My Blog

My blog is meant to inform but its primary purpose is not to be informative. It is about the law but it is not solely about the law but also about those places the law does not go. The law is the platform from which I dive. My blog is about my opinions but is not primarily about my opinions since I often temper these to the subject matter on hand, not to mention the imagined audience. Quite often when I open a subject which is related to the law for discussion, I find myself in a place I never meant to be, or to go, as if the subject takes on a life of its own. I write articles based on what I do for a living, and I am a family lawyer, but of course that is not all I am. I find that when I engage with a subject, and use writing to express my thoughts, that quite often the journey is more interesting than the end and that what I thought I was writing about is not what I wrote about at all. This seems to me to be a metaphor for life. I write, therefore, to throw some light into the dark, to increase my understanding and by extension hopefully, other people’s understanding of what often seems incomprehensible, to enliven the dull so my spirit does not sag and to throw some humour at what is often deeply sad so that I can, or maybe, dare I say hopefully, “we”, can gain perspective. I doubt I succeed but the effort is honest.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Some years ago before I had trained as a mediator, I was consulted by an elderly man who was in the throes of a dispute with his neighbours. The neighbours were a youngish couple with children and the family dog. The dog constantly visited my client’s garden and destroyed his pride and joy, his garden. Complaints had given way to hostility and now the children were engaged in name calling when the elderly man was sighted by them. My client felt under siege and came in to see me to establish his legal rights. However, the assertion of legal rights between neighbours does not improve relations and only serves to ensure that they deteriorate beyond recall. Subsequently, the elderly man decided to sell his house and move elsewhere. I know that this decision pained him greatly. I look back with regret on that encounter. At the time, I did not know enough about mediation so suggest community mediation. My knowledge, such as it was, extended only to family mediations. Community mediators work with neighbourhood disputes such as I have described above, boundary issues, works to be carried out to fences, roofs, walls encroaching trees and such like. They will also work in disputes about noise, animals and the upkeep and maintenance of property and the locale.
Just as in the best run families, so too in the community, disputes break out. It is in no one’s interests to resort to Solicitor’s letters or court appearances. Yet such conversations are delicate. Many people suffer in silence far too long and by the time they raise the issue that is bothering them with their neighbour or other member of their community, they no longer have the resources of patience or tolerance to broach the subject with the tact and diplomacy required. In such circumstances quite often the approach makes matters worse rather than clearing the air.
Think of mediation as a facilitated or highly structured conversation. The skill of the mediator is to facilitate a necessary conversation for example between landlord and tenant , between neighbours or between local communities and those foreign nationals now residing in their midst. Cultural diversity can lead to much positive development in a community but it is also a happy hunting ground for misunderstandings to arise.
Community conflicts not only impact on the parties in dispute but their ripples go deep in to the community. Training mediators within the community as well as helping resolve community disputes by way of mediation, has extraordinarily positive effects in any community. It encourages self- reliance and leads to power and creativity.