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Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders

Norris Yang

Norris Yang

ADR International LimitedLevel 8, Admiralty Centre Tower II18 Harcourt RoadCentralHong Kong
Watch interview with Norris Yang

Thought Leader

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Norris Yang earns praise as a “full-time and active” figure in international commercial disputes, where he has established a strong reputation as a “well-known name in contractual agreements”.

Questions & Answers

Mr Yang practices international commercial law in Hong Kong with Yang Chan Jamison LLP, Hong Kong (Associated with Deloitte Legal Network) and provides Mediation and ADR services with ADR International Limited. He has received extensive mediation training and is accredited in many jurisdictions. He has conducted many complex commercial mediations in English and three Chinese dialects since 1999. Mr Yang has trained hundreds of mediators in Hong Kong, Macau and China since 2009.

What do you enjoy most about practising mediation?

I believe that a solicitor must necessarily find and apply the most effective and efficient solutions for clients within the ambit of the law. For legal disputes, mediation fits that role. I feel a very positive sense of achievement when I see the faces of the parties turn from doom and gloom to bright sunshine. That is my enjoyment.

How would you describe your mediation style? 

I believe that facilitative mediation is the most effective process for most disputes. The parties determine their own destiny and the mediator assists the parties, through a structured approach, to identify issues and discuss, set up an agenda, understand the realities of their own positions and consider realistic solutions. Since the parties understand their dispute more than any other third party, they should also choose the style of mediation in consultation with their legal advisers and the mediator. I adapt to the parties’ requirements and can also provide an evaluative or transformative style when the need arises. 

I commence my mediations using the facilitative style (mixed with a transformative approach if appropriate), to allow the parties to first explore their respective interests, needs, concerns and future relationships. The switch to an evaluative approach starts a new phase for the mediation and requires all parties to consent. This new phase is formally announced to highlight to the parties that reversion back to a facilitative style will be difficult after the mediator has taken on an evaluative role. Evaluative mediation works best for disputes related to ascertainable and quantifiable disputes. 

To what extent is the notion of “mandatory mediation” a contradiction in terms? 

The notion of “mandatory mediation” does imply that parties are forced into this process. Other procedures of litigation, such as writs of summons, statements of claim, statements of defences, preliminary hearings, pre-trial hearings etc. do not have the adjective “mandatory” to describe them. If the litigation process incorporates mediation as part of the procedural requirements, then the term “procedural mediation” should be used – in line with the other litigation procedures.

As the mediation process itself empowers the parties to determine their own fate, they should also have the right to opt out if all parties believe that mediation is not suitable.

You have experience acting in a wide variety of industries. Are there key growth areas in terms of these sectors? 

There will be more opportunities with international trade and investments, as well as infrastructural projects (particularly in emerging countries and along the BRI routes). As mediation becomes more mainstream and with promulgation of the Singapore Convention, they will involve more complex cases. All parties prefer to use a dispute resolution method that is cost and time effective. Online mediations fit these criteria and will thrive if their procedures can easily be understood and accepted by the general public. 

How has covid-19 affected your practice and mediation practice more broadly? 

The covid-19 pandemic has caused much disruption to businesses – externally and internally. This will generate more mediations. Cancelled court hearings are also generating more mediations, but some have had to be cancelled pending judicial directions. All of my training activities are now conducted online – which has also meant cancelled courses as well as new opportunities. This is a time to change and adapt to the new norm. I now assist clients in reviewing their present business activities, predicting potential disputes and designing strategies to minimise disputes or anticipated losses. 

In your opinion, to what extent will mediations become virtual, and to what extent are face-to-face interactions key? 

Face-to-face interactions are always best. We can better correlate the body language of the parties with their oral presentations. The parties can also better assess the extent of trust and respect they can place on the mediator and his/her abilities. We have recently been adapting to virtual meetings. They are more cost-effective and much easier to schedule for busy people with tight travel schedules. This is the trend, particularly for international mediations with parties from different locations. We must learn to accept and modify our own preferences. 

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

Extremely important. The development of mediation and its further enhancement requires the open and collaborative approach adopted by many millennials. Senior mediators must mentor and teach them basic skills in order for them to, in turn, mentor and teach us how to adapt to and with, rapidly evolving technologies. They can network and learn exponentially more effectively than we can – instantaneously with the internet.

What professional goals are you focusing on achieving in 2021? 

I would like to conduct mediator training in more countries particularly in China, mentor more millennials and promote the common usage of “Mediate then Arbitrate” or “Mediate then Litigate” clauses in commercial contracts.

WWL Ranking: Thought Leader

WWL says

Norris Yang is highly regarded in the field, having successfully mediated cases across various jurisdictions. He has particularly strong expertise in commercial and scientific matters.

Questions & Answers

Mr Yang practises international commercial law in Hong Kong with Yang Chan Jamison LLP, Hong Kong (associated with Deloitte Legal) and provides mediation and ADR services with ADR International Limited. He has received extensive mediation training and is accredited in several jurisdictions. He has conducted many complex commercial mediations in English, and in three Chinese dialects, since 1999. Mr Yang has trained hundreds of mediators in Hong Kong, Macao and China since 2009.

What first attracted you to specialise as a mediator?

I realised during my initial mediator training that I wanted to be part of this movement to help clients resolve their disputes in the most effective and efficient manner. That training reinforced my belief that my professional practice as a solicitor must necessarily be to find and apply the most effective and efficient solutions for my clients. For legal disputes, mediation fits that role. 

What did you find most challenging about entering practice as a mediator?

Realising that I must first change my perspective and belief system in order to become a more effective mediator. It meant that I must be more reflective and empathetic to people and situations. 

How do you see mediation evolving in Hong Kong as a dispute resolution method?

Mediation’s present evolution is symptomatic in nature, based on issues that emerge rather than a top-down macro policy. For example, the Judiciary has issued numerous court directions related to mediation for parties to “opt in”, but there are no ordinances or regulations that direct parties to mediate in civil proceedings. In order for the legal profession to embrace mediation, there should be legislation for mediation to be adopted as part of the litigation process, so that it is a procedure that all parties must go through during litigation prior to setting down a case for trial. There is also a need to formulate an accreditation system for mediators recognised by the government and the judiciary as a profession.

What are the key differences between facilitative, transformative and evaluative mediation? 

Mediation must, by its very nature, be a process where the parties in dispute determine their own destiny. The mediator in a facilitative mediation helps the parties, through a structured approach, to identify issues to consider and discuss; set up an agenda; understand the realities of their own positions; and consider realistic solutions. The mediator in a transformative mediation encourages and empowers the parties to explore their respective interests, needs, concerns and future relationship to come up with their own solution. Facilitative and transformative mediations often morph into each other. Evaluative mediation works best for disputes related to ascertainable and quantifiable disputes. The mediator, with subject expertise, often evaluates the case and directs the parties towards the solution. 

What role do you think mediators have to play in a world affected by a pandemic? 

Mediators can assist their clients in understanding and accepting their individual responsibilities to help reduce the spread of the pandemic; to have more empathy for victims who might be afflicted; and to not place blame on others. There will likely be more disputes arising from much-reduced business and commercial activities leading to breaches of contracts and bankruptcies. Mediators can also assist their clients in reviewing their present business activities, predicting potential disputes and designing strategies to minimise disputes or the anticipated losses associated. 

What are a mediator’s key skills when trying to resolve multidisciplinary, international commercial disputes? 

The keys skills required include: a macro view of the dispute; subject knowledge, though not necessarily expertise; language skills for conducting the mediation; cultural awareness of the parties’ background; reframing skills; empathetic viewpoints; perseverance; a sense of humour; patience and stamina; the ability to analyse complex issues and break them up into multiple simple issues; and the ability to explain complex issues in simple language. 

What advice would you give to younger mediators hoping to one day be in your position?

They should get accredited as soon as possible and continue to learn more about cognitive skills, body language and psychology. They should try and find opportunities to speak about mediation, act as role-players or coaches for mediation courses, and offer their pro bono services as a mediator to gain experience. They should connect with other mediators to share experience and contacts. First and foremost, they should mediate themselves 

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

I would like to promote the common usage of “mediate then arbitrate” or “mediate then litigate” clauses in commercial contracts; and conduct mediator training in more countries, particularly in China. 

Global Leader

Mediation 2020

Professional Biography

WWL Ranking: Global Elite Thought Leader

WWL says

Norris Yang earns praise as a “full-time and active” figure in international commercial disputes, where he has established a strong reputation as a “well-known name in contractual agreements”.

Biography

Mr Yang has been practising international commercial law in Hong Kong and Canada since 1980. He is a senior consultant of Yang Chan Jamison LLP, Hong Kong (associated with Deloitte Legal) and founder of ADR International Limited (a provider of ADR services). He received mediation training from Canada, the United States (Notre Dame Law School, Pepperdine University (Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution)), Australia and Hong Kong.

His diverse background in science, computing, business and law, coupled with his fluency in English and three Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Mandarin and Shanghainese), together enable him to flow between different cultures, languages and subject matters.

Mr Yang has significant experience dealing with international commercial disputes in a variety of disciplines as a facilitative, evaluative or transformative mediator.

He was the first Asian accredited by the International Mediation Institute (The Hague, www.imimediation.org) and the first Hong Kong lawyer to be honoured as a distinguished international neutral of the CPR Institute (New York, www.cpradr.org). He is an accredited mediator of the Hong Kong Mediation Accreditation Association Limited (HKMAAL), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) and the Law Society of Hong Kong (General and Family). He is also an assessor for HKMAAL.

He is presently the chairman of the HKMAAL communications and publicity committee and was a past chairman of the Hong Kong Mediation Council (2003–2006).

Mr Yang teaches mediation for the Chinese University of Hong Kong and independently conducts accredited mediation courses in China, Hong Kong and Macao (training senior government officials, lawyers, accountants and business executives). He is a frequent speaker at universities, conferences and professional associations.

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