How should the courts know whether a dispute is ready and suitable for mediation? An empirical analysis of the Singapore Courts’ referral of civil disputes to mediation

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Harvard Negotiation Law Review, Vol: 23, Issue: 2, Page: 101-143

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QUEK ANDERSON, Dorcas; CHUA, Eunice; NGO, Tra My
Harvard University, Harvard Law School
mediation; referral to mediation; timing; contentiousness; early referral; successful mediation outcome; party satisfaction; Singapore courts; Applied or Integration/Application Scholarship; Asian Studies; Dispute Resolution and Arbitration; Dispute Resolution
article description
In line with international developments in court-connected mediation, the Singapore courts have strongly supported the use of mediation and have taken steps to encourage litigants to attempt mediation. This article features the very first empirical analysis of the Singapore courts' referral of civil cases to mediation. Although focused on Singapore, the results of the study also inform the referral policies of other judiciaries that similarly engage in the practice of referring cases for mediation. The study uses a rigorous method to shed light on the crucial factors to be considered by the courts in referral practice and designing of mediation programs. The research demonstrates that the timing of referral, the stage of litigation and the level of contentiousness between the disputants collectively exert a significant influence on the likelihood of settlement at mediation. These variables are also likely to have an impact on the participants' perception of mediation success. The quantum of claim emerges as a significant factor as well. Other key variables affecting the mediation outcome relate to the mediation process, such as the time taken to complete the mediation and whether the mediator has legal training. The study shows that the courts' referral practices have to be informed by a nuanced assessment of all these factors rather than being focused on timing and stage of referral.