you faced as a neutral?

The absence from the mediation table of a key family member in a complex inheritance and partnership dispute involving a real estate company. One of the sisters was  represented by her husband.  There was an uncomfortable atmosphere (the sister was kind of a “ghost” in the mediation), and I felt like the sessions were being recorded but I could not raise this issue upfront.

7.   What is the most important mistake you see counsel make?

Pleading their case rather than adopting a less adversarial style.

8.   If you could change one thing about commercial mediation [please chose one], what would it be?

Compulsory mediation: the French law of 23 March 2019 which reformed the justice system, introduced two new rules for amicable ADR: the principle of compulsory prior mediation in certain disputes and the possibility for any judge, in any matter, to order the parties in dispute to meet with a mediator. While the second option is a potentially interesting path, I regret the inclusion in our legislation of the first option (compulsory mediation), even on an experimental basis, for a number of reasons. It is inconsistent with the principle that the parties must be willing to mediate, particularly in commercial disputes, bringing them to the table before they are ready is unlikely to be beneficial.  Compulsory mediation undermines the principle of confidentiality which is the backbone of the success of mediation.  It is for the parties alone to determine the application of confidentiality obligations to their process, including with respect to the content and the outcome of the mediation as well as its existence. Making mediation compulsory obliges the parties to make the existence of their process public.  The new requirement could be counterproductive: for example, if the parties do not reach an agreement, it will obviously be very difficult to convince them to go to “real” mediation.

9.   Some specific topics:

What is your approach to cybersecurity and data protection in international dispute resolution?

Data security is important in all matters, including in dispute resolution. With respect to international dispute resolution, one must not only be cognizant of the requirements under the European General Data Protection Regulation but also of requirements in territories other than Europe and how the two sets of requirements operate (or not) in combination. As far as cybersecurity is concerned, we need to be attentive to protecting the confidentiality of information shared (arbitration and mediation, plus caucus confidentiality in mediation) and to choose the right tools to achieve that. So far as I am aware, CPR has been at the forefront of several pioneering initiatives in the field of cybersecurity and data protection over the past few years. 

10. What do you see as the next “big thing” in global dispute prevention and resolution?

The impact of the Singapore Convention on international business mediation.  I would like to share links to an abstract of an article I contributed to recently with other lawyers (French, Italian, Lebanese, Greek) on this subject : https://www.actualitesdudroit.fr/browse/civil/procedure-civile-et-voies-d-execution/26916/the-impact-of-the-singapore-convention-on-the-international-business-mediation

http://giustiziacivile.com/arbitrato-e-processo-civile/approfondimenti/limpatto-della-convenzione-di-singapore-sulla-mediazione

11. For which types of conflicts would you recommend mediation?

I think there are several good reasons for opting for mediation in business disputes:

–     Long term relationships can generally be maintained
–     Confidentiality is preserved
–     Offers an exit from a deadlocked situation
–     Helpful if the legal background is complex or there is a lack of proof
–     The financial consequences of the conflict would be too high to risk in litigation
–     It is a matter of urgency

There are also good reasons for NOT initiating or stopping a mediation process :

–     Bad faith of one of the parties
–     A third party is missing (ex. insurer)
–     A third party does not want to change its position/demand
–     A judicial decision is needed (Public order, precedent, publicity…)

12. In your view, what makes CPR unique?

Before I joined, I was impressed by CPR’s reputation and amazed by its detailed and accurate communications on several ADR issues worldwide. Since joining, I have been convinced that CPR possesses the appropriate skills, tools and talents for being a major ADR Center and I have been impressed with its reactivity to the Covid-19 crisis.  In particular, with the training webinars, information sharing, messages to Neutrals to stand together and find solutions.

CPR = energy + information + sharing + adaptability

13. Do you have an anecdote you would like to share?

I was once asked by a mediation Center to draft a default report because one of the parties refused to enter into the mediation process.  I was able to transform the situation into a fruitful and effective mediation, that ended with a successful and long term agreement between the companies.

I have been asked sometimes to give my tips on how I achieved this turn around. Although it is quite difficult to answer that question, I can share the following : (i) I urged the party not wishing to enter into the mediation process to be present at this meeting, and to be represented by one of its top guys; (ii) I was careful to ensure my attitude was very optimistic when meeting with the parties; (iii) I started to explain the rules and purpose of a mediation process.  Finally, the top guy, who made the effort to come and who had spent some time listening to what a mediation process entailed, probably understood that it was worth trying. Once we had reached that stage as part of the same meeting, I was meticulous about structuring the process (number of meetings /topics on the agenda / topics per meeting / participants and experts per topic…) and the rocket was launched to go for exploration.

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