William Wood QC
Office:
7-8 Essex Street
WC2R 3LD
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7379 3550
Fax:
+44 20 7379 3558

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders Global Elite

Bill Wood is the 2018 WWL Mediation Lawyer of the Year. After 20 years as a litigator at the London commercial Bar, taking silk in 1988, he trained as a mediator in 1999. Over the next 10 years, his mediation practice grew steadily and simply took over. He now mediates a broad range of mostly commercial cases including construction, financial services, insurance, pharmaceuticals, telecoms and competition, as well as environmental and human rights cases. He works abroad extensively and has recently worked in Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, USA and the Gulf as well as throughout Europe.

What motivated you to specialise in commercial mediation?

Commercial mediation is incredibly varied. The ways in which businesspeople can lose money and upset each other are infinitely varied. As for motivation, my mediation work is an outgrowth of my experiences at the Bar. Seeing the damage that even successful bouts of litigation can do to one’s clients in terms of distraction, expense and exhaustion has been the engine of my work as a mediator for the past 18 years.

How has the mediator’s role developed since you started your career?

We no longer have to be permanent ambassadors for the process. In the early days, clients and even solicitors arrived at mediations looking as if they were about to be made to join hands and do some chanting. I think we’ve all moved on from that now. Overall, there is a sense of people being familiar and comfortable with what is happening and all present can get on and work confidently and competently together.

The process has also become more protracted. Preparation is more elaborate and after-care for the non-settlers is de rigeur. We also get involved in long-term contracts where relationships have broken down. These are not one-day wonders ending in a scrawled settlement. This is long-term marriage guidance: hugely rewarding and very creative.

What do clients look for in an effective mediator? Do these requirements vary depending on industry sector?

Energy. Gordon Strachan, the football coach, said you could divide footballers into radiators and drains: those who fill the team with energy and those who suck energy out of the team. Mediators have to be radiators. But energy is not the same as mania and constant joking. Energy is bringing conviction and commitment to every next step (whatever it may be) especially during the more dogged parts of the day’s march. Those attributes are no less important in business to business disputes or in any given sector. You always have to mediate the people.

What are the most challenging types of dispute to mediate?

They are the ones that begin with friendly exchanges between the parties. If the parties chat amiably on arrival, as if they are about to play a round of golf together or go for a jog, then I feel uneasy. Those mediations can be very hard to energise. Couple that with big teams in each room, say 12-a-side, and you are looking at a tough day.

What advice would you give to someone starting out as a mediator?

Honestly and truthfully: don’t even think about it. If you have a solid reputation in the dispute resolution world and a good book of contacts in a particular sector, then think about it … and then decide not to.

I have been involved in training good people of real skill and real talent, and they just don’t seem to be breaking into the market. Very few people at the moment make a living at this game. Parties (or their lawyers) seem to want experience and a familiar name. The results are inevitable. We are a fairly monochrome bunch. (Of course, the people who are going to make it will disregard this advice.)

Looking back over your career, what has been your proudest achievement?

I think there are a series of moments when I have taken a risk in a mediation and it has paid off. The kick is helping parties get to a place they just might not have found on their own. Conflict in general and litigation, in particular, eat people alive. If I leave a mediation with the feeling that the deal has at least started the healing process that is a good day.

Where, in your opinion, does the future of mediation lie?

Mediators never make predictions even about the next 10 minutes. In broad terms I think the use of mediation will grow as a technique; it is too effective not to. Will we succeed in genuinely spreading these techniques outside the pockets of good practice that currently exist? Will we reach the middle and lower markets with a decent product? Who will the neutrals be? Indeed, will it be done by a third-party neutral at all? Will litigants realise they can use these techniques for themselves? The exciting truth is that we just don’t know.

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Mediation

Bill Wood is the Who’s Who Legal Mediation Lawyer of the Year 2018

He now practises as a full-time commercial mediator, still from Brick Court Chambers, handling some 80 cases each year, many of them in overseas jurisdictions.

Bill was educated at Oxford and Harvard before going to the London Bar in 1980. He became a QC in 1998 and spent in all some 25 years as a commercial litigator. He is a tenant at leading London set Brick Court Chambers.

He mediates a wide range of large-scale commercial disputes centred on banking, financial services, oil and gas, and insurance, as well as professional negligence, construction and engineering, IT, competition and regulation, employment and discrimination, human rights, intellectual property, and planning disputes. He works abroad to an increasing extent and has mediated in Hong Kong, Paris, Geneva, Barcelona, Dubai, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Mexico, Singapore and New York.

Bill is the ADR representative on the Civil Justice Council. He teaches mediation as part of the CEDR faculty and writes on mediation matters for The Lawyer, Counsel, Insurance Day and The Mediator Magazine, as well as lecturing and consulting on mediation matters. He sits as an arbitrator and arbitrates (and mediates) for the ICC. He is the WWL 2018 Mediation Lawyer of the Year.

Bill is married with two children and lives in Oxfordshire.

WWL says: William Wood QC is held up as “the number one mediator in the UK today” by clients and peers. He brings his “rare blend of good humour, professionalism and experience” to an expansive scope of international disputes.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Commercial Mediation which can be purchased from our Shop.

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