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.
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”.
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.