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Who's Who Legal
Who's Who Legal
Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

The “excellent” Bill Marsh is a “go-to – his calibre and quality are simply fantastic”. Respondents “highly recommend his style and approach” and exalt his “very successful” mediation practice.

Questions & Answers

Bill Marsh is WWL’s Mediator of the Year for 2019, and top ranked annually in every independent directory. Formerly a commercial lawyer, he has spent the past 30 years mediating complex disputes and conflicts around the world, involving governments, businesses, multinational organisations, professional firms and pressure groups. These have involved almost every area of law and business including oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, sport, insurance, construction and engineering, IP, and also political/ethnic and religious conflicts.

What is the most interesting mediation you have been a part of in the last year?

This year I have been privileged to be involved in two European-based investor/state mediations, which have been very interesting, especially regarding the clashes of cultures between different national mindsets and practices, between private and public sector, and so on.  

I have also been involved in various mediations/dialogue processes which take place over a much longer period – months or years, not days – due to the deeply entrenched views, complex underlying issues and long history of animosity. These provide a fascinating dynamic, as there is much more time and space for real discussion and engagement.

But in truth all mediations are interesting, because they are all about people, and people are endlessly fascinating. If you don’t find the work a privilege, you shouldn’t do it.

How has covid-19 affected your work and mediation more broadly? Have you found commercial parties increasingly interested in mediation as a means of dispute resolution?

Covid-19 has certainly affected my work as a mediator, and the last nine months have been my busiest in 30 years as a mediator. Leaving aside the switch to virtual/online mediations, covid-19 has been a substantive feature of quite a few mediations – e.g. relating to force majeure and cancellation/termination provisions, extensions of time on major projects, and so on.  

I also think that the palpable sense of unpredictability which the pandemic has introduced has given parties a greater desire to be in control of their own outcomes, often expressed in the desire to mediate and to find consensus.

To what extent will mediations become virtual, and to what extent are face-to-face interactions key to the process?

Virtual/online mediation has been a new challenge for all of us who mediate, and I am really proud of the way the whole profession has stepped up to this.

Virtual mediation processes have undoubtedly shown that they can deliver value and results, and the convenience and economics (parties not travelling etc.) indicate that some of that will be here to stay. For mediations where everyone involved is essentially fairly pragmatic, that operates well. In the long term, however, and particularly in the more intense disputes and conflicts, I do think that the greater depth and quality of human engagement which comes with meeting in person needs to be safe-guarded. Like many things, it is not always easy to define, but you know when it is missing.

In your opinion, how important is mediation training for lawyers?

It fascinates me how differently lawyers behave in mediation. Those comfortable and familiar with the process are often able to participate more fully. This is particularly obvious in their ability and willingness to talk directly to the other parties/lawyers, rather than to “hide behind” (as it can sometimes feel) the mediator. Likewise, the ability to roll with the ups and downs of the process, to not be put off by unproductive moves by another party, to talk seriously about risk analysis, and to keep their clients constantly focused on good decision-making – all these reflect a comfort with the process.

Whether that can be achieved by training as opposed to experience is another matter!

In your experience, how important are mentoring and networking for the development of mediation?

Mediation is a hard field for newcomers to break into and make their mark. It is the responsibility of those of us who are privileged to be in it already to help those who are coming behind us – not least for the sake of the field as a whole. I have long mentored a few up-and-coming mediators, and I love doing it. This is not just a question of enabling new mediators to observe a few mediations, but also of engaging in their whole learning process and personal development. Mediating is an expression of who we are, not just a set of skills.

Around the world I have seen a growth mentorship programmes, which is great news.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Stay humble, keep smiling and never give up – an indispensable mind-set for a mediator!

Global Leader

Mediation 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

The “excellent” Bill Marsh is a “go-to – his calibre and quality are simply fantastic”. Respondents “highly recommend his style and approach” and exalt his “very successful” mediation practice.


Twice ranked by WWL as Mediator of the Year (2019 and 2014), Bill Marsh is one of Europe’s leading commercial mediators. Practising full-time for nearly 30 years, he has mediated in almost every area of law and business. He mediates in the UK and internationally and has worked with parties from over 50 countries.

He is consistently ranked in the top tier of mediators in all the independent legal directories. He is described in legal directories as “one of the greats”; “right at the top of his game”; “a perfect example of how a talented mediator can overcome apparently insuperable obstacles”; “right at the top of the tree”; and “a sensational mediator” who “gets very high-profile work and is extremely experienced and capable".  He is also praised for his “absolute commitment” and “commercial flair”, and is deemed an “excellent shuttle diplomat”, with quoted sources adding that he is “extremely patient and hardworking, but pushes both sides’ positions very hard”.

A former corporate lawyer, Bill has also acted as adviser on conflict and mediation to many governments (the UK, Russia, Turkey, Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia) and international bodies (the EU, the IFC/World Bank and the UN); and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. His mediation experience includes religious, political and ethnic conflicts. In 2016, he was awarded the Archbishop’s inaugural award for outstanding service to reconciliation. He has also represented the UK in UN sessions.

He is a distinguished fellow of the International Academy of Mediators, and former executive director of CEDR.

Awards won by Bill Marsh

Who's Who Legal Awards 2019

> Mediation -
Lawyer of the year

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