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WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Nadja Alexander has “a standout reputation” for her legal rigour in an array of commercial disputes and her “proven track record of process design and implementation”.

Questions & Answers

Nadja Alexander specialises in cross-cultural disputes involving corporations and communities. Three decades of dispute resolution engagement has taken her to diverse corporate and development settings in more than 40 jurisdictions. Described as a practical thinker and a thinking practitioner, Nadja is internationally regarded for her deep knowledge and inclusive communication style. Professor Alexander sits on the International Advisory Board of the UN Global Mediation Panel and is director of SIDRA at Singapore Management University.

What attracted you to a career in mediation?

It was like starting on a blank page in the early 90s … well, almost. I got to take chances, face challenges, make choices, and cross countries in ways that my contemporaries in traditional legal practice areas could not. Mediation made sense … for real people in the real world. For me, mediation was, and remains, a compelling proposition.

How has the role of mediator changed since you first started practising?

When I started, mediation was an outlier in dispute resolution and the commercial mediator’s role was viewed narrowly: a sole mediator conducting a one-day mediation. While that model still prevails with numerous variations, there is a growing acceptance of a rich variety of mediator roles depending on the nature of the dispute and the disputants. In cross-cultural multi-party mediations, I might choose to work in a mediation team with members who have different skill sets and expertise, ranging from systems and process design, group facilitation and content expertise; the team might also comprise “insider mediators”, individuals who bring with them the trust and respect of one party or cultural group. As a mediation team we would facilitate preliminary meetings, design the mediation procedure, conduct mediation sessions and support the documentation, finalisation and agreed communication of mediated outcomes. Individual mediation team members would lead the mediation procedure at different stages, depending on the skill and expertise needed

This is especially relevant for complex mediations that involve different types of parties, such as investors and states, and multiple meetings over period of months or more. 

SIDRA recently released its International Dispute Resolution Survey: 2020 Final Report. What do its findings reveal about mediation?

There are three important findings. 

First, the SIDRA Survey shows that mediation is being used in cross-border settings more that we may think – more than litigation but still less than arbitration. It is employed both as a standalone procedure and equally as a central element of mixed mode procedures, such as arb-med-arb. 

Second, the rate of satisfaction with mediation across a range of factors including impartiality, confidentiality, ethical neutrals and flexibility is high; notably, satisfaction with the speed and cost of mediation is significantly higher than for arbitration and litigation. 

Third, mediation users who desire a direct enforceability mechanism for settlements resulting from mediation, currently opt for mixed-mode procedures rather than standalone mediation. This finding suggests that the Singapore Convention on Mediation will have a positive impact on the use of international commercial mediation in the future. 

In your opinion, will the Singapore Convention on Mediation establish mediation as an attractive alternative to arbitration?

The Singapore Convention is a milestone. It represents a golden opportunity to increase mediation’s visibility and credibility on the international stage. But change will not happen overnight. We need to build institutional and regulatory capacity beyond “signing on to the Convention”. Attention must be paid to how institutions, people and courts operate together to build reputable and trusted hubs for cross-border mediation within the broader interrelated dispute resolution eco-system. 

How has covid-19 affected mediation practice? 

Mediation is well suited for disputes in which business arrangements have been disrupted through no fault of either business partner, but rather because of a worldwide health crisis beyond their control. This crisis is an opportunity for innovation. Mediators can make use of technology in a thousand different ways. SIDRA’s Survey Report 2020 shows that half of the client mediation users rated platforms for virtual hearings as ‘extremely useful’ or ‘useful’. The inherently flexible nature of mediation adapts well to technological innovations whether it be for front or back-end procedures or the mediation sessions themselves. The Singapore Convention expressly recognises that mediated outcomes may occur as the result of online processes. For me, covid-19 has meant integrating new technology into dispute engagements; I have also found myself working more closely with arbitration professionals as they seek greater flexibility for their clients.

You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

Mediation is at a critical time. I would like to see mediation as a legitimate international dispute resolution mechanism that works for all sorts of parties including states, traditional resources owners, MSMEs, multinationals and other high-end commercial players. This requires an artful approach to regulation and practice sustained into the future. The next generation has the purpose and passion to take mediation to this new global level.

Global Leader

Mediation 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Nadja Alexander has “a standout reputation” for her legal rigour in an array of commercial disputes and her “proven track record of process design and implementation”.

Biography

Nadja Alexander specialises in cross-cultural disputes involving corporations, countries and communities. Three decades of engagement as a dispute resolution professional has taken Dr Alexander to diverse corporate and development settings in more than 40 jurisdictions. Described as a practical thinker and a thinking practitioner, Nadja is internationally regarded for her deep knowledge and inclusive communication style.  

Dr Alexander’s mediation approach is intuitive and fluent, tailored to both the disputants and the nature of the dispute. Nadja acts as a neutral in business, organisational, workplace and governmental matters. Comfortable with mediating two-party disputes, as well as navigating multiparty conflictual situations with large numbers of people, Nadja employs a variety of interventions, depending on context. She is a user of online dispute resolution technology.  Her services include mediation, conflict coaching, dispute systems design, and advice-giving on mediation law and policy.

Nadja is an award-winning author and mediation trainer. She has led the expert design and drafting of national regulatory and institutional systems in more than 10 countries. In 2020 she was appointed to the international advisory board of the newly formed United Nations Global Mediation Panel (Office of the Ombudsman).

Dr Alexander's professional background is multifaceted, comprising positions in law firms, management consultancies, universities and international organisations such as the World Bank Group. Nadja continues to engage with clients in the private and public sectors, and on institutional and civil society levels. She has worked throughout Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and North America. Nadja was educated in Australia, the US and Germany. She lives in Singapore.

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