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5th Cologne Summer Academy Business Negotiation and Mediation

When I registered online for this year’s Summer Academy on Business Negotiation and Mediation I did not know what to expect, however what I experienced exceeded my expectations. As I entered the welcome reception at the DIS office, courtesy of the Summer Academy organisers, I was greeted warmly by various students and practicing lawyers who had come from all over the world to attend the course. As we exchanged stories and nibbled on appetisers, we were able to get to know each other on an informal basis which was an excellent opportunity to get to know those who were also attending and running the 8
th Cologne Summer Academy on International Commercial Arbitration.


The week began with a workshop hosted by the delightful Prof. S. Lucia Kanter St Amour, who lectures at the UC Hastings College of the Law, San Francisco. After taking our seats and briefly introducing ourselves, we had been assigned our first task of the day: we had to bargain with our neighbour over a share of chocolates. If we were to learn one thing on this course, it was that Prof Kanter’s teaching techniques were all but conventional. Rather than verbally bargain, we had to arm-wrestle each other over these delicious treats. Naturally, being the chocoholic that I am, I relished the chance to try to win all the chocolates, but I soon realised with time that my muscles weren’t quite as big as my appetite. I decided to negotiate with my partner, letting her enjoy the majority of the chocolates, whilst I indulged in just one. She kindly accepted this offer and I was thrilled with this small but sweet victory. I was not the only one who had realised that they were potentially going to end up chocolate-less, and it was interesting to hear from others the various ways in which they managed to reach a negotiation.

As the day continued, we were taught; how to structure an information-based bargaining plan, what the six phases of negotiation as well as studying the Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument. It was interesting to learn which conflict-handling skills we all personally adopt, and how to utilize these to the best of our ability. Prof. Kanter’s lectures were both intellectually stimulating and entertaining, and it was not long before I started mentally adopting a strategy before every negotiation exercise. The day drew to an end with a guided tour through the old city centre of Cologne and a visit to a typical cologne brewery, where we were offered the chance to taste the famous “Koelsch” beer.  Despite the chilly weather everyone left the brewery in good spirits, and it had been an enjoyable action packed first day. 

On our second day we were introduced to Prof. Ian Macduff, who is the director at the Centre for Dispute Resolution, Singapore Management University. Our course then took an alternative path, as we looked at what mediation is and why it is considered a valuable tool within dispute resolution. We used various resources to develop our understanding and Prof. Macduff was an excellent teacher who answered all of our questions with ease. I enjoyed learning about how objective the role of a mediator is and what his rights and duties are. Prof. Macduff often told of personal encounters to help us visualise how a typical mediation would take place and it was interesting to hear about the various challenges that he overcame during his career. That evening the Summer Academy hosted its famous boat trip on the river Rhine. We were treated to a delicious dinner and some spectacular scenery. The night skyline from the boat was remarkable and it must be said that Cologne truly is a beautiful city both during the day and at night. Many of the sponsors of the Academy attended the boat trip and it was a fantastic opportunity to meet with associates from the law firms, who shared their expertise and offered words of wisdom and encouragement. 

We were half way through our course when we met Alexander Oddy, Partner at Herbert Smith LLP, London but the class was still in full spirit. Mr Oddy adopted a more subjective perspective on the mediation procedure because as a lawyer you must put your clients’ best interests first whilst you negotiate on his behalf. Mr Oddy enlightened us with many tricks which he has adopted throughout many years of practise and he taught us the value of oral and written advocacy and how mastering this skill can make all the difference. I thoroughly enjoyed discussing legal issues such as BATNA (Best Alternative to Negotiation Agreement) and it showed me how creative you need to be when attending a mediation as the procedure can be quite spontantious and you always need to have considered possible alternatives to ensure that you walk away with the best deal for your client. Mr Oddy also told of how widespread mediation is becoming, especially after the Mediation Directive was approved by the European Union because of its cost effective benefits and its ability to help encourage harmony within civil and commercial practice throughout the EU, which was of particular interest to those wishing to specialise within dispute resolution.

DSC04079.JPGOn our last day we were joined by the course director, Prof. Dr. Klaus Peter Berger, LL.M. Prof Berger drew all that we had learnt throughout the past week to a conclusion and educated us in the importance of getting the parties of the mediation to draft and sign their settlement agreement immediately after reaching an understanding, to avoid all that had been said from being undone. He also made us aware what the consequences of a failed mediation are and outlined possible alternatives for the parties. He kindly gave us all copies of his book “Private Dispute Resolution in International Business, Negotiation, Mediation, Arbitration” Volume I and II, as well as various other informative resources to aid us in our future learning. The course finished with a joint session with both Sumer Academy’s and we learnt how mediation and arbitration can interlink with one another. We were then presented with our certificates and said our farewells to our newly found friends and we made our way home, excited for our future, but sad that this thought provoking and enjoyable week had come to an end. 

Danielle Robinson