IT'S never been tougher to get legal disputes resolved.

With court fees on the rise, in some extreme cases by more than 600 per cent, and the cut backs in the administration of justice, most notably with some local courts shutting down, legal cases are more expensive and take longer to resolve.

But there's a different way, one which Colchester solicitor Leszek Werenowski is leading the way in - mediation.

Leszek has been doing doing civil litigation for 25 years with city law firms, local companies, and eventually on his own.

"In that time," he begins, "I've never thought litigation has been a very good way of resolving disputes. In my experience the only people who benefit are the lawyers.

"In litigation you have a winner and a loser," Leszek continues, "but in actual fact the winner still loses because they may not get all of their costs.

"When I qualified 25 years ago, mediation was the next big thing and it has gradually grown over the years with more and more mediators practicing around the country. It is very popular in the US because of the scale of damages and costs that can be incurred."

And it is also becoming very popular over here in the UK as Leszek says, for a number of different reasons.

"There are many advantages to mediation," he explains. "The first thing is, it's very quick. Through mediation an agreement can be reached in weeks rather than months. It's also facilitative rather than adversarial. There's no judgement as to who is right and who is wrong, just a solution to resolve the matter amicably between the parties. At the end there is often a handshake between the parties rather than further acrimony. Successful mediations are an end to the matter. There are no appeals. Rather there is a concluded agreed binding settlement, usually on the day of the mediation.

"It is also incredibly cheap and is successful in about 80 per cent of cases. Mediation involves the costs being shared between the parties and often those costs will be less than the fee charged by the court simply to issue a claim. The Ministry of Justice states that mediation is 87 per cent cheaper than litigation."

So what makes a good mediator?

"Mediation involves the parties between themselves agreeing a solution," Leszek tells me, "and so the mediator’s role therefore is to facilitate that settlement in a structured way. I'm certainly not going to be judging anyone.

"It's an interesting process. Often when the parties first give their opening statements there's a lot of emotion but actually after that process of screaming and shouting, once they get it off their chest, the desire to fight lessens. You are allowing the parties some time to have their say. An apology in person or some form of contrition can in reality be worth thousands of pounds."

For more information on Leszek's practice and on mediation itself go on-line at